Cartoon Network’s Toonami block of action cartoons and anime was by no means my first exposure to anime, but it definitely had the biggest impression. Before that, I’d really only seen Dragon Ball Z on Saturday mornings on a different station, but I didn’t wake up early enough to see any others.
In fact, because Dragon Ball Z was placed so late in Toonami’s two-hour run, it meant I sat through other shows that I’m not sure I would’ve given a shot (like Sailor Moon. Which I came to love. But at first, it was way too girly – too big a risk factor for my brothers to make fun of me. Good thing it was on between Robotech and Dragon Ball Z).
Yes, Toonami steered me wrong with some shows: Beast Wars was a little too… er… young for me at that point. Not to mention, I’ve never really cared for cartoons done in CGI. ReBoot definitely wasn’t my cup of tea (though I know some people, like Justin, really enjoyed the second season), and they tried to parlay Power Puff Girls and Samurai Jack into the mix (perfectly fine cartoons, but I wanted anime, dammit!). Honestly, though, half the cool stuff I know is largely because of Toonami’s influence: Robotech, Ronin Warriors, basicalled all Gundam series, Tenchi Muyo!, Outlaw Star, Big O, Ruroni Kenshin – heck, even Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell – all of them reached me first through Toonami. The ones that didn’t (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Trigun) were introduced to me by people whose first exposure to anime was Toonami.
In fact, if I’d never watched Sailor Moon on Toonami, I never would’ve stumbled upon the manga at my local Barnes & Noble. I never would’ve sat in Borders (remember Borders?) for hours, reading Sailor Moon, then filling my time reading anything else I could get my hands on. I discovered some real gems waiting for the latest releases of whatever manga I was currently hooked on (Ranma ½, Crimson Hero, Clover, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Alice 19th, Fushigi Yuugi…basically, everything else I’ve ever read until I learned to start searching), all because I was waiting for Sailor Moon or Saint Tail or something similarly innocuous (hey! I was 12!).
I’d always liked to draw, but Toonami opened up a whole new world of style to me, and I can’t deny: it has really, heavily influenced how I draw and what I create even down to this day.
So here’s to you, Toonami. Here’s to you, Moltar and Zordak and T.O.M. and eventually, Adult Swim. Without you, I’d still be a nerd. But not the kind that would eventually become ironically cool.