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.