Earlier in 2015, when Toonami shrunk to 3.5 hours total, many thought this spelled bad news for the action block. While Jason DeMarco informed fans not to worry, some felt that this would limit the kind of content that Toonami could air in the future (as well as spell doom later down the road). I’m sure some were surprised that not only was Toonami shortening the block but that they would still replay a series to end the night. I was intrigued by this move because usually fans want newer content over something that was showcased earlier. So I decided to analyze and take a look at how the shows in the 3 a.m. time slot performed to see what Toonami should do for the future. Let’s just say that I was surprised with what I found out.

So far since Toonami shortened, three series have replayed at 3 a.m. Those shows would be Deadman Wonderland, Attack on Titan, and Kill la Kill (presently). While I’m fond of the Deadman Wonderland franchise (including the mangas), I’m not sure how big the fandom is for that franchise. I wasn’t sure if fans would purposefully stay up to watch Deadman to help Toonami finish their Saturday lineup strong (numbers wise). However, replaying a series at this time slot is nothing new for the action block since they have done it since its revival. Toonami executives have decided to continue to replay shows that have previously aired. With their new time limit, the action block decided to pick series that are insanely popular or ones that performed well on its first run, to return to the lineup.

So with Kill la Kill ending its second run soon, many believe that this will be occupied by Sentai Filmworks’ first title to air on Toonami, Akame ga Kill. It would be another series that performed extremely well for Toonami when looking at the viewing numbers. Of course, I wouldn’t count out Parasyte, due to how well received it has been since joining the action block. But fans still have a lot more episodes to see before that show ends, so I think the Assassins of Night Raid will be “the next man up” to finish the block on Saturdays later this year.

So the real question is how well have these shows performed to complete the block, compared to how Toonami has done at 3 a.m. in the past? Toonami has mostly played reruns of shows to which they have owned the broadcasting rights. However, there have been times when Toonami would run new content at 3 a.m. So would this shorter lineup make these shows more enticing to watch? The executives at Toonami believe so, and I think it has paid off.

Getting a large audience at that time (over a million total viewers) is unrealistic to expect, BUT there have been cases where those shows in 2015 have nearly reached that. Kill la Kill is the most recent example, (thanks to the Intruder II saga over the past seven weeks), but Attack on Titan had a few nights when it had nearly a million viewers. In any case, I decided to check out the viewing numbers for the years 2015 (when the block was condensed) on Feb. 7, and the viewing numbers for 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. in 2014 (which can all be found at Toonamifaithful.com). I compared the total viewing numbers and the household numbers of every show as far back as I could see which show/year performed better (excluding marathon days).

Just looking at 2015 and 2014’s viewing numbers, 2015 did much better overall. While both years mostly had reruns in that time slot (more on that later), I would have expected that the two would be similar if not break even. Or that fans might be discouraged with the previous shows continuing, or that they would just leave after One Piece airs at 2:30 a.m. I thought that was due to how fans tend to want new content all the time. So seeing how viewers were satisfied with reruns shocked me a bit.

After comparing the numbers, the shows airing in 2015 usually had better viewing numbers than they did in 2014. It is a bit unfair to fault the shows shown at 3 a.m. (and 3:30 a.m.), mostly because Ghost in the Shell and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood have been airing on Toonami (at that time) for over two years! So of course, viewers might feel worn out after seeing it for the “umpteenth” time, no matter how beloved either series is.

You also see shows such as Beware the Batman, Black Lagoon, and the always-awesome Space Dandy replay at that time as well during 2014. While I wasn’t a huge fan of Beware the Batman, I still have respect for the Batman franchise as a whole and found the show to be a fine source of entertainment on Toonami. Plus many fans who frequently watch the action block enjoyed Space Dandy (myself included), so I was wondering why that show, in particular, couldn’t gain more viewers than it did, even while it re-ran at three in the morning. Apparently Kill la Kill and Attack on Titan are more appealing to viewers at that time than these other series (when looking at the viewing numbers). While 2015 did beat out a lot of weekends when it came to viewing numbers, I was still impressed as to how similar some Saturdays were.

However, it wasn’t as if Toonami was replaying newer shows when the lineup condensed. Deadman Wonderland aired at the beginning of Adult Swims’ revival of Toonami. Not to mention that Attack on Titan was going on its third or fourth run on the action block when it moved to 3 a.m. Deadman wasn’t heavily pushed by Toonami (at least it didn’t feel like it was) like Attack on Titan was, but both of these shows have been on long before this change. Just like the shows Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Ghost in the Shell were. For whatever reason, the 2015 lineup performed better. That could be due to how popular Attack on Titan and Kill la Kill are. Both are thought of as huge hits in the U.S. Plus I have a feeling that the shortened lineup might make the audience more likely to watch the entire block. It doesn’t feel like a marathon compared to what it was earlier.

Now some might wonder that if Toonami has always replayed a show at 3 a.m., why should it make much of a difference with its shortened lineup? Well, the action block hasn’t always replayed series at that time. Toonami at one point had Hellsing Ultimate air two new episodes at that time. Its viewing numbers were better compared to what Attack on Titan did at that time. Hellsing Ultimate is a very popular franchise, so that might have something to do with it, but it proved that Toonami can air new shows and episodes at that time if they want to. The episodes that ended up airing at three a.m performed beautifully, with nearly 900,000 total viewers to show for it! So now that it is officially 2016, could the lineup change to where a new show will air at that time?

It could be an enormous gamble if Toonami plans to go that route, due to the potential of a small viewing audience. There were some Saturdays in 2014 that had under 500,000 total viewers, which could make the Toonami team wary of putting anything new at that time. Not to mention how undesirable it would be to waste a new show with a small audience like that. However, I do think that the Toonami Faithful out there would stay up to watch any new series if it aired at that time, considering how well Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan, and Deadman Wonderland did this past year. So with how secure the action block has been, maybe now is the time to try and capitalize on its popularity.

I’ve written before how Toonami will have a difficult decision to make when it comes to adding new shows, due to the length of a series. Right now with how the lineup is constructed, series that are 20-plus episodes would be the most ideal for its future. But if Toonami decides to eliminate replaying a series at 3 a.m. then they have a few more options at their disposal. The only setback I can think of would be the cost, considering how replaying an older series would be cheaper than airing a brand new show altogether. That would be the biggest roadblock for Toonami. But I do think that there is an audience for a new series if they promote it and decide to buy in at that time.

It will be interesting to see what Toonami plans to do with its lineup for the future. With the revival of Samurai Jack coming, I’m wondering where they will place it. For arguments sake, they could put it at the 3 a.m. time slot (adding something new), since it’s something that Adult Swim is making on their own. But why would they purposely bury their creation? I believe this series will air somewhere around 12:30 a.m. or 11:30 p.m. (if they can regain that time as well). However, it’s not as if the action block is in any trouble when we are talking about viewing numbers. Adult Swim has dominated Saturdays in the later parts this year and knows what they are doing when they construct their lineup. Still, I’m wondering if Toonami in the future will stop re-running shows on their block and give fans nothing but new content. Now that’s something I’m sure a lot of people would love to see happen.

*Huge shout out to Colt Buhr “Ambient Virus” of Toonami Faithful for his work on tracking and reporting the weekly ratings for Toonami.

C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. He was fascinated by how well 2015 shows performed at three a.m. compared to 2014. Feel free to follow C.J to talk about anime or other topics on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris