Hello everyone! My name is Macattack, and I am a strange sort of Toonami oldbie. I first started watching Toonami in 2003 (it was not offered by my cable company until that point) and my first Toonami programming was the final four episodes of the original Zoids series. Strange place to start, I know. It also means I missed the majority of the “good stuff” as other oldbies have told me, and that includes the Total Immersion Events. If you choose to not include the IGPX micro-series, this will be the first TIE that I will be viewing live with the rest of you.
A lot of people are excited, and justifiably so. This is the first full-fledged TOM adventure since the days of TOM 2. It’s almost 14 years since the last TOM Adventure was televised, almost 13 since the TOM 3 origin comic hit the Internet in 2003, which was the last time any sort of TOM adventure was told. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. A lot of people think we outright deserve this after all the waiting. There will be so much hype, especially as the event gets under way and the stakes likely ratchet higher.
I’m going to say this because someone has to: don’t get your hopes so high.
Jason DeMarco is a great man. He has never been a great storyteller. I’d hesitate to even call him “good”. I give him a lot of credit for what he’s been able to do with inconsistent resources, such as having a brand new conversation between TOM and SARA every week (based around the same stock footage at that) for almost three years now. The time of fun banter he has TOM and SARA do is an integral part of Toonami.
But when it comes to telling an actual story? His track record is middling.
The Intruder is considered to be his crowning achievement, but to be honest, the signature event, the replacement of TOM, was not done in a highly dramatic manner. It just . . . kind of happened. Almost like a routine. There was no real sense of drama, or feeling, that came from this, and when TOM 2 rose to battle the Intruder it lacked this sense of a hero preparing to make one final, desperate attempt.
Lockdown and Trapped In Hyperspace were rather infamous among old-time Toonami fans for absolutely nothing happening that was of significance. Just a new threat, TOM 2 dispatches it, Status Quo is God, we don’t even change the Pipes intro. They are looked upon with fonder eyes by newer fans, but that’s because the significance, or lack thereof, is lost upon them. I was not there either, granted, but I was surrounded by Toonami oldbies quickly and I came to understand their frustrations over the failures of Lockdown and Trapped In Hyperspace in both story and meaning.
The TOM 3 comic has many of the same issues. I don’t know if the artist is part of the problem with that, but the action just feels flat. It doesn’t feel like anything truly dramatic, just like with The Intruder. The script and the way it’s presented in the art makes it difficult to figure out what exactly is going on, and, thus, why we should care. Perhaps most damningly, TOM’s dialogue here falls kind of flat. TOM doesn’t sound like TOM. You can’t imagine Steve Blum’s voice coming out of this character. The style, the fun, the big brother feel, none of that is present here in TOM as he’s presented.
The IGPX micro-series is probably my favorite piece of work by DeMarco, but even it has some problems. Mostly, it’s the overindulgence in references that probably wouldn’t mean much to people so far in the future. Perhaps the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference is excusable considered how long it’s endured, but She-Hulk, unless she gets a movie or cartoon about her that stands the test of time, likely won’t mean that much to people hundreds of years down the road. However, the micro-series has intriguing, Ghost in the Shell-esque ideas and some fun character interactions that made it pretty satisfying to me. Unfortunately, they would be abandoned . . .
IGPX has a lot of nostalgia factor going for it, as it is the only series made specifically for Toonami. However, its ratings were middling when it re-aired on Adult Swim’s Toonami for a good reason: it just does not live up to its nostalgia. IGPX makes a core mistake in its very first episode: it advertises itself as an action series, but the premiere fails to have action of any kind. We only see the starting flag at the end of the first episode! The second episode is when the action begins!
Perhaps it would have been more tolerable if the characters had been memorable, or if the dialogue was witty and/or riveting. But things are portrayed in a clunky, flat manner yet again. To this day, despite having seen IGPX three times over, I can’t recall a single line, or defining moment, from this show. Even in terrible schlock I usually can recall something (HE’S SCRAPING AT THE DOOR!). But IGPX? I can’t recall anything from it. Not a single bit of animation, not a line of dialogue, not some dramatic event that changed the series, not even the team names other than Team Satomi. And I’d credit the micro-series for keeping the team name in my mind more than the full series.
That’s the problem with IGPX. It’s boring. It exists. It’s executed with technical precision (as I can’t recall any animation failures from Production I.G. either), but no passion. It lacks a soul.
This is not to say Jason DeMarco is a bad writer. He has never written anything awful. However, the defining quality of his work is tedium. Like he is so intent on avoiding anything terrible, of avoiding anything that is remotely similar to what he dislikes that he forgets to strive for better. He won’t use whatever clichés or stereotypes he disapproves of and turn them on their heads, instead avoiding them altogether. The result is a canvas of beige, beige with a silver or jet-black stripe here and there for a thin veneer of coolness.
Now maybe The Intruder 2 will surprise me. Maybe it’ll be the best thing DeMarco has ever written. Maybe his collaborators assisted him and helped fashion a more powerful story. But past history shows that DeMarco has a consistent track record, and it is plain porridge. There is nothing egregious or offensive, but there is nothing that is memorable or transcendent either.
I hope that I am wrong. But in the event that I am not, please do not be disappointed, and please keep your expectations in check. This will likely be an lightly entertaining story like all TOM adventures. But barring something unforeseen (like Nicolas Cage losing his shit) that makes it memorable in either a good or bad way, it will likely fade from the minds of all but the most devoted Toonami faithful in time. Until, of course, it is revived as an item of nostalgia a decade later like all of the other TOM adventures and IGPX itself.
The only guarantee is that it will provide some momentary fun.