There is no question that Dragon Ball Z on Toonami was one of the most significant players in the arrival of the anime boom in the early 2000’s along with the uncanny success of Pokémon. Well Pokémon is still around and has not really gone anywhere and Dragon Ball continues to sell gang busters on DVD but it has been a little while since it aired on television up until recently. Just the other week Dragon Ball Z Kai became the number one premiere on Nicktoons Network. Given the low ratings Nicktoons Network generally has this is not all that surprising. In fact, most people saw this coming a mile away. Naruto Shippuden also has done pretty well for itself on Disney 😄 but the impact has not been very notable. If you recall Cartoon Network was not always the household name it is now and one of the shows that got it noticed other than its’ original programming was Dragon Ball Z. The question remains can Dragon Ball Z Kai do one or both of the following. Make Nicktoons a stronger player on cable and create another anime boom? Maybe, just maybe it can.
Believe it or not there is a whole new generation that have never watched nor read Dragon Ball. One of the biggest names in manga and anime can still find new viewers today. There is something about Dragon Ball that is very appealing to audiences. It has a great mix of comedy and drama but most of all it has intense action which has always been its’ strongest appeal to the US mainstream. An epic battle of good against evil to save the world, another world and eventually all life as we know it. While it is probably not the best the medium has to offer and series such as One Piece and Naruto may have surpassed it in overall quality, the appeal remains undeniable. There’s a reason why nearly every major Shounen Jump series has taken a page or two from Dragon Ball. For years 4Kids, Viz and other companies have tried to find their own Dragon Ball but to this day none of the series’ successors have been able to capture the US market as well as Dragon Ball did. So if there is any possibility for the anime industry to grow it seems to be entirely on the shoulders of Dragon Ball. Countless re-releases, several television runs, an onslaught of merchandise and video games and even a major motion picture in recent years and now it’s back for more.
Anime has been widely available in the US for years so the impact of Dragon Ball this time around will not be nearly as momentous as it once was but the industry has been struggling a great deal lately and is in need of a swift kick to the fanny and it just so happens that Dragon Ball has always been good for that. Where anime is struggling the most at this time is finding a home on US television. Much like the pre-Toonami days, anime is generally relegated to premium cable, specialty channels and Saturday mornings. Several things have come full cycle. Despite the constant presence of Naruto, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh and the current big seller Bakugan the mainstream does not really notice anime anymore. The “this is new and different” factor is entirely phased out and anime has turned mostly to legal streams on FUNimation’s website, Hulu, Crunchyroll and other venues rather than rely on television exposure. Some say that is enough but I fully believe in the value of a lucrative television deal. The anime industry will not and cannot grow without a major player on US television. This is where Dragon Ball Z Kai comes in.
DBZ Kai is a shortened remake with more “killer” and less “filler”. Something just right for the current generation and nostalgics alike. Nicktoons is using it to usher in a new age for themselves and so is 4Kids later this year on Saturday mornings..
Nicktoons has already seen success with DBZ Kai in recent weeks and that success is likely to grow. While it is a shame that such a great show will probably never be shown on Nickelodeon proper having it specifically on Nicktoons could help the animation capital of the world grow into a stronger player in the kid-vid market. The Marvel shows opened up the door and it looks like DBZ Kai is about ready to knock it down until Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers come to nail it to the floor. As for now, DBZ Kai and Avatar are doing their part to put butts in seats and give Nicktoons some much needed value.
DBZ Kai will not just be exclusive to Nicktoons however, 4Kids who long searched for their own Dragon Ball were able to score the network television broadcast rights along with joint streaming rights and will be using it as a key player in rebranding their Saturday morning block as Toonzai as I discussed in a previous entry. There is really no telling what this could mean for Saturday mornings. If DBZ Kai can bring new viewers to Nicktoons which is in so few homes compared to The CW and its’ network affiliates, DBZ Kai may actually help network Saturday mornings get out of the rut it has been in for years. Or at the very least it could return the CW block’s ratings to a respectable level.
As I already mentioned, I do not anticipate Dragon Ball Z Kai will create a wave on the level of what Dragon Ball Z originally made due to the circumstances being vastly different today than they were over a decade ago. However, strong marketing from both Nicktoons and Toonzai could very well give the anime industry the exposure it so desperately needs to get back in the mainstream consciousness like it was in the mid-2000’s. Who knows what the future may hold? Here’s hoping we at least get a TV deal for One Piece out of it.