Absolution for the Sins of the Fandom: Toonami’s Epic Journey.
In the deep blackness of space, a ship called “Sin Eater” – rides alone, wanted by many – to cure the ailments. To regain and re-teach respect. To answer the call of a lost multitude. It was taken out of commission once, and from its place – steeds with the supposed gift of peace and friendship, only showed war and desecration.
In this space, warlords protected by intergalactic committees who only goal of educating the youth is failing by the day, now use these pirates to trap the youth in a never-ending mire of lies and deceit.
And all the while, planets controlled by men of ill repute, questionable loyalties and task forces of multi-colored suits of armor run through the land promoting the return of the old days, when the old traditions are left behind, and the old ideals were a bunch of misrepresentations.
But in this ship, in the heart of the sin eater, lies a robot. The robot has seen it all. The cheers, the tears. He also knows that he must create a new place – a new way for the makers, the creators to be free once more.
To absolve the peoples sins.
This is the movement long since denied…
The revolution has returned to be televised.
On March 17 1997 – the animation world thought that this little thing, this little mishmash of created and owned Warner Brother’s gained and used properties – and a few other 1980’s favorites would not make a week.
On April 1, 2012, the same animation world – no longer a world, not even an entity, but now controlled and ran through – advertisers, the yes men – the no hounds, and by a new movement based on a 80’s girl franchise – thought this thing that they so desperately got rid of for years, was just a phase. A joke.
On May 16th of the same year, they all believed – these same lost souls, and their equally decrepit fanbases thought this returned “monstrosity” as they called it mockingly – would die out in 3 weeks.
They convinced themselves that 3 million a week was a fad.
Then, four million was a fad.
Then, two times – 5 million a week.
They thought – “send more money to the competitors – they will know how to cut their feet down”.
But they couldn’t do anything.
This “monstrosity” as they call it; trends on twitter worldwide, when those that have bigger budgets and more costlier advertisements cant.
This “monstrosity” these weak willed fanbases and detractors call it, the stone that they have rejected for a fake version of a reality TV show on Bravo and the like, but in a animated form from Japanese waters – and spoken not in the way the natives from the land speak, but in the way a submissive, divided, and unwanted doll would speak to its creator. – That monstrosity they so hate?
Has become the joy, and the hope for the future of anime.
That name, the name that has become a curse word, to the fans and subscribers of Crunchyroll, to the art film Critics of ANN, to some of the detractors in the tabloid anime media…
Say that name, to those folks. To those ad men who now have full control of the animation business wishing for Toonami’s death once more… and their souls start writhing in pain. The hatred of its name set their brains on melt down. They hate what it represents. They hate what it means.
They hate the very nature of it.
But that is the reason why people have gravitated to it.
Because, now that it has returned. Now that it has been shown again and NOW, at this time – it has done something NO OTHER entity in the animation industry has done and will ever do…
It is the hope for the future of the genre. The rebirth long awaited.
It is the hope of the reconciliation of the fanbases long since split away by men who just wanted lucre – the grand shekel, dinar, and dollar from stone – when all there left was blood and tears.
It is the chance of animation to finally grow up – to get into its stage of adulthood and become the voice of a nation looking for a way to communicate its values in a positive way.
It is, finally – the absolving of the sin, our forgetfulness towards the creators of animation, of anime – finally ending the reign of Crunchyroll, its pirating ilk, and giving a new era to the genre, not to hold on to it and let it deprecate – but to give to the generations that come after in differing ways.
This is the final part of the four part series that started with the Thundercats; Retrospective, that continued with The Vortexx, A Child Shall Lead Them, and now this article This deals with the history of what happened, after Toonami left the air in 2008. Then, the return to its glory – and a new direction. And finally a future that has long been denied – a future that is as bright as the stars the ship “Codenamed: The Sin Eater” rides along towards…
But we must start with The day Toonami first left the animation world…
Starlight Memories: The end of the Cartoon Network’s pet project became the end of logic in animation.
What were the fans willing to say when Toonami died back in that year? Some say it was a sad time. Others felt like it was needed. (too much Naruto, lack of promotion – the wrong type of shows). But what came next, was something far, far worse.
Toonami ended, and so did the highs that the US dubbing distributors had in recent years. The DVD business contracted so badly – that it took down even the biggest independent distributor in the United States, AD Vision (also known as ADV). It also took down Pionner which existed just at the same time. Furthermore, Bandai Visual USA started to have some problems as well, which lead into their shuttering in 2008 (some say it was because the main company, Bandai merged with Namco which some of it was true – but if ANN is to believed via one of their podcasts with a former executive of Bandai Visual USA, it was because that the Japanese owners gave up on Bandai Visual USA. )
By 2011, Media Blasters started a restructuring, and almost overnight – the elements that where left over the ADV bankruptcy caused Funimation to go to court over 8 million in lost contract deals, which at last note – is still ongoing. Sci-Fi Channel (now called SyFy Channel) – tried to bring back their own anime block with very limited success. The highest rated show on the network – is the pro wrestling anthology “Smackdown.”
Toonami’s death wasn’t just felt in the anime circles, it was also felt in the rest of what was called “The Kids Business” as well. Within weeks, Kids WB ended and the CW, which owned by CBS and the CW gave the Saturday Morning block to 4Kids Entertainment. Even though the announcement of the name changed came some weeks before Toonami’s shock announcement – Disney’s Jetix changed their name to Disney XD. Naruto (Shippuden) later moved to the same Network with a lack of promotion. 4Kids later lost the Fox Saturday Morning Block in 2009, and then the Toonzai/4Kids block with the bankruptcy restructuring in 2011. This opened the door for Saban and his KidsCo (now called Vortexx Media Ventures) to take over the CW Saturday Morning block.
The bigger effects where felt on the action animation genre. The first thing that Toonami’s cancelation on the Cartoon Network did was to give a vote of no confidence towards action animation. Outside of Ben 10 (Ommiverse), four action series got canceled (Young Justice, Green Lantern (The Hal Gardener CGI), Symbionic Titan, and Thundercats, the latter two made runs on the Adult Swim Toonami franchise). Disney XD outside of the Marvel franchises canceled both Tron and Motor City – both because of low ratings, and retooled the Marvel Action cartoons to more of a comedic tint. Nick had a bit more of a easer time – they rarely do action series – but what they acquired was important – The TMNT from 4Kids/Mirage, a deal with Saban to air the Power Ranger franchise, and as well, the Dragon Ball Z franchise from Funimation (this was a part of the 4Kids deal which later Saban took over from the bankruptcy). Nick also continued Korra, the sequel to “Avatar the Last Airbender” – but despite their diverse lineup – Spongebob continues to rank higher than a majority of the all of the other series that air on Nick.
What also took place at the same time was the advent of Adventure Time, Regular Show and the remake of My Little Pony. Adventure Time, a good show by is own merits have some questioning about the connections and the confusing memes that two of the main characters have. Because of Adventure Time’s success, Disney followed suit with Gravity Falls, and Nick with Sanjay. The ratings have been good to iffy at best. But the biggest sea change has come with My Little Pony. Once a holdover for 80’s little girl fantasies of taking care of horses, and magical hope and dreams, it has now become a new force for a male audience not totally on the side of Call of Duty movement, but not truly accepting the aspects of furry, or other such metacultures.
My Little Pony had one other thing going for them – the episodes where aired everywhere outside of the Hub Networks, were not taken down on Youtube. In fact, despite the recent addition of the Copyright Algorithm sometime of November of this year; affecting a majority of fan based work dealing with video games (and the strange move by the Video Game studios in supporting the fans), a majority of first, second and third season episodes are still available for My Little Pony on YouTube, with Hasbro looking the other way.
But a similar thing was going on in the anime dubbing – or should I say distribution model. You see, many of the anime DVD’s outside of 4Kids’s deals with several companies, had 2 episodes a disc. For a season set – this would be upwards of 500 dollars a pop (in 2003 dollars), which is still an unheard price even for older Blu-ray movies and TV series. ADV (a bit too late in people’s opinion) started to do limited season sets. This all changed in 2005 – with a creation of a group called Crunchyroll. This group illegally got anime from certain data points (mIRC, torrents, and later MegaUpload) and started streaming the anime (and other Japanese Drama and Korean Drama) from Berkley servers. With the issues concerning One Piece’s editing by 4Kids along with Naruto also promoted the same way, illegally downloaded episodes were streamed not only by the Berkeley servers, but if Daily Kos is to be believed, by Myspace servers by the time Rupert Murdock owned the company.
