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Toonami Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary: ​​What Comes Next?


Toonami has been a staple of Cartoon Network’s programming since 1997, and this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. A combination of the words “cartoon” and “tsunami,” the tiny themed spot between commercials and cartoons has grown into a fully interactive experience with its own characters, storylines, and video games. While we were not introduced to our friendly robotic host TOM until two years after the program’s inception, Toonami has always been the go-to source for cartoons for the discerning PG-13 viewer. The unique shows and events that played were creative choices that no other channel could replicate.

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While eventually garnering a reputation for anime, Toonami began as an action-animation block, playing shows like Thundercats, Voltronand The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. It was originally hosted by Moltar, a villain of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Space Ghost. But in 1999, he was replaced by a short, Bomberman-looking robot called TOM (Toonami Operations Module), who played cartoons from his broadcast station aboard the “Ghost Planet Spaceship Absolution.” Over the years, Toonami moved from being in a more “after-school” time slot to its current resting place, late on Saturday nights for the adult viewer. Though it used to be a part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swimit now stands on its own after huge fan support brought it back to life.


Toonami: A Brief History


Toonami on Adult Swim
Adult Swim

Toonami has long provided the world with excellent programming for the adult animation viewer. In the ’90s and early 2000s, it started as a segment for just slightly more violent TV shows than Cartoon Network’s typical fare. But after the show joined Adult Swim, playing after midnight on Saturdays, Toonami began releasing its familiar anime line-up. Some of the first shows to play in this set were DragonBall Z, Sailor Moon, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, and The Big O. Remember Big O? It was like Gundam and Batman had a baby. Along with, what was at the time, more alternative programming, Toonami began to show music videos. A few of their big hits included the Daft Punk videos off of their album Discovery that, when played together, created the musical Interstella 5555 and “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillaz – feeling old yet?


Related: What’s Happening With Netflix’s Gorillaz Movie? Damon Albarn Has Our Answer

In September of 2000, Toonami started their first Total Immersion Event (TIE), a sort of interactive episode that went beyond smell-o-vision that took place online and on the air. This was when the show began to produce a progressive series of episodes that, together, built a story and would eventually lead to a generational change in the host. The viewer would watch the regular series of shows and then get on the website and participate in the game. This first TIE introduced TOM’s partner character and AI matrix, Sara, an addition that remains on the show to this day.

When the Immersion Event ended, TOM was consumed by a giant blob, and Sara was forced to create TOM 2. Though it would not always happen so violently, these updates in graphics and character design would occur every 2 or 3 years, each with a matching event and progression in the storyline. The 2001 event created Cartoon Network’s first MMORPG and saw a record spike in online visits.


Related: Adult Swim Launched 20 Years Ago and Fans Are Celebrating Their Favorite Shows

But the show dropped off in popularity and was canceled in 2008 due to low ratings. The hiatus lasted for about four years until, in 2012, a segment of Toonami was aired as an April Fool’s Day prank. The showing sparked massive fan support and started a Twitter campaign to bring the show back. Later that year, the show aired again during its late-night Saturday airtime. Continuing with several more Immersion Events and redesigns, the Toonami block is still going strong.

So What’s Next?


Toonami on Adult Swim
Adult Swim

Toonami is currently running a TIE event to celebrate its 25th anniversary called The Return and ran the second installment of their miniseries Cosmo Samurai in February. Other than that, Toonami has no plans of going anywhere. They have recently greenlit the production of a new original series Housing Complex C which will be coming later this year. They have also picked up two new seasons (or spin-offs, however you like) of the epic anime FLCL entitled FLCL: Grunge and FLCL: Shoegaze, meant to premiere in 2023. There are plans for a horror series called Uzumaki premiering later this year as well.


Toonami was altogether a big influence on introducing anime to the West. Though many Japanese series were shipped in irregularly or edited severely for American audiences, Toonami took nuanced Japanese programming and served it up with sly humor and an underground style. The creative director of Toonami, Jason Demarcosaid:

“I can not believe that somehow, against all odds, our little cartoon block has survived for 25 years on television. We’ve made it this far with support from our fans and our network, and we are truly grateful for both. Here’s to more adventures to come. “

Toonami has plans to run well into 2023 with no breaks in sight.



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