It’s safe to say that the Toonami fandom blew up when Toonami announced that Sword Art Online Alicization would premiere Feb. 5 at 12:30 am. While personally, I don’t hate Sword Art Online I do understand the disdain for it. The story and characters aren’t compelling and the subject matter that has been mentioned time and time again are done poorly. Despite all those factors it has not stopped Toonami from continually picking up the series every time a new season drops. It also hasn’t prevented it from topping Crunchyroll’s streaming charts over the past three seasons. I could go on and on about how Adult Swim and other services see a return with Sword Art Online, but that’s not the main purpose of this article. While I get the dislike for the show, I will never understand those who say “Toonami shouldn’t air it” or “why didn’t they grab anything else?” Those types of comments bother me mainly because it’s likely from the same people who want to believe that the Nielsen ratings are accurate instead of how outdated they have been for years.
Meanwhile, insisting that the block still suffers from low viewership not because of the ever declining television subscriptions which have been going down for years, but instead focusing on a stale lineup. Or they want to believe that to get an anime for the block all it takes is a few weeks for a deal to be finalized. Nothing in TV is absolute, and with any agreement, they are sometimes more complicated than some make it out to be.

So let’s discuss the possibility of why certain shows didn’t get on the block. The points I’m making aren’t hard facts and shouldn’t be taken as such. These are merely hypotheses on possibly why Toonami passed on these series.

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online

This is the one people bring up the most as to why Toonami did not air it, for two ridiculous reasons. The first theory came from ADR director and scriptwriter Alex Von David. He theorized that the gun violence in the show might have detoured Toonami from looking at it. Due to all of the school shootings reported last year. Jason himself has debunked this theory. I have the utmost respect for Alex Von David, but the content is and has never been the issue. Unless it’s horrifically graphic or straight up porn, networks aren’t going to be in the crosshairs for picking up a series with violence in it. If gun violence was the real issue, then I’m sure all other stations that air shows with gunplay in them and would’ve garnered some negative press. Alternative Gun Gale Online did not receive any push back for the content in its show nor was mentioned negatively on any site.

Another theory I saw floating around is that they passed on Gun Gale Online because it didn’t have Kirito. I find this to be ridiculous; I doubt Jason Demarco and the higher-ups at Adult Swim care about Kirito being the main focus of the series since Sword Art Online is mainly a name the general public is somewhat familiar with. The show isn’t titled Kirito’s Virtual Reality Horrors, so it shouldn’t matter who the main character for any Sword Art Online show is. Plus, Sword Art Online isn’t as accurate of a title since the Aincrad arc finished after the thirteen episode mark of season one.

So why didn’t they pick it up? Well, it’s hard to say, but there is a possibility that they were merely outbid for it. Considering Alternative Gun Gale Online is both on Hulu and Netflix subbed and dubbed it’s possible that their streaming competitors got it before Toonami could. It’s the one that I think is believable. I find it hard to believe that anything that doesn’t have Sword Art Online in the title wouldn’t catch their attention one way or another. An additional theory is that considering how much anime comes out per season, it may be hard for Toonami to grab brand new titles continually. Even returning shows may get lost a bit with how many shows are being released. And what may get requested by fans, may not get checked out by Toonami. People who are typical bystanders or those who regularly watch the block “including myself” tend to forget that the Toonami crew have other duties that give them a paycheck. Toonami has and always will be a passion project for them. So between the trips to Japan for new business opportunities and working a normal job at Adult Swim checking out everything that’s being heavily requested is likely next to impossible. Like many have mentioned, it is always possible that Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online may come to the block in the future. But the opportunity of it being a Toonami exclusive has passed and would be a standard pick up at this point.

Mob Psycho 100 Season 2

So what happened to season two of Mob Psycho 100? Did Sword Art Online kick it off? No, it didn’t. I like many others thought that the dub for season two of Mob would be ready by the time season one was nearing the end of its Toonami run. However, that wasn’t the case as confirmed by Chris Cason the ADR director of Mob Pyscho 100. So far the dub to season two does not exist. It’s possible that the second season could come soon, but who knows? Toonami needed something to replace Mob Psycho 100 season one since re-airing all twelve episodes again at 12:30 am does not sound like a good idea compared to grabbing a newly dubbed show.

I think this should be a matter of patience rather than quickly assuming that Sword Art Online kicked Mob off the block. We may see Mob again soon, but it’s hard to say when. It could replace Megalobox at the end of March. However, for all, we know the replacement for Megalobox could be something else entirely. Either way, have patience Mob will be back.

Konosuba or any other Isekai show

I think it’s safe to say people do want to see other isekai series on the block. I know I am advocating for Konosuba (a hilarious comedy anime) that was recently given an english dub and released on Crunchyroll. Others have been asking for isekai titles like Re:Zero as an example. So why haven’t they been picked up? Well, to mention what I said earlier they cannot watch everything that gets highly requested. That keyword highly requested is likely a necessity at this point compared to years ago. Considering Toonami typically goes after what’s highly requested it’s safe to say that these shows aren’t big enough to be on their radar. Not to say these shows aren’t popular but not big enough to where you have a large number of people requesting it to air.

Going by Jason Demarco’s tweet in late January of 2019 asking Toonami fans for what shows they’d like, it could lead to a lesser known series to join the block. While I did see some mention Konosuba and Re:Zero, I more so saw a lot of fans requesting already established names that have already aired (Lupin, Jojo, One Punch Man for example). It shouldn’t come as a surprise why Toonami continues to pick up familiar series compared to unfamiliar shows. A familiar name could, in theory, result in at least good viewership compared to untested series that may or may not hold the casual audience’s interest.

I am not the first to say I think Toonami should go out of their comfort zone and try new things and over the past year they have, but they seem pretty keen on still keeping brand names like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Jojo, etc. around. And it isn’t driving viewers away. If continually bringing a sequel season to an already existing franchise or a continuation to a long-running series does not detract viewership then, of course, Toonami will continue to bring back more (much to the dismay of those who are sick of these shows). These series do tend to win their respective time slots, and I guess that means people aren’t sick of Sword Art Online or Dragon Ball or Naruto because if that were the case, then those titles wouldn’t be on still nor would they continue to win those slots.

That’s all I have to say on the possibility why these titles were turned down for Sword Art Online. Ranging from being outbid, to them not having the time to check these requested shows, to possibly keeping it to a familiar name. For any of the shows mentioned it’s always possible they could come to the block at some point, but by then they wouldn’t be dub premieres and more or less air like another acquisition. Never say never who knows what the future of the block holds let alone the current changing landscape of TV.

Sam Clutters is a guest writer. You can find his work currently posted on the fan site Toonami Squad. You can follow him on Twitter @szuniverse.