I do have to mention that this is illegal by the way (Digital Millennium Act 2000, et al), and in the case of Megaupload – Kim Dotcom’s house in New Zealand was raided. So how did Crunchyroll escaped the same fate?
Or should I say, the Fans of One Piece – Arlong Park in particular.
Why is all these seemly non connected events important, and why does the return of Toonami changes the narrative of not only Crunchyroll’s motto of “Saving Anime” but the Brony/Equestragirl configuration of the fandom in the west concerning animation?
First off, we must talk about April 1, 2012…and May 26, 2012… and January 4, 2014.
Don’t Call it a Comeback: Toonami’s Heart Has been Beating for Years.
Despite all of the naysayers (and those naysayers support of Crunchyroll – I will explain later in the article) and despite all of the copy cats, Toonzai, Toonzaki, Jetix, Disney XD, Vortexx – they can never get to or reach the Genuine Article.
There is something called the Toonami Faithful (continuing on the whole Absolution/Sin Eater concept) who have kept the memory alive for a long as possible. Some sadly even tried to do the same as Crunchyroll, and somewhat still exist because of a lack of a certain show (I will also mention that later). But those that did, would be stunned on April Fools day, of 2012.
But it was no joke – Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Yu, and a host of others arrived on the Adult Swim block on that day.
The internet exploded.
Everybody, thought it was a onetime thing.
But the heart that was beating small, grew three times…maybe even thirty times larger that day.
For then a choice was made – a new Toonami was going to be born. Moreover, on May 26, 2012 – Toonami returned with some reruns… people thought it was only going to last three weeks.
But then 1 million a week happened.
Then new shows and some misfits from the Cartoon Network side came along,
Two Million a week.
Then One Piece was announced – along with Japan’s hottest new Franchise Sword Art Online.
Three, and Four…
By the time Star Wars the Clone Wars (a staple of Cartoon Network’s Friday Run of action animation), it reached 5 million a week.
Advertisers didn’t start taking notice (and in many cases, with some of the bad history between the main kids networks, the advertisers and Toonami, they tend to be very leery with product), but the Japanese animation studio Bones sure did.
Already airing both Soul Eater and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Bones commissioned a legend in the animation world, Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop, to work on a new show, Space Dandy. Once word reached that the show was in the works, Jason Demarco (co-creator of Toonami and now Adult Swim’s Vice President of Creative) jumped at the chance. In a interview with Inked Magazine:
“Space Dandy fits in really well with Adult Swim because it has some really weird ideas and weird aliens along with a very surrealistic look and feel to it… I love it.”
These types of shows have some precedent, but what makes “Space Dandy” so unique is that the dub will air first before the Japanese get it several hours later. It’s a rare experience in the animation world, and it proves something that hasn’t been done before in the business. With the addition of the Naurto Shippuden series, and Blue Exorcist later in 2014, the sky the limit for the block, that nobody thought would survive past three weeks.
However, if you hear from the detractors – you would think that Toonami is a dark force, ready to break up the gravy train.
Its time to go through, chapter and verse – why the detractors are wrong, will continue to be wrong, and why they want to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
Congressmen, Pirates, Confused Audiences, and Ponies That Look Human: The Lost “Half” Decade of Animation-
The biggest problem with the detractors, naysayers and other folk is that they are coming from a state of ignorance, which is very ironic – and troubling for a myriad of reasons, given the fact that anime fans portend themselves to be smart and higher educated.
The biggest lie, ever told in the anime world, has to deal with Crunchyroll. As mentioned in the early article with how they got their anime, many people do not realize the conflict of interest that helped make Crunchyroll “legit”.
We must start with the first run seed money that Crunchyroll got. They got this money from a Venture Capitalist firm – Ventrock Capital. Not many people know about this- but the company was created by the Rockefeller Family. One of the part owners of the company is one John Jay Rockefeller (D-VA). Despite words saying that he is not very involved with the company on a day-to-day basis, he could never truly confirm or deny if he doesn’t look over some of the contracts of the companies.
