If you were watching Cartoon Network between 1997 to 2008, chances are you remember advertisements for its Toonami program. Toonami was a line-up featuring a heavy dose of Japanese cartoons, anime, that had been dubbed and edited for an American audience and was wildly popular among viewers. It spawned multiple offshoots, such as Boomerang and Adult Swim, both of them featuring anime at times during their line-up.
It also had an amazing presentation. Set in a futuristic space ship, the host was a robot called Tom, speaking in a smooth voice telling us what was up next. It even had two-minute promotional videos when they would be airing a new series, with great editing. Some of them were even inspirational.
Because I only had Cartoon Network until 2003, however, I did not know that it was taken off the air until some time in 2009. What had happened, I asked myself. Despite only having it for a short time, the shows I saw during Toonami were great! How could Cartoon Network not want to continue it? It was the program to watch if you had it. It just didn’t make any sense that they would take it off the air.
So I did some research on the topic. I put ‘Toonami cancellation’ into the Google search bar, but found mostly rants instead of facts. The few parts that weren’t just viewer opinion mostly blamed ratings. However, there were a few posts that displayed a further knowledge on the subject. They’re not completely credible resources, but it certainly sheds more information on the subject.
A Youtube commenter stated that one reason was because of the Internet. As time went on, speeds and connections became more reliable. Anime, which originally had to be imported at high costs, could now be downloaded for free with better quality and with English subtitles. It was a more authentic reproduction as well, without having the American censorship. Toonami had no way of competing against the downloading unless they purchased the license for the series, which would legally force the fan groups from subbing the episodes. However, there would always be another group subbing the anime, illegally providing the real product for free. It did not help that towards the end of its lifeline, Toonami was displaying shows that paled in comparison to what it aired before.
Yet another Youtube commenter gave another good reason, this time stating that the actual shows being aired caused problems. The program, perhaps knowing that it was suffering from dropping ratings, decided to go with several popular Shonen series, an anime genre that targeted the young male audience. After some time, however, a large portion, if not all of them, entered filler arcs – portions of the anime that may or may not have their own story, but did not relate to the main story nor are they considered canonical, with most of them ranging from decent to poor in terms of overall quality. This turned away many viewers and Toonami received a ratings drop.
Finally, a third person, a poster on a forum, said that Toonami had become too expensive to run. Perhaps the most plausible of the reasons, he (the actual gender is unknown) stated that towards the time of Toonami’s cancellation, Cartoon Network’s highest ratings came from two Canadian cartoons. Seeing the success of the two shows, those in power decided that they should switch over from Japanese anime, which was expensive with licenses, voice actors, editors, and other things, and use cartoons that were much closer to home and didn’t require as much work.
All three of these reasons have one point in common – that the cost of Toonami had become too high while its returns were minimal. From an economic standpoint, it was the most reasonable step to take in the situation. Oftentimes we blame companies for selling out. “We really, really want Toonami, despite how it’s doing badly and that we don’t really watch it! Don’t take it away from us!” But that’s the thing. Cartoon Network is run by a company. They want to take the choice that produces the highest earnings for them. In this case, it meant removing Toonami.
In the end, it was something that could make no one happy. Viewers lost a program that, while it was no longer in its glory days, was a cultural icon to them and Cartoon Network had to cut down a once stellar feature that it had been working on for eleven years. However, I have to say that it was better that way. Cartoon Network can continue to stay on the air to produce better content while viewers can finally put the dying franchise behind them.