I used to nitpick about a series’ episode count when the topic of its potential arrival to Toonami was discussed. I would look at how many long and short-running series were airing and check out how long the new series was. Afterward, I would try to fit the new show into my arbitrary guidelines that I thought Toonami would benefit by following. I believed that it was important to have variety in duration to keep fans engaged, instead of focusing on the overall quality of the series. I wrote about the “dilemma of long and short-running shows,” which now makes me feel foolish for caring so much about that topic. It’s something that shouldn’t be focused on compared to other subjects. After all of the worrying, I’m here to tell you that I have stopped caring about episode counts, and I hope others will agree with that sentiment.
This feeling hit me when Hunter x Hunter was about to join Toonami’s lineup. Before, many fans believed in the absolute that adding long-runners wasn’t feasible with the block shortened based on previous statements made by Jason DeMarco. With One Piece, Naruto Shippuden, and Dragon Ball Z Kai already airing, some fans believed that adding any more long-runners would stagnate the block (they probably still feel that way). It isn’t necessarily a bad point, as fans can become bored with shows dragging on. Of course to me, that speaks more about the show’s quality than the actual length. That thought changed my mind about harping on the episode counts. In turn, the main issue I think people have with long-runners is the fear that the quality isn’t good, so the block will be forced to air them instead of other series that are more enjoyable and shorter. This leaves the door open for more shows to air.
I asked myself, why should the episode count matter that much if a show is enjoyable? Popular shows aren’t given rave reviews simply due to their length. For example, both Hunter x Hunter and One-Punch Man are popular among anime fans, yet there is a huge discrepancy with their episode counts (Hunter x Hunter with 148 and One-Punch Man with 12). Just because One-Punch Man only has 12 episodes doesn’t make it any better or worse than Hunter x Hunter simply because it’s shorter and won’t “clog up the block”. It’s a great show that’s fun and is grabbing eyeballs. As for Hunter x Hunter, the studio believed that due to its popularity and the enormous amount of source material, they could produce an excellent anime series that took over 100 episodes to tell a story (which it did). Both stories are fun and enjoyable but have a different number of episodes. Again, that doesn’t make one better than the other, as each franchise is fun in its own right.
The whole “stagnation of the block” argument feels flimsy to me. Toonami’s job is to air shows that are attractive and entertain the masses. During its Cartoon Network days, Toonami aired long-runners like Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Rurouni Kenshin (all airing more than 50 episodes). I doubt many people had an issue with the length back then. Or maybe it has something to do with Toonami airing five days a week instead of just one. However, Toonami did continue to play long-running shows when it moved to Saturdays with Naruto, the 4Kids dub of One Piece, Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo, Zatch Bell and even reruns of Dragon Ball Z once a week. That means that Toonami has been doing this for a while, and the disdain towards long-running shows seems misplaced. Maybe some fans who feel this way are concerned that the block might shut down again, because fans will get tired of seeing the same shows. Considering that the people at Toonami are co-producing two seasons of FLCL, producing a new season of Samurai Jack, creating two Total Immersion Events (since it’s revival), and a micro series, I don’t think anyone should worry about Toonami going away (even if they have a similar schedule for a while).
So what might have caused this recent negativity toward Toonami’s continuing to grab long-running shows? If you aren’t a fan of the shōnen genre, I can understand why adding JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures (JJBA) could feel repetitive. Some became worried about how the block won’t be able to air many new titles that will be dubbed because many shōnen series are taking over. I think this line of thinking comes from the streaming audience who can pick and choose any show they want at any time. With tons of anime produced every season, streaming fans (who are hardcore anime fans) are given a plethora of choices. “Stagnation,” because of long-runners, will keep “show x” from joining the block, which makes some fans upset. I counter that there are many ways to watch anime at any time. Thinking that Toonami should follow what dedicated streaming websites do (by adding a ton of new shows every three months) when they are different entities altogether is silly.
I’m sure many of you saw or read the article written by my colleague Colt “Ambient Virus” Buhr, about how he is not thrilled with so many long-running shows on the block. I’m on the complete opposite side of the argument, because it shouldn’t matter how long a show is if it’s considered a huge hit. I understand the stigma that long-running shows have thanks to filler arcs among other things. However, that doesn’t mean every long-running series is the same. The latest two long-runners (Hunter x Hunter and JJBA) have very few (if any) filler episodes, which should make watching these shows more worthwhile.
The funny thing is, Toonami is following the model that television has used for A LONG time. Stations such as CBS, NBC, etc. all try to produce long-running shows that will keep fans returning to their network. NCIS on CBS has been going on now for 16 seasons and is consistently a top rated show on network television, which is what CBS wants. As another example, I highly doubt AMC complained about longer lasting shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad that brought in a ton of fans to their station. Who wouldn’t want ongoing successful shows nowadays? Having the same series on for a while (if it’s popular) is a good thing, and something that Toonami has been doing and will continue to do for the rest of its existence.
There are immense fan bases for DBZ Kai, One Piece, and Shippuden and for all intents and purposes, Toonami should gain more viewers by adding JJBA and Hunter x Hunter. There’s a reason they are beloved, and because of that fans have been given more than 24 episodes. I get it that some want more variety on the block, but Toonami isn’t exactly the place for that. Sure, fans have watched series that aren’t typical, but all in all, Toonami will always have a place for shōnen anime. The block has aired long-running shows for as long as I can remember, and will continue to do so. Will I be crushed if a show I like can’t air because all the slots are taken? Of course not, because there are other ways to watch that series, and not every series can air on the block. Fast turnaround can be fun for fans, since that means they’ll get to see more series, but that’s not as vital for Toonami. All Toonami needs are great shows that people love, and to find a way to air them, which doesn’t have anything to do with how long or short they are.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. He has had a moment of clarity when talking about Toonami and episode counts. Feel free to talk to C.J about any Toonami topic on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris