Dragon Ball Super premieres on January 7th on Adult Swim as you’ve heard and not at 11:30pm EST on Toonami but rather at 8:00pm EST outside of Toonami in prime time. They tried Dragon Ball Z Kai encores at 8:00pm for a while and even One Piece encores at 8:30pm for a moment but this will be the first time an action show will be airing premieres on Adult Swim during prime time. It is an entirely unprecedented move on the network’s part. I would theorize the prime time premiere slot was a contract stipulation from Toei Animation in order for the series to be picked up by a venue that does not target children. In other parts of the world Dragon Ball Super will be airing on children’s networks such as Toonami Asia and the earliest time slot on Adult Swim will at least make the series available to the broadest audience possible short of being on Nickeldeon or Cartoon Network daytime. Whether or not the decision was made to appease Toei, I’m also sure Adult Swim is more than happy to find a way to bolster their earlier hours. The questions on my mind now are how is it going to pan out and is this the first step toward bringing action premieres back to prime time cable?

The state of action/adventure animation on US television is more than a little distressing. You can just about count the amount of action cartoons airing on children’s television on two hands. Disney XD recently acquired Pokemon and Beyblade to add to Yokai Watch, Star Wars: Rebels and the Marvel’s Avengers, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. They have a new Spider-Man in the works among other projects and easily house the most hours of action/adventure animation on any network right now. I applaud DXD’s efforts but going by the ratings of even Star Wars: Rebels, they don’t have the kind of reach CN or Nickelodeon do, at least not in the cable realm. Discovery Family does still air about four action/adventure shows but they are going largely unnoticed. Nickelodeon is still trucking along with Ninja Turtles and has managed to keep Miraculous Adventures of Ladybug and Cat Noir around. However not even Nicktoons makes much use of those two CGI action/adventure series and has buried Yu-Gi-Oh and other anime. Cartoon Network is finally launching Justice League Action which will regularly premiere on Saturday mornings to no one’s surprise. I’m hopeful, if that does well, it can at least rerun in other slots. With any luck it could get a shot at 7:30pm on Saturday right before Dragon Ball Super on Adult Swim. As I said already, DXDs efforts are valiant but the children’s networks in the most homes have maybe one or two action cartoons a piece. Not that Nickelodeon or Disney Channel ever ran many action/adventure cartoons in the first place. The biggest loss in ground has come from Cartoon Network.

However, Adult Swim is still part of Cartoon Network so consider the possibility that the decision makers at Turner have merely decided that kids are not latching onto action/adventure series and anime viewers in particular are better served by Toonami on Adult Swim than they can be by CN daytime. Personally I would argue CN should still try to air more action cartoons for kids but I will table that opinion for now. It is at the very least much more sensible to air PG anime on Adult Swim than daytime CN. On Adult Swim the likes of Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece and Gundam do not require any censorship to air. It likely cost a great deal of money to edit several of the shows that aired in Toonami’s prime. After Toonami left the airwaves in 2008, networks rarely aired anime that were not part of an established franchise and the only two non-toyetic anime that got another chance on children’s television were of course Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. Fairy Tail and other relatively popular series were passed over likely to avoid the cost of editing untested properties. I honestly would like to see more anime air on children’s television even if they had to be censored to do so but it seems apparent there is little to no interest in anything but toyetic brands now. The difference in content standards makes the casual usages of perverted humor, skimpy outfits, smoking and alcohol consumption problematic even with shows that are not particularly violent. For better or worse Adult Swim has positioned itself to fill the void of non-toyetic children’s anime on basic cable. In many ways, that is an ideal scenario for the fans of those PG level action cartoons that would require edits to air on a children’s venue here. Ratings will tell you more adults than children are watching those shows in most cases, even when they’re on children’s venues. Adult Swim as a name hardly means anything anymore, we all know teenagers and even children watch it but I will admit it was weird to have Dragon Ball rerunning on Adult Swim outside of Toonami but now we’re all just going to have to get used to that.


