Cartoons were a huge part of my childhood, and I am sure many other people can agree with that. When I was around 6 years old, I stumbled across a television programming block named Toonami. There were these amazing shows that were action-packed with the craziest adventures that filled my tiny little brain with nothing but pure joy.
“Dragon Ball Z” was always my favorite show to see, and whenever I found out when the show aired, I never missed an episode. From that point onward, waking up on Saturday mornings was the highlight of my week. When Toonami was aired, I no longer felt as if I was just a 6-year-old kid; I was Son Goku and ready to Kamehameha anybody who got in between me and my show.
Toonami filled a void within the television world that was very empty at the time. Anime was something that was very far from being known about on American television; it was basically never heard of in America. That changed whenever Cartoon Network introduced Toonami into their animation block. Toonami aired for the first time on March 17, 1997, premiering shows like “Thundercats,” “Voltron” and “Transformers.”
For the first time, there was a place to consistently see cartoons that no one has ever heard of or seen before. But whenever “Dragon Ball Z” and “Sailor Moon” were added into the mix in 1999, fans went absolutely crazy.
Being one of the only TV curators to consistently release dubbed anime in the ‘90s, Toonami’s popularity was through the roof. Seeing how well things were going, Cartoon Network introduced a new extension of Toonami named “The Midnight Run.”
From 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., there was a block of Toonami where only anime was being played. Since this time period was supposed to target the older kids, there would sometimes be uncensored scenes that included gore and swearing. Even though this was never a time where I should have been up, my mind was always blown seeing all the crazy things I only dreamed of seeing during the day.
Although there was such a high amount of success at the time, not all good things can last forever. Over the course of the years, Toonami’s ratings began dropping with a lot of complaints being made about the violent nature of the shows that were airing.
Other action shows that were less violent such as “Samurai Jack” and “Teen Titans” were being mixed in along with other Toonami favorites. But, these violent shows were part of Toonami’s identity.
Choosing not to play them would be hurtful to the company’s image. At some point, Toonami had to completely change what time shows aired due to all the backlash they received. Even though there was still a high amount of supporters who still remained loyal to the TV program, numbers were consistently dropping.
One factor could have been parents, not many of them were on board with their child seeing people fighting and screaming at each other all day. Due to constant changes that had to be made, with receiving backlash and lowering view counts all played into the tragic downfall of the program. Toonami aired its last episode on Sept. 20, 2008, one year after their 10 year anniversary.
To this day, many, including me, remember the greatness of Toonami and the joy that the program brought to us. This network opened many eyes to the world of anime and forever changed the lives of many children all over America.
Toonami did make its return in 2012 as a late night block on Adult Swim. They rebranded themselves as a Saturday night action block that felt more like “The Midnight Run.”
I, personally, did not know about Toonami returning, seeing as the program only runs at night. Even though I, along with many, will never experience the early morning thrill that Toonami brought again, it is great to see that the program is making a comeback.