Hey folks I’ve moved to Tuesdays and to kick-off this momentous occasion I’m going to delve right into the subject of Cartoon Network and their apparent lack of Japanese cartoons. Let me start by saying I love Japanese cartoons and people would probably refer to me as an “anime fan” but there is a time and place for Japanese cartoons on The Cartoon Network and it does not require any kind of restructuring.
A Brief History of Anime and The Cartoon Network
It is true that Cartoon Network used to play a lot of Japanese cartoons. A lot more than they do now even between the combination of CN’s time and Adult Swim’s any given day except maybe Saturday. CN handles the toyetic stuff such as Pokemon, Beyblade and Bakugan which they partially own and Adult Swim gets the rest including the shounen that may have aired on Toonami if it was still around.
Cartoon Network was the center of the anime boom in the early 2000s because of Toonami which began as an action block and always existed as an action block but also served the purpose of being CN’s “anime block” many times throughout its’ existence. CN was the home of Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Gundam, Zoids, Yu Yu Hakusho, One Piece, Naruto, and many other rather successful Japanese cartoon franchises because of Toonami and later Adult Swim back when the network saw value in those programs. They got nearly all the great shows available from Japan from around 1999 until 2007 other than a few that were snatched up by their competitors. They continue to get some of the more high-profile ones because of Adult Swim in particular. They found several hidden gems while being the home of the Shonen Jump catalog and they co-produced the second season of The Big O with Sunrise as well as IGPX with Production IG and Powerpuff Girls Z with Toei.
However it was clear in 2009 the party was over for non-toyetic anime that were not on Adult Swim when Naruto quietly left the airwaves after the cancellation of Toonami in the Fall of 2008. Disney 😄 snatched up Naruto Shippuden and not long after that Nicktoons Network landed Dragon Ball Z Kai. Both of which would have been shoe-ins for Cartoon Network in previous years and the masses were left looking very confused. In all honesty I believe CN should have picked up both because they are proven hits but now there’s nothing they can do about that other than acquire the rights to the only other anime that could bring them the same audience, i.e. One Piece and I hope they do realize it was a mistake to toss One Piece out in 2007 but I do not expect they will.
Why Cartoon Network Does Not Need an Anime Block
Fringe-otaku and so-called “Toonami fans” clamor for Cartoon Network to bring back Toonami or start a new anime block. I’m all for Cartoon Network making a new action block but an anime block that plays anime for the sake of playing anime is pointless and here is why. Cartoon Network and it’s competitors have sapped the market of the shows worth watching. The remaining “Toonami” anime are decent at best and the edgier ones are probably better off on Adult Swim. The two shows I feel that fit that niche of being an edgier Japanese cartoon that’s still marketed to children are SGT Frog and One Piece and I’m sure FUNimation would be more than happy to have them on television. There are some others such as Fairy Tail and Heroman but hardly enough to justify making an anime block. They could have a block with Pokemon, Bakugan, Beyblade and other toyetic anime right now if they wanted to but I personally wouldn’t care to watch that because out of those cartoons, I only moderately enjoy Pokemon.
Furthermore, CN has been treating their action acquisitions like second-rate garbage for quite a while now. Why would anyone want them to get a good Japanese cartoon when they’d probably toss it to six o‘clock in the morning? That is not going to help those shows gain any more fans than they already have. CN isn’t likely to pick up more than a few at a time as well. Going from having just toyetic Japanese cartoons to having enough PG level ones to make a block is really unlikely for budget purposes alone. CN is currently using their budget to produce and acquire some great home-grown action and making good use of Warner Bros. Animation again which is yielding three new series based on DC comics franchises and a long-awaited revival of ThunderCats which will actually be animated in Japan. Why would they need to fill their schedule with more Japanese cartoons? The answer is, they don’t need to.
It’s the “all or nothing” mentality that is the problem here. There certainly should be Japanese cartoons on The Cartoon Network. They have often done well there and there is a market for them. However, the market is much smaller than it once was and they can only justify having a few given what’s left to be tapped without picking up more mediocre acquisitions. They have places to air anime. That has never changed. I am much more interested in seeing an afternoon action block be built than for said block to be composed entirely of anime and not necessarily action anime. It does not matter where the shows come from. What matters is if they’re worth showing or not. I realize that in of itself is subjective.
Japanese cartoons have many more venues now than they did when Cartoon Network was the place to see the best shows coming out of Japan. Legal streaming is on the rise. Syfy, Disney XD, Nicktoons Network and other less available channels are dabbling in anime. There’s anime available on-demand on digital cable and satellite and there’s even the FUNimation Channel which airs nothing but Japanese cartoons. We can probably thank Toonami for much of that. After several years 4Kids is back to thinking Japan is the place to find their next big hit and they’re revamping their Saturday morning block to be anime themed. The content is out there, it’s just not all in the same place anymore and while I admit that would be convenient, if kids do not seem to mind then adults making a fit over it is quite frankly pathetic.
If The Cartoon Network should do anything in particular with anime I think its more so in Adult Swim’s court now that they are gaining the 9PM hour in 2011. 9PM-11PM any given night of the week is an excellent time to be airing the best action cartoons coming out of Japan without the need to edit for the children’s network / block standards. More people should be prodding Adult Swim to use the front-end of Adult Swim for more anime on weekdays. It’s an excellent use of that time given that Adult Swim cannot play their heavy hitters in those hours due to content and other restrictions such as FOX not wanting their shows competing with each other on different networks. Their hands are pretty tied as to what they can run in the 9PM hour in particular. Why not air highly successful shows such as Bleach and Inuyasha? They might stand a chance of not getting destroyed by network prime time while I’m more than certain King of the Hill reruns would.
There are however those shows better suited for Cartoon Network than Adult Swim and they have ought to have a place on the network. That could be any number of places without resorting to making an all anime block again.
Cartoon Network needs an action block, not just an anime block.
An action block airing on weekday afternoons before prime time that could very well air many Japanese cartoons if they are worth airing along with other action acquisitions that deserve some love such as Metajets and Batman. An action block that would air reruns or even premieres of their original action series. An action block ever-changing but ever familiar. That’s what Toonami was actually about, not just airing Japanese cartoons for the sake of airing them and that’s exactly what people are either forgetting or choosing to ignore.
Besides, what we really should be concerned about is if The Cartoon Network is going to keep airing cartoons at all.