The April Fools Return of Toonami – Night of the Nostalgia Bomb

Last night, for April Fools, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim had a special (re)broadcast of Toonami, the programming block that brought a lot of us in the US our first real taste of anime. Needless to say, enthusiasm spread like wildfire online as they played some of the first anime series many of us who grew up in the late 1990s to early 2000s had seen, like Gundam Wing, Big O, Trigun, and Tenchi Muyo, along with previews and sequences in between done by the ‘host’ TOM, voiced by Steve Blum (a great voice actor for dubbed anime and video games. I’m not a fan of most dubs, but he is Spike Spiegel, and I’ll hear no talk otherwise.) The night was full of wonderful nostalgia for those who watched Toonami, and the later Toonami Midnight Run that eventually grew into Adult Swim. Nostalgia tends to be rose-tinted. How many of us would submit to the schedule of a TV channel to watch old dubbed anime nowadays when we can get it as it airs, subbed? But it was certainly an experience, and one I’d like to share my personal view of, briefly.

Toonami and early Adult Swim is something I can definitely say had a real impact on my life. From when it started in 1997 until I left to go to university in 2004 it was a regular part of my weeks. I saw my first mecha, Gundam Wing, on Toonami during some afternoon during middle school. It was the beginning of my continuing love of mecha. Plenty of other great series came to me via Toonami/early AS back then too. I can directly trace my becoming an anime fan to Toonami and early Adult Swim, back in the days before my area had broadband and fan sub groups were few. Toonami also had a really cool way with promoting its shows. It wasn’t just a schedule of shows, it included previews for them that it made itself, video game reviews, and even sort of music video compilations on various themes such as ‘ Mad Rhetoric‘ and ‘Dreams.’ It really felt like an experience.

But the real value of the re-airing of Toonami last night, for me, was how clearly it brought up those memories. I hadn’t thought about it in much detail in years, and the specifics became a bit fuzzy. But when I watched it last night on TV, I could think back like it was yesterday that I’d watch these shows back in my room as a kid in bumfuck coal region Pennsylvania. Staying up late on Fridays and weekends to watch Toonami Midnight Run (and later, Adult Swim) in my room, being amazed by the shows. Last night, I didn’t just remember it. I could see exactly how my room was set up back then. I could feel the texture of my green and white quilt underneath me. The slight soreness in my neck from propping up my chin with pillows, so I could lean closer to the TV  sitting on my green and wood-finish dresser with the round brass drawer handles, so as keep the volume down that late at night. It felt like I could even hear the quiet nighttime noises of the quiet street that I lived on all those years ago. I was there again! There’s probably not a market for Toonami anymore, and I’m not a fan of what Adult Swim has become in the last 5-6 years, but I have to thank them greatly for what they did, because for a few hours last night I was there again, in another time and place.

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  1. Nazarielle
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    for a few hours last night I was there again, in another time and place.

    That’s the perfect way to describe it. I was brought back to sitting on my living room floor, watching these crazy cartoons that made me crave even more. While my first foray into anime was thanks to a friend who watched Sailor Moon and introduced me to it, Toonami turned that spark of interest into an inferno. Like you, I doubt I’d really want to watch anime the way I did back then, but all the same, I wouldn’t be here without Toonami.

    • Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      The first anime I ever saw was on Sci-fi Channel, back in their early days. Early morning on Saturdays or Sundays they used to play anime movies, which had me interested since most were science fiction stuff, though it was just a passing interest thing until I was able to watch full series. Toonami started around the same time that filesharing of videos started becoming feasible via Limewire and whatnot, though I still had a 56k modem until junior year of high school because my area was backward as hell. So I’d let Initial D download while I was at school during the day (heard about it in a car magazine), watch it, and then Toonami on the weekends. Good times.

  2. Qwerty1
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    God, when “Dreams” started playing I could feel the nostalgia rushing over me.

    It’s too bad Adult Swim has trended toward the stoner crowd over the years with shows like Tim and Eric and all or just running blocks of the Seth MacFarlane left overs Fox throws at them, turning the anime roots they inherited from Toonami into a one night a week mockery of what it was that they seem to get endless pleasure putting down.

    For once Adult Swim’s April Fools prank was practically a gift, have to wonder what they were thinking considering how many times they’ve aired stuff like The Room or put fart tracks over shows.

    • Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’m really not a fan of what Adult Swim is anymore. At first I thought it was neat that they had comedies on Sunday nights, and their early ones were pretty good (though Aqua Teen Hunger Force just went on for far too long, longer than it could keep being funny.) But then they just went the stoner route, which was enabled by how cheap it is to make stuff that’s intentionally shoddy and low-budget. But to be honest, they probably don’t have the audience they used to since we can all watch stuff through downloads and streams now.

  3. Posted April 2, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you brought up “Mad Rhetoric” and “Dreams.” Those promos were better than some of the series themselves. In fact, the first anime community I was part of was called “Toonami Digital Arsenal,” and I found the forum because the site contained downloads of these promos.

    • Posted April 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, they really strung the clips and lines together well, even using some of the lesser series they aired to make cool videos. They always made watching the block a real experience, late at night all those years ago.

  4. Mech
    Posted April 2, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Toonami was awesome, especially Reign the Conqueror.

  5. vendredi
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Up in Canada we never had Toonami, but a great many American channels decide to do voice-over work from Canadian studios in Vancouver (presumably due to cheaper costs), and as a result a lot of Japanese animation squeaked by laws that mandated Canadian production, employment, or content – so we ended up with a lot of the same shows aired by Toonami and later Fox Kids. In fact quite a few shows managed to complete their dubbed run on Canadian channels despite being canceled on the American channels (Escaflowne is a notable example).

  6. Kokusho
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink
  7. Ghost of Revil
    Posted April 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    While I disagree with you guys on the whole Sub v Dub argument I do agree that it was such a Nostalgia bomb to see Gundam Wing and Big O running that night. I remember flashing back to those days of sitting in my Grandads living room after school eagerly awaiting the Next chance to see Gundam 03 Heavyarms (I had the Model deathgripped in my hand every time I watched the show, Ha!) send thousands of Leo’s to the scrap piles.

    What’s amazing is that after the run aired the internet didn’t stop afterwards it went absolutely batshit.

    Currently there’s a movement running to get it brought back and it looks like adult swim is listening.

  8. Ghost of Revil
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    And now it’s actually back!

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