Now if only we could have a week-long 24/7 Dragonball marathon
With so much hype among, well, everyone, Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) is slated to premiere on US airways on May 3rd at 11:30PM EST. It’s been a while since Toonami returned and now there’s a more recent killer hit. What are the prospects of the show and the block as a whole? The Inverseman investigates.
The first thing we know is that Attack on Titan, since the original 2009 manga got an anime about a year ago, has been on a huge surge. The levels of popularity skyrocketed the series out of niche apocalyptic dystopia fans right into the limelight of the mainstream. I could even pick up a general celebrity gossip magazine in Hong Kong and right there was a free pouch featuring a chibi-sized Titan. Funimation came and then licensed the series. No word on a dub, just streams of the original for a while. In the back of my head I thought, “They have to do something with this. This is too good to pass up” And lo and behold, earlier this year previews of the dub were out and finally we have television broadcast on the perfect network.
Meanwhile, it looks like Toonami is finally starting to hit its stride. Earlier on in 2012, when the block resurfaced, there were many complaints about meager offerings, few new shows, and still many reruns, but things are different now. There was some long-awaited catch-up on older anime when the block had Soul Eater in winter 2013,which was a good fit for the demographics being a shonen and a good shonen at that.
Then there was Sword Art Online in the summer of the same year which further capitalized on the hype surrounding that series, albeit still a little late on the train. The same logic would then apply to Blue Exorcist which was just languishing on VIZ’s Neon Alley service; the service had debatable efficacy to begin with. The block was slowly adding more hits, but the winds that are the public’s attention span shift quickly, many of these series hit zenith in popularity and were fully dubbed long before their US television debuts. We had good stuff and newer stuff, but we needed more hits.
Of course two or three shows don’t make a programming block. Over the course of the year the block proceeded to reclaim and takeover lots of popular series that were once theirs, namely the Shonen Jump Big 3. Bleach had been in consistent rerun hell and poorly timed filler arcs, but pushing to catch up, especially with the manga ending, brought it up to speed.
Though Bleach alone could not keep viewers in. One Piece was in networking limbo since the block’s twilight days in 2008, when the stains of the 4Kids dub were still being rinsed out. It wasn’t enough to save it then but a little over a year ago with enough buddy-buddy with Funimation and the company obviously wanting to promote a shonen flagship of theirs, One Piece finally dropped anchor at the new Toonami to start welcoming viewers back. We needed one more widely popular series to secure dominance, and that was Naruto.
While Cartoon Network was always able to run the first arc of Naruto, a huge problem when Toonami was ending was Naruto Shippuden being acquired by Disney, which while stellar in dubbing Miyazaki’s movies, had no idea how to handle a mega-hit shonen. Instead of putting the series at the forefront of Disney Channel, odd choice it may seem, Naruto got the boot to the Disney XD sub-channel that fewer TV owners even had access to. There the show wound up getting odd timeslots and multiple reruns in-spite of a lot of typical Naruto filler to wade through. Making a bad situation worse, having to go through more rigorous censors to fit a lower Y-TV rating as opposed to a TV-PG or TV-14 rating only served to solidify the fans’ grim expectations. The series was quietly tabled and put through many reruns on the channel, where it faded into relative obscurity as perhaps one of the entertainment giant’s biggest anime-related missed opportunities.
Back at Cartoon Network, Toonami decided to work with what they did have and aired only the first arc fully uncut back in 2012. After what was likely a hard-fought battle in the corporate boardrooms, Naruto Shippuden was finally back home and started airing back in January also devoid of any cuts. While very behind and slowed down in many regards, the proper stars had aligned. Unless the sheer thought of an English dub would make you vomit, you had to admit, there was something nostalgic and proper of having all of Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto in one programming block. If you were a Jump reading teenager, Saturday nights just became magical.
With three heavy-hitters back alongside the “classic reruns” such as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and newer content, the block now had a real showing much unlike the earlier criticisms earlier on. New experiments could be performed; Space Dandy premiered dubbed and in the US first much to everyone’s surprise. To balance out the big shonen heavy lineup, Black Lagoon was able to premiere on TV, adding a proper edge to the lineup. Finally older classics like Samurai Jack rounded out the later hours of the block. Now a diverse array of shows ranging from the mass-appeal to the classic to the niche fit neatly together into one block, making most everyone happy.
With Attack on Titan I’d say this is more or less the dream team, it can only get better now. Popularity among the mainstream is peeking so Cartoon Network has to strike while the iron is hot. If done successfully, Funimation and Cartoon Network can blow the door wider open in the cash-cow department, but it must be done soon. The block has been very receptive to fan responses, especially on social media, so with the proper hype we can enter and, dare I say, surpass the 90s-kid “glory days” for a new generation of weeaboo teenagers. Join me next them when it’s sad for you.
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