When Hunter x Hunter was announced as the replacement for Parasyte a lot of people were thrilled that the series would be airing on Toonami. Since then a great many fans have grown critical of Toonami’s schedule decision claiming Toonami is mistreating HxH or squandering it’s potential, my how quickly appreciation can turn to grumbling. While there were some who immediately took issue with Hunter x Hunter getting positioned third in the line-up after the dub premiere of Dimension W, frustration among HxH fans has grown a great deal with other line-up adjustments.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Toonami made sudden shifts this year that were not beneficial to Hunter x Hunter or much of anything on the line-up. In the span of about six months or so, Hunter x Hunter has been relocated a total of three times. Six episodes aired at 1:00AM, then five episodes at 12:30AM, ten episodes back at 1:00AM and finally five episodes at 1:30AM which brings up to date. While these shifts also affected the shows airing after Hunter x Hunter those series were either long established or reruns with nothing to prove. Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has had to move twice since it started in June but also greatly benefited from being directly after Dragon Ball Z: Kai and later One-Punch Man. Even One-Punch Man’s last two episodes got a raw deal when Toonami abruptly shifted back to Midnight with just two episodes left to air, but by then it had already secured a tremendous following that wouldn’t get tripped up by it airing a half hour later.
I was all for Toonami moving a bit earlier and I still am but if they were going to shift back in October anyway they probably should not have moved Toonami to 11:30PM in June. As far as we could see with what is available to the public, the ratings more or less stayed the same or dipped a little, rather than improve with the slightly earlier time frame. I don’t want to fault Adult Swim for having that much faith in the June line-up but in retrospect , it seems that they should have waited for One-Punch Man in July before giving Toonami back 11:30PM. However, all of Adult Swim has seen a visible decline in ratings since earlier this year, so perhaps Toonami would not have done any better staying at Midnight in June.
Let me stress something before I continue, the ratings since June are still above average for cable premieres with adults 18-49 so I’m willing to believe Jason DeMarco when he says the network was satisfied with the ratings. Regardless of how well Toonami was doing when Adult Swim had higher numbers across the board, Toonami is currently doing very well for itself.
What I have observed with Hunter x Hunter’s performance this year is that it is very good at holding on to the viewers who are watching Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and occasionally slightly edges it out. You could certainly take that as a sign that Hunter x Hunter would be doing better if it was earlier in the line-up but the fact of the matter is we do not know how much of a difference that would make, especially when all of Adult Swim is rating lower than it did when Hunter x Hunter started in April. It is unusual for any show on Toonami between 12AM and 3:30AM to do better than the series directly before it due to the natural decline as less dedicated viewers drop off. Even the more dedicated Toonami faithful won’t watch the entire night live if the shows airing later do not interest them enough to stay through the shows that they do not care to watch. If people left during Gundam: IBO only the most dedicated are going to come back for HxH. Others will simply DVR the remaining shows and watch them later, meaning less live viewers and more delayed viewers. Delayed viewers still count as do various other ways of watching the shows legally (AdultSwim.com, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, cable on-demand, etc).
Hunter x Hunter’s live plus same day performance has been admirable based on the performance of the shows that have aired directly before it. Anyone thinking it should be capable of doing a great deal more than that just because it is regarded as a popular series needs to understand that natural decline during a night of Toonami plays a big part in preventing that. That is not to say that HxH’s performance is below time slot standards and for that matter neither is Gundam: IBO’s. Both perform on the level of prime time cable premieres on other networks and the 18-49 viewer average for the entire run of Parasyte is only slightly better than Gundam: IBO’s average thus far. Nobody considered Parasyte a ratings failure or blamed it for the ratings of other shows. It seems One-Punch Man’s amazing performance has gotten things out of perspective. No one should think the network is dissatisfied with the performance of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure when it is exceeding the ratings of many cable premieres despite airing at 12:30AM on a Saturday. Sure it has less competition than those shows but it is also considerably more niche than many of them.
While I am willing to believe Hunter x Hunter would do better earlier in the line-up, just as Naruto: Shippuden and probably even One Piece would if given the chance, I do not believe the difference would be substantial. As I previously mentioned the usual decline of the night is doing well to ensure Hunter x Hunter does not pull in the ratings it feasibly could if it was airing earlier. However, I do not think the position is hindering Hunter x Hunter as much as some believe. HxH is less-niche than Gundam but not by a tremendous degree. If HxH was airing directly after One-Punch Man it would surely have seen a sizable drop similar to Gundam: IBO’s. We are now seeing the gap shrink with Gundam: IBO airing after JoJo as JoJo itself takes the brunt of the drop after DBZ: Kai. That indicates that One-Punch Man viewers were probably too fickle to stick around for anything short of Dragon Ball Z. Arguably, airing a bit later has taken some of the pressure off of the series, the kind of pressure Gundam: IBO and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are currently under. That pressure is largely coming from armchair quarterbacks and not the network itself or anyone whose opinion matters. I will admit I have been part of the problem in that regard. I have been needlessly critical of Gundam: IBO’s performance since June. So allow me to be critical of an aspect of Hunter x Hunter now. The Hunter Exam and Zoldyck Family arcs of Hunter x Hunter are the weakest point of the series in my opinion. I figure the performance of the series since June somewhat reflects a lack of interest in the story thus far.
