Ratings are the lifeblood of the television industry and something that can make or break a show immediately or over the long term. Unfortunately, the system is still notoriously outdated despite some advances in how data is collected. In recent years there have been more and more websites dedicated to weekly and daily ratings. It’s really strange when you think about it. Why is there so much interest in how well shows do on television? The ratings are not akin to a review score nor do they inform us of what’s worth watching and what isn’t. I guess it is similar to how some people obsess over sports statistics but the fact that there are a decent amount of people out there who follow ratings for entertainment purposes is more than a little perplexing, I thought I was just a weirdo but apparently, I am far from the only one. I cannot honestly tell you exactly why these things have had my attention for all of my adult life. I just like to keep up with them. I suppose it coincides with desiring the knowledge of what’s popular as well as wanting to see how something we like stacks up to the rest of what’s on television. It is largely a harmless thing to read these charts and compare one show to another by its performance with the general public but it has become quite clear there’s a disgusting side to the whole culture surrounding these harmless numbers. Considering this very website has a regular column for ratings and the discussion thereof, allow me to apologize for helping to unleash the smelly ugly beast that is Toonami ratings obsession upon our fandom. We definitely cannot take all the credit though.

People stressing over Toonami’s performance goes all the way back to 1997. Probably no one back then would have believed Toonami would last on CN until 2008 and then be revived in 2012 and still be airing five years later. That is not exactly what one might call a failed experiment. Toonami has had some rough times, there’s no doubt about that and it was canceled once due to low ratings but there was a whole slew of problems that lead to the decline of those ratings. I understand the paranoia, I really do. We lost Toonami once and it could happen again. Toonami Faithful was especially gung-ho about rallying the troops back in 2012 because we had just fought to bring Toonami back and were terrified it would get pulled off the air if we did not show up to support it. Feeling that obligation at the time seems silly in hindsight. We should have known that Adult Swim was going to give Toonami a fair shake and not abruptly cancel it after going to the effort to revive it. I don’t regret championing the cause back then because Toonami actually did need to prove itself upon its return and it was reasonable to think that spreading the gospel of Toonami was all the block needed to get through its probation. Five years later, it should be evident that Toonami is not going to be abruptly canceled by Adult Swim. The block is known for its longevity and ability to outlast other programming blocks. So why lose sleep over it? We are getting to the point where some viewers are allowing their obsession with performance to eat away at their appreciation for the content on the block itself. I have literally seen viewers proclaim that if Toonami does not improve their ratings significantly then they will stop watching the block. We do not watch Toonami for ratings; we watch it for the shows. Or alternatively, we do not watch it because it does not have programming that interests us. Either way that should have nothing to do with the ratings the block gets.

It’s great when the thing we love is widely appreciated but there is no reason to allow popular opinion to dictate what we enjoy. That’s a fair weather fan. No television show will appeal to everyone. Some things are inherently more niche than others. No matter how good you believe something is and how much you want everyone to like it, you cannot control other people’s tastes. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. I believe true fans stick with what they love whether it is popular or not. That is not to say that a true fan can’t be critical of the thing they love. On the contrary, I think an honest fan has to be capable of seeing the flaws in whatever they love. They can accept them as they are, wish for them to change or move on when they feel they can no longer enjoy whatever it is because of what it has become. That said, it is all a matter of opinion and we all have our rose-tinted glasses. If someone is bored with the current iteration of Toonami, I do not blame them. What I can’t abide by is how various viewers are allowing their frustration over Toonami’s performance to ruin the block for them. Seriously, why you ever watching to begin with?

The Toonami crew is human, they are capable of making mistakes just like any of us but it is outlandish to think that we actually know how to program Toonami better than they do just because we can compare some basic numbers and draw our own conclusions. We do get to see a lot more rating data now than we could in prior years but there is still so much data that we will never see. It is ludicrous to think that we have enough data to make informed suggestions to the Toonami crew. We have absolutely no proof that the network is not satisfied with the block’s performance. We can only assume one way or the other based on our preconceived notions. All we know is that Toonami’s ratings are lower than they were in prior years and that looks to correlate with the overall decline of traditional cable viewership in favor of slim packages and alternative ways to view television content. From an outsiders perspective, Toonami looks like it has had a rough year but has it actually been as bad as we assume?

Normally there are strong signs of a block losing steam. There definitely were plenty back in 2007. Toonami was dropping shows left and right and lost half its runtime. Yes, they had a drastic cut in 2015 as well but that was just dropping reruns while in 2007 they dropped several premieres mid-run. It was pretty evident that they simply did not have the content to maintain six and a half hours in 2015 but the current five and half hour block is sufficiently stacked with premieres and classics that were given some well-warranted time off the block. It was surprising when Toonami gained back the eleven o’clock slot without adding a new show and it was all the more surprising when they gained the ten thirty slot. The block just keeps expanding and moving earlier and earlier. Despite these expansions the naysayers still cry out that the ratings are not good enough. Week in and week out they lose their minds over some numbers and I am sick of it.

Sure, sometimes networks will do something drastic for a saving throw but that is not what Toonami looks like right now. If Toonami was actually struggling, it would definitely shrink. Premieres would end and not be replaced by fresh content. The ever-popular narrative that Toonami and anime distributors are embellishing about how well Toonami is doing to save face is getting ridiculous. If you think Toonami is barely holding itself together right now I’m not the naïve one here, you are. Toonami is a business; the block cannot underperform for half a year and have no repercussions no matter how much you want to believe Adult Swim is just letting Jason DeMarco do as he pleases. It is a lot more sensible to conclude that Toonami actually is keeping pace with the rest of cable and the decline of cable really is that significant.

Don’t hear me wrong, I definitely feel Toonami could use a shake-up but you cannot actually prove that your dream schedule would have done any better under the same circumstances. So it is time to take a step back and consider the possibility that the people who have been nurturing this block for over a decade know what the hell they are doing. Assuming otherwise simply because the block is not airing everything you want it to is borderline childish. Again, if you do not like Toonami because of what it is airing or not airing that is completely understandable. Go suggest shows to Toonami on their Facebook and the Tumblr and get other like-minded individuals to do the same. Complaining about it on the internet is going to accomplish nothing productive. If you actually do like the shows on Toonami then don’t worry so much about how well they are doing. Watch them, talk about them, spread the word and let the Toonami crew worry about how well the shows do. Do not allow your interest in how well the shows perform to take-away from your enjoyment of the shows themselves. Part of would love for ratings data to suddenly disappear. Part of me longs for the days when we only got highlights if that. I know it can be hard but it is possible to stop obsessing over the ratings and just enjoy the ride while it lasts. All that we can do to help Toonami survive and thrive is to let people know it is on the air and encourage them to watch it. That is where we should collectively devote our energy as a fandom rather than spend hours on end talking about nothing other than some stupid numbers calculated by an outdated system.