Toonami could be in a bit of a bind when it comes to choosing new shows for them to air. While the action block can have road blocks getting broadcast rights for a variety of reasons (licenses, licensors, cost, etc.), what happens when the main issues are on Toonami’s end to try and fit a show into their lineup? What can cause some minor problems is how and where a show can fit to complement the lineup as a whole. Sequencing can be an important factor to those who watch the entire block. Plus Toonami wants to make sure any new show they acquire will affect the audience for the better. That could mean that the episode count could become a factor in whether a show has lasting power or not. It’s not as if 12 episode series haven’t been aired before (Deadman Wonderland), but it’s certainly not an ideal pick for the block right now. That being said, a series with over 100 episodes isn’t necessarily the best route either due to how stagnant the lineup would feel to viewers. There needs to be a balance of shows both short and long to make Toonami feel perfect for viewers. So by adding a new show, depending on the length, could cause Toonami to make some difficult choices on which of their long-running shows they would discard. As you can see, balancing out the lineup (as well as picking series) is a lot tougher than some would think. So the purpose of this article is to delve into this topic to look at the pros and cons of short and long-series, and possibly find a perfect balance on what kinda of shows Toonami should air for the future.
When Viz Media announced that they would handle the dubbing of Hunter x Hunter, there was immediate jubilation and shouting for it to grace the action block (which is usually the case whenever a popular show is announced that it is receiving a dub). However, there’s a big issue if Toonami does acquire the broadcasting rights of the show later on. The classic shonen series has a whopping episode count of 148! With the action block airing only on a weekly basis, that could make the pacing of this show seem to slow (which could eventually hurt it’s popularity in the U.S.). It is one of the main reasons why One Piece in particular isn’t gaining popularity stateside. The pacing has been slow, especially with another filler arc is about to start before the “Thriller Bark” saga. I’m sure airing just one day a week hasn’t helped Naruto Shippuden either (especially with the loads of filler in that series).
Thankfully for Hunter x Hunter there aren’t any filler episodes/arcs. So every episode airing would be an important one to view for fans. That could actually become a positive down the road, since that would make Hunter x Hunter every week must-see television. Missing one week is a chance for viewers to miss something important to the story (which could drive fans crazy). Of course with holiday weekends, Hunter x Hunter would be a perfect choice to have multiple marathons (that’s right I said multiple). So wouldn’t the addition of a long-running series like Hunter x Hunter make the block better? Content wise absolutely, but with the current time slot Toonami has, another long-running show would have to exit the block to make room. That would then create the question, what show would they get rid of?
There would have to be a huge decision to be made by the executives, if anime staples such as One Piece or Shippuden were to get replaced. There’s no way Dragon Ball Z Kai would get replaced, at least not until after it’s first run ended. So if executives and fans can wait till Kai finishes, then Hunter x Hunter would be a nice replacement. However, I’m not saying a show like Hunter x Hunter should start the block just because it’s a longer series and new in the U.S. What if the show isn’t as accepted by fans as some might believe it would be? Plus what if Gon and the gang do not replicate the viewing numbers that Kai has had since it’s picked up momentum? Hunter x Hunter is a great show, but titles such Attack on Titan and the Dragon Ball franchise would be better served to kick off the block (since they are more well known to fans in the U.S.). Thus Hunter x Hunter might put off more casual fans that are only interested in watching the big time series Toonami offers, if it kicked off the block.
It’s tough to find a balance in the lineup because the block can have a lot of shows changing due to the length of seasons being 12 or 24 episodes (give or take). So a long-running series would be great to pick when a new show finishes. However, taking out a shorter-running series with a longer one can make the block seem stagnant to fans. While stability is never a bad thing (in my mind), a lot of the intrigue that Toonami brings comes from what’s going to air next. Just now the is a buzz amongst fans about what series will be replace Michiko and Hatchan next year. If Toonami had fewer opportunities to create that kind of buzz, the block itself would suffer from lack of interest.