While those story arcs have their moments and their pacing is not terrible they still feel longer than they need to be and there are several lulls in the action. In the Hunter Exam, fights were either avoided or cut short. While I do appreciate a battle of wits, even those were few and far between. Those arcs suffer from “hurry up and wait” syndrome. There was even an episode where the main gang had to wait in a room before proceeding. It is somewhat interesting to see them stew and get frustrated and show more sides to their personalities but that moment really ought to have been minimized in the adaptation. Even if the Zoldycks have extreme measures for keeping out trespassers, spending an episode or so on opening a door seems more than a little ridiculous but that’s a long running shounen for you. The fact that there are two recap episodes in the first twenty six episodes is also frustrating for someone watching the series week to week. A slow start has been known to turn viewers off of other long series and Hunter x Hunter is no exception. Considering critics reason the lack of frequent action in Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is turning off viewers, it seems only fair to suggest that Hunter x Hunter may also be suffering from a similar affliction. If that is the case, then airing it a bit earlier would not change that and the ratings decline since June may be more indicative that early adopters got a bit bored. I would completely understand that. While I cannot say the ratings indicate that certain arcs for long running series inherently do better than others, first impressions do matter a lot. If you cannot hook your audience early it becomes increasingly more difficult to get them later. It is too early to throw in the towel on Hunter x Hunter though. I believe it can still increase its audience even while airing in the fourth position of the line-up.
Where HxH is positioned now, it is not expected to hold onto the most fickle part of the Toonami audience that shows up for just Dragon Ball Z and maybe one or two other shows. It does an excellent job at stopping the bleeding after the expected drop offs. If it was earlier it might raise that particular slot but could actually prove less effective at holding viewers the whole night. HxH may in fact be holding viewers later than they would stay otherwise because it is in the fourth position. New finite shows ought to get the benefit of an earlier slot in a line-up that is mostly comprised of long running series, right? With how the block is structured currently, residing in the third or fourth position may forever be HxH’s lot in life. I can understand why that is frustrating to fans who would like to see Hunter x Hunter become the next headliner like Bleach and Naruto were before DBZ took back the thrown but I would hardly consider it mistreatment to air the show in the fourth position.
Hunter x Hunter has moved more than I would have preferred but it has not been buried and it has seen the benefits of pretty much every other show that started in the second or third position on the line-up. Most importantly it gets to air. There are hundreds of shows that were passed over so that Hunter x Hunter could air on Toonami for the next three years. While the scheduling shifts probably hurt HxH the most out of every show that has aired on Toonami since June, the shifts were never dramatic and should not have been a major detriment to people who were following the series week to week. The schedule adjustments clearly were not intended to hinder HxH either, the first one even placed it at 12:30AM.
Arguably, it would have been better for Hunter x Hunter to get the second position right from the get go. Dimension W would have been fine finishing at 1:00AM and Gundam: IBO would have been fine starting in that slot as well but things were gonna get moved around once One-Punch Man entered the scene anyway. Can you really fault Toonami for thinking it was better to run a dub premiere of a short series ahead of the dub premiere of a long one? What does it say to Sunrise for Toonami to not even try a new Gundam series in the second position after Jason and Gill went to so much trouble to get it? Generally speaking, it only makes sense to give the newer shorter show the earlier slot rather than to expect people to sit through two or more long running series to get to the show that they could feasibly finish watching in three months to a year. That is problem Toonami is going to continue to face in the years to come because they listened to the viewers who asked for the likes of Hunter x Hunter, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Dragon Ball Z when they still had Naruto and One Piece on deck. No sense being so picky about where on the block your favorite of these five long running series gets to air. I know some Fairy Tail fans wish they even had that dilemma to say nothing of all the fans of other much shorter series that have been passed over for one reason or another.
You can hardly say Toonami has not done well by Hunter x Hunter. They have given HxH as visible slot on basic cable, airing around other popular series. It is not relegated to 5:30AM on a Saturday morning like its’ brethren Yu Yu Hakusho was when it was cast aside and it is not even past the 2:00AM threshold like Naruto and One Piece . I’d be a bit surprised if it ever has to air a premiere episode later than 1:30AM. That may not seem like much of a consolation but it is certainly something Naruto and One Piece viewers wish they had again.
Regardless of anything else, Hunter x Hunter is doing well and in no danger of being removed from the Toonami line-up due to low performance. You could feasibly argue it deserves better based on performance thus far but that is tantamount to splitting hairs. If you think Hunter X Hunter deserves higher ratings, then convince more people to watch it. That is a better use of your time then continually scapegoating the shows airing before it. At any rate, it is nonsense to suggest Toonami has not given Hunter x Hunter ample opportunity to succeed. They provided it adequate promotion and a venue that can reach a very wide audience. It has had a bit of a rough start due to schedule shifts but if you truly believe as I do that Hunter x Hunter can be a hit, then you know it will take more than a few bumps in the road to keep Gon and company down. Toonami is playing this show because they like it and enough of us asked for it. They have faith that it can stick around for the long haul and we should as well. No need to mope about Hunter x Hunter’s position on the line-up. Keep enjoying the show, introduce more people to it and smile again.
Editor in Chief of ToonamiFaithful.com