We won't be initimidated by criminal threats...

You ever realize there are some facts about yourself that just set you apart from other people, but in a hilariously weird way?

Yeah, for me, one of the things would be that I honestly think one of the main turning points in my life from child to adulthood, was the day they moved Toonami from weekdays to weekends.  It sounds crazy, but I shall endeavor to explain.

See, I remember when the first Toonami aired back in like, 1997.  I wasn't even ten years old yet.  Cartoon Network had gone from block to block in search of that one, magical afternoon block that would finally catch the eyes of the kids coming home from school.  It wasn't until Williams Street put together a block with the same personality Cartoon Network brought to the rest of its network that things finally took off.

 

...But to be honest, I fucking hated the first airing of Toonami.  [*shocked gasp*] all you want, but how many of you saw it?  There was no Yu Yu Hakusho.  No Gundam Wing.  No Tenchi Muyo.  No Ronin Warriors, or even Dragon Ball Z.  There were four shows: Thundercats, Voltron, The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, and Cartoon Roulette.  I can say I like it better now, but that would be nostalgia speaking, and nine year old me would probably laugh if I lied like that.



The reality is Toonami didn't become important, at least to me, until they started airing series that Cartoon Network hadn't already aired dozens of times before, like Dragon Ball Z and Robotech in 1998.   But even then, Toonami was still mostly a hodgepodge of series that had already aired--either on Cartoon Network or other channels  (Robotech originally belonged to Sci-Fi's Animation Station, while DBZ was on Fox for years).  It really wasn't until late 1999 (to be precise, September 4th) and early 2000 (again to be precise March 2000) that Toonami finally settled into the juggernaut that it's remembered as, with the dubbing of new Dragon Ball Z episodes and the first airing of Gundam Wing.




I couldn't tell you when specifically, but despite my initial dislike, somewhere between the premieres of Robotech and Gundam Wing, Toonami had turned into a daily institution for me.  It was a reward for finishing another day of school, and part of the routine that comes with being a child: wake up, get dressed, attend school, come home, watch Toonami, do homework, go to bed.  Rinse, repeat.

As Toonami grew more popular with children my age, they added more shows and aired at more times during the week.  Toonami Midnight Run was the proto-Adult Swim, while Toonami Rising Sun appeared just in time to join the death of the Saturday Morning Cartoon era.

 

The funny thing is, what led to the eventual move of Toonami from weekdays to weekends was that there was a larger target audience in the 13-17 set than there was in the 8-12 set that afternoon block was supposedly aimed at.   The problem was that with Toonami's constant rotation of series, there came a strange sense of "progression".   I said I started watching Toonami just before I turned 10, and that's a key age for a lot of children: it's the start of that prepubescent era for young boys in which they start to outgrow things like toys and cartoons for things like sports and girls.   Our era--my era--chose instead to just do both.  Sure, we gave up toys, but still we watched cartoons, played sports, and started those early, awkward interactions with girls that are the rite of passage for any young male.  This worked out great for us, but not so well with CN's sponsors I'm guessing, which is why the Toonami weekend era began.



When Cartoon Network finally pulled the plug on Toonami weekdays, it disrupted that routine that I'd maintained since I was a young boy: coming home from school to sit down for two or three hours (they never could decide what they wanted, really) to veg out watching action cartoons.   It was such an abrupt change that it was almost like a fog lifted from my eyes and I realized just how many habits I'd shedded and changes I'd undergone in the shift from being a child to being an teenager.

Sure, they moved Toonami to weekends but I knew the problem with that right from the start: it was airing at night on weekends, when even high school kids weren't trying to stay inside.  It was one thing to ask high school kids who are just getting out of class to sit down and watch cartoons for two hours (what else do you have to do?), but it's another thing entirely to ask those same kids to do so on a Saturday, when any teen with a respectable social life was out on a date, at the movies, or even at parties. 

I'll admit to not exactly having an interesting social life, but I knew where I was supposed to be on a Saturday night, and it sure as hell wasn't locked up in my room watching cartoons.  Unwittingly, Cartoon Network had made Toonami, for lack of a less juvenile word, "uncool".  Off the strength of the properties they had Toonami managed to keep going for another four years, but the last two were largely empty husks compared to even the weekend version of the block at its height.  And for me, by then I had long graduated from high school and made the decision to move on from Toonami, even if I didn't necessarily move on from the shows themselves.  The magic was gone--the weekend had been the purview of Adult Swim for three years when they initially moved the block--having Toonami there as well just made it much less special.

In the end, the shifting of Toonami from weekdays to weekends was for me the first death knell of my interest in American television.   Gradually, I would lose interest in first Cartoon Network, then television as a whole, until I eventually created SageTV and finally solved my obsession with nostalgia by being able to examine shows that I'd watched as a child individually, and assess whether they were truly as good as I remembered as a young boy.   As expected some passed and some failed, but I still have to thank both Cartoon Network and Toonami for inspiring me to build a better network for myself, and my friends.


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