Toonami Changed My Life
It’s a moment I can remember ever so clearly, almost as if it was yesterday. I had just moved from Ohio to Missouri shortly before my sophomore year of high school and I didn’t know any of the kids on my block yet. So I did want any kid did during the summer, I played video games and watched an obnoxious amount of TV. I finally ended up getting sucked into Dragonball Z after catching it during a set of reruns from the beginning of the show. At that time Toonami was still rocking the Moltar flavor and sporting Ronin Warriors, Thundercats and Reboot in its line up. It was certainly a fun block of cartoons to watch as I always found the classics to be timeless, especially Ronin Warriors as I’d had watched that when I was younger.
Eventually school started and I was able to enjoy all the crap that comes with high school life including making some friends that had similar interest to me (four player Goldeneye was still legit at the time). At the time I had a habit of turning on Cartoon Network and watching the Toonami block while I begrudgingly worked on homework. They had mentioned a few times how there were changing the lineup after their introduction of Tom and such, which wasn’t too big of a deal to me as they’d changed things before. Then for the first time they played a single two-minute promo that would change everything.
The 2 minute promo of Gundam Wing on Toonami.
While I was no stranger to anime (or Japanimation as it was called then) as I had watched Casshern Robot Hunter and such during Sci-Fi’s Saturday morning animated movies. But never before had I heard of a cartoon that seemed to showcase a plot involving war, politics, death and above all else giant ass robots. The fact that the promo was voiced by Peter Cullen aka Optimus Prime only served to hook me in further. I mentioned it to one of my newly minted friends with similar taste about Gundam and he assured me that it was going to be awesome as the Gundam franchise was huge in japan. And so there I was on the couch on March 6th, 2000 at exactly 5:30pm to watch the premiere of Gundam Wing. In that instant my mind was blown. For a show to not be afraid to address death, suicide and the trappings of war was already a rarity in the US. For that show to be animated was nothing short of groundbreaking. The show didn’t follow the predictability of a classic show like Space Ghost and it wasn’t endlessly episodic like Dragonball Z. It was truly unique unto itself, a show I had never seen before. Once I realized that there was more like this I had to see more, I had to know what other wonders the japanese we’re cooking up.
So I went to the internet and scoured the shallow depths of the World Wide Web via the wonders of Netscape (remember Netscape?) to find more of it. Unfortunately at that time fansubbing had not grown large enough for me to find any translated Gundam series, but I found solace in knowing that Gundam Wing was not just an exception to a rule of normalcy. By the time Gundam Wing finished airing I was sold on the concept of Japanimation as a genre and not something that randomly came on in a butchered format on the Sci Fi channel or 4Kids.
Then a few months later Toonami would follow-up Gundam Wing with a seemingly move out of nowhere, Tenchi Muyo. Now action anime and cartoons I was no stranger to, I was a boy afterall, we had a tendency to find those things with deadly accuracy. But a harem anime was something I had never heard of before or even imagined would exist. The tagline was “Love Stinks” and I found that highly amusing as you know when your 16 and in high school you find that you either love or hate everything. So there I was again faithfully watching another Toonami show and once again I was blown away. The show was actually funny, funny and charming at the same time. It even managed to invoke a bit of sadness toward the end too. What sort of devilry was Toonami pulling? How much more sweetness could come from the tiny island across the pond? Evidently a lot. Toonami would eventually bring over Outlaw Star, Blue Submarine No. 6, Zoids and several other Gundam series. But it was a moot point at that time now because I was already thoroughly hooked on anime and the fansubbing movement was beginning to take off.
Then Toonami would up the ante one last time with its late night counterpart, Adult Swim, and its airing of Cowboy Bebop. To this day no other show, animated or not, can match the perfect blend of drama, story, characters and music that Cowboy Bebop possesses. Over a decade later its still an anime I watch occasionally and a soundtrack I listen to at least once a week.
Then there was Toonami’s random but inspirational messages about dealing with anger, having courage or following your dreams. They always managed to put it in a way that never seemed pushy or preachy, something that afterschool specials and what not never quite seemed to figure out. The messages always made me nod as I appreciated the message and the way they presented neither bored or offended by teenage senses. Every promo they did regardless of it if was advertisement, reviews or inspirational were all eloquently edited and synced to amazing music.
While it certainly sounds crazy that a grown man can sit here look back and say that a group of cartoons changed his life, its something I say with no shame or hesitation. Cartoon Network and its Toonami branding was the first time anyone had ever dared portrayed anime in a serious and legitimate light. Not only did they license great shows but their handling of it was great as well. From the promo’s to the voice acting it was clear that Toonami cared, that they in fact were also fans of what they were delivering. It introduced to an entire generation a new type of show that managed to be entertaining and yet mature at the same time. Introducing anime to a kid like me got me interested in using computers for more than surfing the web, (granted at the time it was all so I could download and watch shows without our old ass Compaq Presario exploding into flames) and is quite possibly the reason I am writing on this website I helped create.
We often forget that the core of success is often imagination, and that television is right up there with books in terms of things that have inspired the mind. It’s all to easy to relegate cartoons as something only for children and to have this sense that they must be censored and neutered for the betterment of our tender youth. Yet anime often times has some of the best and most inspiring messages out there, and ever since Toonami’s death there has been no real focus on the good stuff. No way to introduce a new generation to a sector of shows that are willing to break the mold and stereotype of what they should do. While anime is certainly far from perfect I dare someone to tell me that Gundam Wing or Cowboy Bebop are any worse than the crap kids have these days like Spongebob and Squidbillies. Has any kid been inspired to write great stories and fiction after an episode of The Fairly Oddparents? Has any current show for kids or the teen group introduced them to different music formats like Jazz or Techno?
My generation was lucky, Toonami was a game changer and I doubt you’ll hear anyone from my generation disagree with that statement. I hope that its resurrection will be able to bring the joy to this generation that Tom, the Absolution and his selection of anime did for me. The wonders of the promos that were brought to life via the music by Joe Boyd Vigil and often voiced by the great Peter “Optimus P” Cullen. I hope they new Toonami is even half as good as the old, because there is one thing I know without a shadow of a doubt.
My generation, we had it good.
Source : Toonami