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Bring Back Toonami is an online movement dedicated to reviving the Toonami cartoon programming block on the [adult swim] cable network. The movement was inspired by an unexpected airing of the block on April Fools Day in 2012. It was a successful venture that resulted in the complete revival of Toonami and proved that the internet could strike a fateful blow against the animation age ghetto and corporate ignorance that so often betray the concept of good television.
Toonami was a programming block on the Cartoon Network, which showcased American and Japanese anime cartoons from March 17th, 1997, to September 20th, 2008. In its first incarnation, Toonami aired on weekdays hosted by the villain Moltar from the cartoon talk show Space Ghost. On July 10th, 1999, the block was relaunched with the new host T.O.M., a robot on the Ghost Planet Spaceship Absolution voiced by Steve Blum.
Toonami was also distinguished by a series of unique CGI animated bumpers that played during show breaks, which featured previews or descriptions of cartoons from T.O.M.’s control station. The Cartoon Network canceled the show in September of 2008.
April Fools on [adult swim]
On April 1st, 2012, several weeks after Toonami’s 15th anniversary, [adult swim] began its annual airing of The Room, which was suddenly interrupted by T.O.M. aboard the Absolution. T.O.M. revealed that he was an April Fools joke before introducing an episode of the show Bleach (shown left). Throughout the night, Toonami bumpers were played along with a variety of cartoon shows and T.O.M. reviewed the video game Mass Effect 3.
According to the Twitter analytics site Trendistic, tweets with the keyword “toonami” peaked at 1:00 AM on April 1st, 2012, one hour after Toonami appeared on [adult swim]. The same day, the voice actor Steve Blum updated his official Facebook with a link to the Cartoon Network feedback page, urging fans to contact the network about bringing back Toonami. On April 2nd, the official [adult swim] Twitter account published a tweet asking viewers to show their support of the block with the hashtag #BringBackToonami:
Want it back? Let us know. #BringBackToonami
— [adult swim] (@adultswim) April 3, 2012
On April 3rd, the /r/BringBackToonami subreddit was created for news related to the Toonami campaign. The following day, [adult swim] tweeted the #BringBackToonami hashtag with an announcement that the audience had been heard:
#BringBackToonami We’ve heard you. Thank you for your passion and interest – stay tuned.
— [adult swim] (@adultswim) April 4, 2012
Several YouTubers began making videos to support the cause, urging people to tweet the hashtag #BringBackToonami to [adult swim]. One of these people was none other than Steve Blum, demanding Toonami fans to begin a “Twitter storm.”
The Bring Back Toonami Song
When interest in the Toonami movement started to quiet, Richie Branson, an anime-inspired rap artist with the Twitter hashtag #OtakuTuesdays, dedicated his song-of-the-week release to the return of Toonami to help cement its revival. On May 8, 2012, he uploaded the song to YouTube. [adult swim] took notice remarkably quickly and aired a snippet of the song on one of their bumpers coaxing people into downloading it for free on his website, richiebranson.com, then once more when promoting several MP3 picks of the week.
On May 16th, 2012, [adult swim] announced via Twitter that Toonami would be returning to the network later that month on May 26th. The tweet linked to a page on the [adult swim] website, which included a Twitter feed of the hashtag #ToonamisBackBitches.
— [adult swim] (@adultswim) May 16, 2012
The same day, the blog [adult swim] Central published a post titled “Breaking: Toonami Returns May 26th”, which revealed that the programming block would air the anime cartoon shows Bleach, Cowboy Bebop and Full Metal Alchemist.
Also on May 16th, Redditor Satoshi_Tajiri submitted a post titled “Toonami is Back! 5/26/2012” to the /r/anime subreddit, in which several Redditors responded with animated reaction GIFs expressing elation and excitement.
On Saturday, May 26, 2012, after a broadcast of The Boondocks, Toonami legitimately returned to the airwaves. To the tune of yet another T.O.M. returned to his 3.0 body model aboard the Absolution once again (though as of yet S.A.R.A. hasn’t made her return because of budget constraints and difficulty getting her voice actor back onboard), with a very staggering boost in the quality of the CGI animation, thanks to advancements in Cartoon Network’s CGI-render software during the absence of the block. Respective to its original “Midnight Run,” the relaunch commenced at the same time, composed of Bleach, Deadman Wonderland, Casshern Sins, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Cowboy Bebop, repeating at 3:00 A.M and ending at 6:00 A.M.
Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins had the honor of being network premieres, generously provided by FUNimation, who struck a partnership with Toonami staff during their difficult search for new programming, which had crippled the block once before. FUNimation eagerly anticipated reception on their anime contributions, as evidenced by comments via Twitter on Casshern Sins:
As though to stave off naysayers who had witnessed the highly-detested 4Kids era of Toonami (a haggard attempt at dumbing down anime to little kids, infamous for turning off the older viewers), the anime shown was purely directed at the mature audience that respected it, if not the cultist otakus. Deadman Wonderland, a notoriously violent horror genre anime, made it especially obvious, due to the excess of body mutilation, profanity, and terror it sets within the first episode alone- an anime that proclaims a kid-unfriendly nature far beyond any shown on Toonami thus far. Previously, Toonami had aired the first two episodes of the dystopic Neon Genesis Evangelion as part of a Super Robot Mecha genre tribute, but under heavy censorship, then dropped the anime before it went into its darkest depths. In comparison, Deadman Wonderland was only censored for the saltier swear words generally prohibited from being spoken on television. The rest of the anime shown that night got by without any editing, dispelling fears of another “animation age ghetto” and proving to viewers Toonami was indeed back, just as good as it used to be, if not better.
Likewise with the April Fool’s Day broadcast, T.O.M. reviewed another game, the post-apocalytic I Am Alive, in the spirit of “rising up from the ashes.”
The Return of the Midnight Run & Bumping Struggling Shows
On September 30, 2012, Toonami gave fans a wondrous announcement right as Bleach went to commercial break. The schedule would no longer be repeating at 3:00 A.M. Instead, the programming would extend onward until 6:00 A.M. Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell: SAC would move from 2:00 and 2:30 A.M. to make room for Sym-Bionic Titan and the 2011 reboot of Thundercats. This effectively re-diversified the programming from pure anime back to anime and darker-toned cartoons more suited for the mature crowd that frequents Toonami. More importantly, both shows are notable for unfortunate luck on Cartoon Network, where the shows were essentially square pegs in a round hole- hard to market to younger viewers, and heavily scrutinized for doing so. Sym-Bionic Titan suffered cancellation for lack of a toyline and self-inflicted low ratings by Cartoon Network, who pushed it to a oft-ignored morning timeslot to help it burn in failure and caused revered CN director Genndy Tartakovsky to jump ship, while Thundercats was denied a second season and pends cancellation, while also being given the same ominous jump to the morning deathslot. This fan-appreciative schedule change indicates Toonami is effectively placing these two shows in a more appreciative demographic that will take a liking to the shows and help rescue them from obscurity.
To make room for the new shows, Toonami pushed back and extended Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell: SAC to one hour timeslots apiece at 3:00 A.M. and 4:00 A.M. respectively, and returned [adult swim] flagship anime Cowboy Bebop to the final available hour-long slot at 5:00 A.M., perceiving the discomfort longtime fans of AS saw in its disappearance- the anime was around since [adult swim] first premiered, which caused them to think their era was ending- not so!
Simply put, many a fan will now be either steeling themselves for Saturday all-nighters or warming up their DVRs if they have college studies keeping them from trucking through those six-hour grinds.
Concerns About Toonami’s Resilience
Toonami has been repeatedly noted to be under close surveillance for ratings to test the waters of the block, limiting its options. The network executives held back funds toward pricier broadcasting rights contracts for the popular shōnen anime it once aired, such as Dragonball Z and Naruto in lieu of the possibility it would tank. Another implicit sign of a tight budget- although Toonami had new animations for T.O.M., the block recycled a great deal of stock footage (though this could be chalked up to being on short notice). However, fans aren’t ready to give up their block without a fight, and knowing the protests made thus far, it won’t be long before Toonami gets funding for bigger and better anime. You may now shed a manly tear: Toonami’s back, bitches!