Adult Swim has truly committed itself to the Dragon Ball franchise now. Airing Dragon Ball Z Kai uncut for the past couple of years could have been taken as little more than a nostalgia play or even a desperate attempt to keep the ship above water while they waited for a worthy successor. Now it is apparent that Toonami has renewed its vows with Dragon Ball and intends to stay married to the franchise for the long term. For some long standing Toonami viewers this is a dream come true and for others it is a nightmare. I honestly do not believe we have to worry about Dragon Ball taking over Toonami like it did in 2002 though. This is Adult Swim not Cartoon Network daytime. I do not imagine we will ever see more than an hour of Dragon Ball during Toonami outside of holiday weekend marathons. I would not however consider it a bad thing if Dragon Ball got double stripped reruns outside of Toonami, particularly if it was on weeknights.

As stated before, 8:00pm premieres on Adult Swim is a brave new world. They have tried some premieres of syndicated shows in prime time but they’ve never tried action premieres there. Reruns of DBZ Kai did modestly at 8:00pm but there is really no telling how well premieres might do there. This will be a true test of the value of Dragon Ball in the current market. By airing after 11:00pm, Dragon Ball Z Kai has avoided the fiercest Saturday night competition but at 8:00pm Dragon Ball Super will take the brunt of it. If it cannot stand tall on that stage then it can be argued Dragon Ball Z Kai has only done as well as it has because of a lack of any serious competition and airing the show later in Toonami would show the cracks in its armor. I do not honestly believe the series position on Toonami is the only reason it does as well as it has but it will be interesting to see just how well Dragon Ball does without the assistance of Family Guy.

While prime time premieres of Dragon Ball Super may or may not have been Adult Swim’s Plan A. If it succeeds, I’d like to believe it could lead to even greater things. Samurai Jack should be ready to air early in 2017, landing likely no later than March, and it could benefit from prime time exposure as well. They should probably air the premieres at the start of Toonami but if Super proves prime time premieres are not a wasted effort then maybe they’ll do the same with Jack. It may not be long before even more of Saturday prime time is occupied by action premieres or encores. I for one would love to see One Piece, Naruto and Hunter x Hunter move to prime time. It does not even seem too outlandish for them to have a small Toonami block at 8:00pm and then a late night Toonami block for the shows that are too heavy in content for prime time. A true return of the Midnight Run so to speak. It has been years since Cartoon Network has regularly aired action animation on Saturday prime time supposedly due to low ratings but it really seems like Adult Swim may be able to make that work again.

Adult Swim understands the value of action animation unlike any other cable network. They have succeeded where so many other venues have failed. Now they have the opportunity to thrust action animation back into prime time and I dearly hope their efforts are fruitful and other networks sit up and take notice. As their focus shifts toward more original action productions, the time is right to reestablish Toonami as a dominant force on US television. With the likes of Dragon Ball, Samurai Jack, FLCL and the upcoming second season of Attack on Titan they may very well be able to do it. So while I consider an hour of new Dragon Ball to be overkill, there are very good things that can come out of the unexpected decision to premiere Super in prime time.


We may start seeing a shift in the action animation industry away from children’s television and the necessity to sell action figures to more of a broad audience approach. Action/adventure animation is a tough sell to children’s networks right now but DC Entertainment, Marvel and other companies have been producing direct to video and streaming series to sell to older viewers for roughly a decade now. Young Justice and other series have found a second life through Netflix but it has been years since any US network targeting adults has considered producing action animation for television audiences. While I do not think Adult Swim will ever specifically target kids they will likely give some value to the young viewers that watch Super and sell space to advertisers targeting viewers 12-24 and older. It will be interesting to see exactly what kinds of ads run during 8:00pm airing.

I won’t delude myself into thinking a few shows airing before 11:00pm on Adult Swim can single-handedly save action animation on US television but we have to start somewhere and there probably isn’t a better show to gamble on right now than Dragon Ball. Streaming will continue to provide a venue for action animation but a television presence is not only welcome but downright essential if we ever hope to see a substantial resurgence. Linear television isn’t anywhere near dead yet. I’m sure the Toonami crew would love to bring action animation back from the brink and have wanted to do that for years. They haven’t been granted the resources to bring a big enough wave until recently but even with a back to back string of hits, change won’t happen overnight.

There is really no telling how prime time premieres will pan out for Dragon Ball Super but I implore us all to support it in its premiere slot and not simply bypass the early showing and only watch the Toonami airing. This may be the best shot we have at seeing more action animation in prime time. We have to show Adult Swim and the rest of the industry that we’ll watch action animation in prime time and prove the 8:00pm hour of Adult Swim does not have to be dead weight. I look forward to seeing how this all shakes out.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.