Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s late night programing block, tends to crazy things with its schedule on April 1st. Sometimes it’s playing some stupid live action movie all night, but not this year. This year was something equal parts amazing and cruel. They replaced their regular block with a Toonami block.
Let me explain what this is, for those of you who aren’t in their 20s. From 1997 to 2008 Cartoon Network had a program block reserved for action shows. It started with old 80s action cartoons and was hosted by a Space Ghost character, and was mostly ignored. But starting in 1999 the host was switched over to a Robot named Tom, and the lineup was packed with anime. Ask many Otaku in their 20s and chances are this is where they got hooked. Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Outlaw Star, four kinds of Gundam, Ronin Warriors, Blue Submarine No. 6, Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo, The Big-O, Zoids, Ruroni Kenshin, Yuyu Hakusho, Cyborg 009, Naruto, Bobobo, the list goes on and on of the series that appeared on the block over the years.
Looking back it wasn’t that great. The series were heavily edited, full of existential psudo-philosophy that don’t exactly work on any level, and most of the voice actors were terrible. Then with Toonami itself they’d reset the series randomly, setting the playlist back dozens, or even hundreds of episodes, often times dropping a series before they play all the episodes, leaving us without endings. But this was the 90s and early 00s damn it, we didn’t have high-speed internet, DVD boxed sets were still new and expensive as all hell, and streaming video sites were just a pipe dream.
Toonami was a magical wonderland, full of giant robots, dudes who shot lasers from their fingers, and ladies wearing less clothing than they should on children’s TV. To kids coming home from school it was pure awesome. Before Toonami if someone wanted anime they’d have to go to a specialty store, and those were always run by creepy fat men.
Nowadays anime and its influences are everywhere. Entire series can be bough on DVD for under $20, and there are entire sites dedicated to streaming anime online. It’s so simple these days to get exactly what you’re looking for, and to see the story in full. And holy crap is it better that way. By the time Toonami came to an end there were two, less interesting robots, the cool space ship bumpers were replaced with some dull alien wasteland, and the shows were either reruns or dull. But Adult Swim reminded me of my childhood, of the time of censored television, strange shows, and a cool little Robot named Tom.
Okay, nostalgia trip over, we’ll return you to your regularly scheduled comedy next post.