We live in strange times. Whether your community has established a social distancing policy or stay-at-home-order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is confined to their homes across the nation; and judging by the increasing number of cat videos on my social media feeds, people are starting to get a little bored.
For many anime fans, self-imposed isolation is nothing new, particularly with those who self-identify as an otaku. Toonami fans willingly give up potential Saturday night outings for the chance to spend several hours immersed in a world of animated adventures. But waiting until Saturday each week can be agonizing, especially with the monotony of being stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
However, being homebound has afforded us an ideal opportunity to catch up and rediscover some Toonami gems from the past few years. With a myriad of streaming services available online, both free and subscription-based, it’s easier than ever to do just that. Take advantage of this new-found free time and explore these Toonami favorites:
The Promised Neverland
What: This dark fantasy thriller takes place in an orphanage, where Emma, Norman, and Ray are living an idyllic life alongside other children. The series takes a sharp turn early on when Emma makes a horrific discovery about the true purpose of their lives at the orphanage. The three friends then embark on a mission to escape along with the other children. The manga is one of the most acclaimed titles published by Weekly Shonen Jump, and the anime does not fall short. Toonami began broadcasting the series in April of 2019.
Why: There are several reasons which make The Promised Neverland an exceptional show to watch, but one stands out above the rest: the atmosphere. What was once a safe and happy home for children is suddenly sinister and ominous, with danger constantly lurking just around the corner. The mood is amplified by the fact that the protagonists are children, and much more vulnerable to the forces working against them. I can’t help but feel something oddly familiar in how the children are walled up in the orphanage for their “safety,” with the outside world being purportedly dangerous and filled with the unknown. There is a relatable parallel to their situation and our own, which makes this pick especially relevant today.
The second season is set to premiere in October of this year, so there is no better time to catch up to season one. For those of us who are still going about “business as usual” or teleworking, this 12-episode series is just the right length to fit into your schedule.
What: This fantastical adventure series revolves around the character of Monkey D. Luffy who, along with his crazy mishmash of a crew, sets out to become King of the Pirates. It’s a world filled with devil fruit powers, exotic races, imaginative islands, and the most exciting element of all – dangerous pirates. Luffy’s journey to become the pirate king takes him and his crew on some wild adventures, revealing a compelling mystery behind the death of the previous King of the Pirates, and all the while teeming with humor.
Why: I believe my Toonami Faithful cohort Sketch would disown me if I didn’t point out what an obvious opportunity we all have to watch One Piece. As many will recall, the show aired several times on Toonami before it stopped broadcasting at the end of the Thriller Bark Arc. It is well known for being a long-running series, with over 900 episodes of the anime to-date. Aside from it being a terrific show with some addicting story arcs, its length makes it perfect for this list. There is certainly no shortage of content, and if you are looking for some escapism that is action-based, then One Piece is the perfect fit.
For those who might be intimidated by that 900+ number, there are plenty of ways to experience this epic tale. You can embark on the adventure from the beginning and watch Luffy meet Roronoa Zoro. You can pick up where Toonami left off at Thriller bark (episode 381). You can also join in the group watch online with fellow Toonami fans on Twitter under the hashtag #OnePieceSailsOn.
What: This sci-fi comedy is about a “dandy guy in space,” an alien bounty hunter and his two crewmates, the robot QT and the cat-like creature Meow. The series is episodic and follows the misadventures of Dandy through his never-ending pursuit of beautiful females and their more curvaceous parts.
Why: The entertainment value of this series lies in the humor. Dandy’s somewhat boneheaded approach to each situation leads to him blundering through things, yet everything seems to always turn out ok for him and his crew. His lewd obsessions add to the quirkiness and general fun of the show and certainly makes for some easy comedy. Dandy first aired on Toonami in 2014 and reran in early 2018, becoming a huge favorite among fans of the iconic block.
This lighthearted space adventure is a good cure for the moodiness that can set in when you are stuck in the house. The episodic nature of the series allows for a more relaxed viewing experience with no emotional or long-term commitment, and a great way to get away from all that’s going on in the world.
Of course, we can’t forget what all Toonami fans know best: “Space is the Place!”
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
What: This classic shōnen-style series is the sequel of the ever-popular Naruto/Naruto Shippuden action-adventure. The show revolves around the son of Naruto Uzumaki, but instead of following in his footsteps with aspirations to become the next Hokage, Boruto has angrily rejects his family legacy and wishes to live by his own rules. While Boruto shares the loud and energetic personality of his father, he is more cunning and thoughtful, not to mention arrogant, which makes him a more interesting character to follow than if he had been a carbon copy of his father . Early in the series, he awakens a unique eye technique, mysterious in origin, which is the catalyst for events as the series progresses.
(See also – CJ Maffris Review of the box set)
Why: Boruto has all the elements we loved about Naruto, but with some exciting new twists. It still has those fantastic animated action sequences, creative use of jutsus (powers), and the tale of a young generation of ninjas discovering their skills and forming bonds of friendship; but it brings some new non-legacy characters, new enemies, and a whole new set of abilities for the viewer to explore. Just as Naruto continues to do, the story absorbs you completely.
While the series is ongoing, only 52 episodes have been broadcast on Toonami since September of 2018. Catching up on any episodes you missed or exploring the sequel for the first time is ideal now. Plus, the series is very binge-worthy, sometimes episodic, or sometimes following a story arc, which is great for occupying several hours of your day.
Parasyte the Maxim
What: The series focuses on a 17-year-old named Shinichi and the parasitic being, which, upon failing to take over his brain, instead assimilates to his right hand. The creature, referred to as Migi (pun intended), and Shinichi have both retained their consciousness and personality, and gradually form a strong bond as the series progresses. The unusual nature of their relationship makes them both targets for other parasites who have successfully taken over their host’s brains. Shinichi gains some unique abilities due to his bond with Migi and can sense disguised parasites and battle them. This sci-fi/action/horror show aired on Toonami in 2015 and quickly became one the top-rated series in anime.
Why: Parasyte has everything going for it: an evocative story, good character development, great action, and atmosphere. The animation is artfully done, especially during the action sequences. Watching the bodies of former humans warp into something unrecognizable was both horrific and fascinating. The thoughtful nature of the protagonist leads to some interesting philosophical dialogue between himself and Migi, which is thought-provoking for the viewer. I never considered watching the series before seeing it on Toonami and found the mix of action and introspection drew me in completely.
There is a sense of vulnerability of the characters to the mysterious worm-like creatures taking over human bodies, which is eerily familiar. I can relate to the fear Shinichi must have of his loved ones being exposed to the danger of these alien parasites. The series has a dark and moody aura for those disposed towards those feelings. It is also finite at 24 episodes, the right length to watch during the week.
What: The final pick is a classic fantasy adventure epic with a little romance, and I credit my ototo Alien Renegade for helping me. Self-styled as a feudal fairy tale, Inuyasha tells the story of a girl named Kagome in modern-day Japan who falls through a portal in her family’s shrine and is transported to feudal-era Japan. She meets the half-dog demon Inuyasha, and by a strange twist of fate, accidentally shatters a powerful artifact known as the Shikon jewel. The two embark on a quest to collect the jewel shards before the evil demon Naraku obtains them for his own foul purposes. They are joined by the adorable fox demon Shippo, demon-slayer Sango and her two-tailed demon cat Kilala/Kirara (always a Kuro favorite!), and a lecherous young monk named Miroku.
Why: It’s a well-rounded and entertaining series that ranges in style, containing action, romance, humor, and even horror. It’s mythological setting is beautifully portrayed both in animation and in story-telling. The plot evolves as it progresses throughout six seasons, while still maintaining a consistent overarching goal. The lengthy nature of the series allows for some in-depth character development; the personalities of the main characters are arguably the most compelling element of Inuyasha, and an important factor in how the relationships form among them. In addition to six main protagonists, there are several recurring characters throughout the series with their own motivations, and their presence enriches the plot of the story.
The original series aired on Toonami back in 2002, so many fans might appreciate revisiting the nostalgia of this Toonami classic. With a little under 200 episodes, it is the perfect selection for a long-term investment, but unlike One Piece, this long-running tale has a conclusion. To those looking to escape from current events, it is a wonderful and imaginative departure from reality into a world of fairy tales and fantasy.
HappyKuroKitty is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. Feel free to follow Kuro on Twitter @HappyKuroKitty