The biggest problem? John Jay Rockefeller, is the lead congressman in the Senate’s Commerce committee. This particular Senate committee controls the FCC. And if you haven’t been living under rocks, and read “A Child would Lead them”, you would know how the act effected animation on Broadcast TV. This was the man who executed the changes to the E/I act, not once – but three times. The 2009 revision asked for all of the digital sub channels to air the 3 hour requirement as well. So while this man was still wreaking havoc on the Broadcast TV side, his Venture Capitalist firm, was supporting a pirating outfit – that under his jurisdiction (see, he also looks over aspects of the internet too) should have been locked down, their owners sent to prison etc.
But as long as you have backing from a majority of Silicon Valley, it was all good, right? It seems however, there is no honor among thieves.
During the time that they were in the pirating business, Crunchyroll and several subbers were fighting over pay.
Now, get this – you’re stealing from Peter, Paul gets in the game, and then Peter says to Paul you got to pay me for the stuff Peter stole? Does that make sense to you?
Well if you live in Crunchyroll’s view of the world, it makes perfect sense.
Not to be overblown by ANN’s naval gazing – Crunchyroll decides to get into the news business? What does it do? STEAL and backtrack. And what it thought it never was going to do – censor dissent on its forums.
And yes of course, the twitter feed. Here is one bright tweet for Children’s Day In Japan: “It’s Children’s Day In Japan! How About A “Loli & Shota” Anime Poll?”
They do know some of the reasons why the “Call of Duty” movement tends to look down on anime fans right?
They do know that this issue of the child birth rate is a cause of sadness in Japan right?
So why do the supporters of Crunchyroll even after Toonami came back, are still hating on the block, when Crunchyroll has done so much worse to anime as a whole, while calling themselves the official source of anime and drama, and saviors of the business?
In order to answer this question, we must finally answer the question of the Brony.
My Little Pony is a girls show.
It had a interesting premise of its first episode. Nothing more, nothing less.
The issue stems from the over promotion of the stories that were told between the first and third season.
The first episode that came out that showed the weirdness of the fanbase, was the economics episode “Super Speed Cider Squessy 6000”, in which the fanbase called it one of the best episodes in animation in the last 10 years. This we know, it is a lie. The episode was trite at best, and full hardy at worst.
The issue stems from how we view masculinity from the time Toonami was popular to the present day.
Dragon Ball Z is the biggest franchise in the history of the US Dubbing Epoch (from 1966 onward). The show was popular in the majority of all young male demographics. Toonami and DBZ are linked to the hip (according to the DBZ fans of course). So what happened? The kids companies tried again to get on the DBZ gravy train. So a majority of the culture started to accept many of the tropes that came with the action anime side. Video Games had Castlevaina’s Alucard. Capcom had Dante from Devil May Cry. Squaresoft, had Cloud. These video game leads served as a counterpoint to Kratos, Master Chief, and the others western developers were doing. The North American side of the animation world wasn’t going to be out done, there was Master Paine (a failed Nick Pilot that Madhouse was working on), remakes of He-Man (He-Ro, and later the 2004 remake) TMNT 2k3 (4kids and Mirage) and so on.
Those RPG’s and Action Games lived and competed on the most even playing field ever seen.
We already gone through the myriad of reasons why One Piece began the split – I mention it all before in the last three articles. But that wasn’t the only cause of the split.
The US went through certain cultural changes as well, these changes were one part a response against the acts on terror, but the other changes were part of a culture war, which some aspects were warranted, but many others made no sense. The majority of the cable world started to do certain censorship on shows and other product as part of the aftermath of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake wardrobe malfunction (which CBS is still fighting in court). The WWE (John Cena’s comments) explained that part of the reason of the change of the WWE product was because of that incident. You can figure out the rest when it comes to cable…
What also happened that there was a small backlash against all things non-western based or made. “Made in America” was the catch phrase, and while all that is well warranted and needed at times, the backlash can be a blowback to businesses who don’t deal too much in clothes and kitchen products. Couple with the failure (either by editing practices by 4Kids, or lack of air time by the Fox Stations) of One Piece, and Japan’s issues with birthrate and lack of a new hit coming from there in the same strain as Dragon Ball Z, and anime’s own navel gazing TV series from Haruthi, to K-On, Tamako Market and Beyond The Boundary, and you have a audience who all were joined to the hip to Toonami and Dragon Ball Z, broke apart once Toonami went off the air in 2008.
What happened next was pretty much a guarantee. Call of Duty became a popular franchise in the latter parts of the 5th generation of video game consoles. Mostly focused on WWII, once Activision and Infinity Ward moved to the modern day, and with modern day mythologies, the game exploded. It gave the same experience that Toonami along with Dragon Ball Z gave, as so would the Dragon Ball Fanbase would claim…
The young men would no longer be censored, and war is the most uncensored aspect of them all.
But in some sort of twist, some of the fanbase who were just causal fans of Toonami (friends told them about it and so on), also left the animation world in droves. They went to live action shows like Braking Bad, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Downtown Abbey and so on. Marvel (as mentioned briefly) convinced them that the horrors of “the outsiders” and “stick figure beauties” are no more – You don’t need 600 comic books to watch Captain America beat Gods and love Jesus without Steve Rogers putting Him on a sleeve! This all worked.
But the crux of the twist was that both a social movement and a economic malaise was going to do people in worse and make animation – look even worse to the “New Nerdom”
The Bronies are confused about what makes a man, a man. Can you blame them? Some already have. Many mainstream news pundits have stated this the continuation of the breakdown of society because there is no men anywhere (ironically, both the modern day social justice folks and the Conservatives say the same arguments, in the same manner, and in the same way, they just vote for a different letter every four years).
Here is the problem however, there is actually two groups of bronies and they both are misguided. The first group is the “Brohoof” crowd, and the other is the “Fluttershy” crowd. The “Brohoof” dudes, are the ones who collect all the toys and treat them…the same way as the modern day Otaku does within the Moe subculture of anime. It also came at the same time other darker forms of heterosexual relationships appear – somehow sadly supported by some of the smaller TV studios and cable networks in Hollywood, from Honey Boo Boo, Dance Moms, and the weird setups in Victorious on Nick. They are all related in the matter of the intention.
The “Fluttershy” side is the more “social” and “vocal” side of the group. More in tune with the Equasisters, they tend to have a more “feminine” quality. The issue stems from their denial of their sexual orientation, and their concerns about masculinity now in full bore by the Call of Duty Movement (which is unwarranted by the way, we were all one fanbase years ago). Of course, many of the “New Nerdom” considers “Bronies” as furry-fairies, but this shows how much all of the metaculture has broken down over the last half decade.
It should have never have taken place.
The effects of these issues now have a majority of action shows never getting the popularity they deserve, so you have audiences moving away from brands that never treated them with any respect from childhood, and these brands becoming more of the same to get an audience that sees them as background space/noise to Netflix, PS4/Xbox 1, Call of Duty and the like.
This has lead advertisers to take more control of animation as a whole and more towards the same type of comedic hijinks that exist in Live Action Comedy.
The result is that animation is no longer a industry, and North American Animation is no longer be considered a genre of entertainment. It has become controlled by the ad men, and is a market place of hype, signifying nothing.
This is what Crunchyroll, in its supposed “inherited” wisdom, of un-censoring freedom of anime, caused the genre to become a mocking spree for the Call of Duty movement and the rest of “New Nerdom” wondering when Miyazaki dies, should anybody care about the genre (anime as a whole)?
This is what the Brony movement has also done, causing better animated shows to end, because the male fans of animation see action animation as a dying force. Nobody wants to support it, so why should we watch it? “At least this other show is alive and kicking and sort of kinda cute and maybe if they were human they would get rule 34…”
This is the modern day animation market place.
This is the animation world view that took place once Toonami ended in 2008
With its return, it now inherits this sad looking universe of pain.
The suns have faded, lost their luster…
But in the darkest of moments – yes, it can all be forgiven.
We can become, the family again.
Helping The Lost, Freedom from Sin, Returning Back To Hope: Toonami’s Promise for Animation, No Longer Denied.
The four people that work on Toonami are some of the nicest people around. They all work on this project on their free time. Jason Demarco wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of the most creative men in the business, Mr. Demarco has proven again and again that Toonami is the most important brand that Turner Broadcasting Has (right next to the NBA on TNT, and Adult Swim of course).
But in the inked interview, he says:
“I feel like the second you (get a tattoo like that) it’s like putting your girlfriend’s name on you, you’re asking for trouble,” DeMarco said. “The second I put Master Shake on my body I’m going to lose my job. It feels like karma. I mean, I love T.O.M. (the animated host of Toonami) I made T.O.M. and he’ll always be close to my heart for sure. I just have that voice in the back of my head that says ‘Come on.’”
That kind of honesty is sorely needed in the animation world.
DeMarco has worked with both Killer Mike and El-P (which the former was found by OutKast), and has correspondence with Kitty Pride (who wants desperately to become a anime character) who has toured with Danny Brown etc. Thelonous Martin, The Misfits, The Weekend, all know and are fans of Toonami.
But one of the reasons why I feel, Toonami finally can do things it couldn’t do in its first iteration, was the addition of the short “Kick Heart”. Masaaki Yuasa’s kickstarter project, came to some iffy reviews, but the amazing thing was that many in the animation community tended to be iffy about it. Space Dandy will have a episode directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and Yuasa will direct an episode later in the season.
I can see a day, where Toonami would air work from John K, Jonny Vasquez, Milton Knight – all based on the concept of action. I can also see a day other shows (say from Ankama) such as Wakfu and such. I can finally see the day that 10 shows from a diverse lineup would get million a week each. There is a reason why many of the Japanese studios are trying to look outward towards the west – they are under siege by a fanbase that is unloved in real life and shunned by the older generation as weak willed, unwilling to tame women while in the west they can’t get shows on the air that Americans would gravitate to – because the advertisers as stated before control animation now, and would rather have new reality show shinagaains then sharagins.
Toonami has given them a way out. And all this was also helped by a fanbase that has been beyond dedicated. They believe in the movement of Toonami, no longer a Revolution, but the revelation that all of the detractors and naysayers – that those folks saying bad about Toonami, and worse trying to tell Jason Demarco how to do his job, are part of the lie machine that has ruined the business as a whole.
Who cares about animation if not for Jason Demarco and those that work with him on Toonami?
What kind of fanbase you willing to have?
The fanbase that gets hated on and arrested because the comic book they were reading was wrong? The fanbase that bought a toy from a animation mistake in a convention when there was other high quality toys? Or the fanbase where the people who do actually matter and care for the craft of both music and animation so it can finally live and grow?
That a question one needs to ask for themselves – because its either being with Martin, Ms. Pride, The Misfits et al, or to be told the same delusions, told over and over again – to those delusions become a gospel of the lost and misshapen.
…At Last the End, But a new beginning truly is at hand:
At the time I started this four part work, I wanted people to understand how things work in the animation world now, and not in the past. People say I’m a bit too dour, a bit too sad. But we need the sadness in life. The tinge of self-hatred over missed opportunities.
This is what Crunchyroll, and the other fanbase from My Little Pony wish to censor from the worldview – the sadness. Because without any sadness there is no joy. Without death there is no life and rebirth. Toonami’s rebirth is the rebirth of a new hope of what was once called the North American Animation Industry. No, there is nothing to reclaim. There is no pretending that one past decade was better than this one. All those stories have been done forever.
Now, a new path must be charted. With an audience that cares about all animation. To let go and forget those that wish to do us harm, but if those that have seen through the lies, wish to have their forgetfulness forgiven, they can. The ship is called the “Absolution” after all.
Along the way, old friends are there to greet you – legendary masters – music from different worlds, sounds, and trinkets from the myriad. A little piece of what was our unity every Saturday night.
That is the hope that the block brings to a long destitute realm.
That’s why, from this brand new Chemical Wedding, the lead fog that the liars have put us in, will be taken off, and we will become…
And be able to, Stay Gold.
Space Dandy, Premieres on Adult Swims Toonami: Saturday, January 4th 2014. Produced By BONES makers of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Soul Eater and Eureka Seven, and created by Shinichiro Watanabe, Director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. It is a 26×24, with an English Translation Commissioned By Funimation Entertainment. Produced By Bandai Visual, a division of Namco Bandai Holdings LTD.
For more of Novid’s stuff, you can visit his official site: Garou Gotchic.