Do over: To get Jojo or Hunter X Hunter onto Toonami you would sacrifice which long running series?
— Kamen Bus Driver (Sketch) (@Sketch1984) November 27, 2015
(“Sketch” is right, a long-running show would have to be sacrificed)
The choices on what to move around seem limited for the action block, especially if Hunter x Hunter does in fact join Toonami down the road. A way to counteract that would be to change the 3 a.m. rerun show. That way a new show can be added to the block. It’s not as if Toonami hasn’t had new content air that late before. It would feel like a waste of new content, due to how the ratings have looked at that time before. So that means One Piece or Shippuden would have to leave to make room. Right now, I honestly can’t imagine a Toonami block without either show.
That isn’t to say adding any long-running series is a horrible thing to do. I’ve stated before a special case why Hunter x Hunter would be solid due to the lack of filler. Also, while personally I’m unsure how the agreements go for Toonami and other companies when it comes to getting broadcasting deals, but I would think the cost of longer-running series is cheaper (compared to constantly buying broadcast rights of new shows). I’m not going by any facts (since I have never been in the room for negotiations), but I’d think the agreement revolves around the show finishing it’s run (baring anything dramatic). I would think long-running shows can help with cost, considering that’s a time slot where everything is already taken care of and nothing has to change for a while. Can’t find a show in time to replace another? No problem, due to a series only reaching episode 23 of 167 (this is just an example that Toonami executives could use down the road).
So since there are a few issues with adding a long-running series, that would mean Toonami should only look at shorter series, right? Not exactly. A shorter series isn’t perfect to add in either. A show like One-Punch Man will only be 12 episodes (with six OVA’s), and while it’s phenomenal to watch, it would cause executives to continually scramble to find new content for the block (if they only added series with 12-13 episodes). That can be costly, and something that Toonami might not be able to afford to do at the moment. I do think One-Punch Man would be worth considering for Toonami with how popular it is right now. Still, there are other shows that I think would be perfect for the block that also have a short episode count. But it’s not like every 12 episode series can join the block (where do we stop when it comes to which series can air and which can’t).
However, there’s some risk involved with shorter-running series that the payout won’t be as spectacular as a show like One-Punch Man COULD be. Even if the show is a “dud” with viewers, it would end quicker and give Toonami a chance to regain some momentum with a new series. So the show would end faster, but it would virtually become a waste of money to air which Toonami cannot afford to do (not if we want it to gain more hours and a larger budget). So with shorter-running series, Toonami has to be extra careful to make sure that it’s well-reiceved by fans to prove it was worth the purchase.
The recent time constraints that the action block has at the moment could be the real issue as to why adding any kind of show can cause some headaches. Right now, Toonami has DBZ Kai, One Piece, and Shippuden as the long-running shows on the block. Akame ga Kill, Parasyte, and Michiko and Hatchan are the shorter-running series on the block (I didn’t count Kill la Kill since it’s a rerun). I’ve talked about the balance Toonami has to find which it has with it breaking down to three and three (short vs. long). That means that taking out a shorter series with a longer one could cause some problems (sequence wise) to viewers. Not to mention how the block would feel repetitive. If Toonami could regain an hour (or hopefully more), then it would be easier to decide what shows to pick up and move around. For the block to expand in the future, the viewing numbers need to trend upward (which has been happening, so fingers crossed).
Since Toonami is only a weekly action block, it can give longer-running shows pacing issues. However, a shorter series is only good for at most 13 weeks (or a little over 3 months). That just seems too short for the current state of Toonami. Especially since they would have to continue to buy the rights for new content more often. I’m among other fans who think that a show running around 24-50 episodes are the most ideal for the action block now. Even 24 seems short but that would close to six months of new content (depending on marathons). Plus if a series has two seasons of 20 plus episodes, it would be nice to show each season at separate times (instead of back-t0-back). It leads me to believe that it’s a possibility that shows like Hunter x Hunter and One-Punch Man might not be an option for the block (sorry Sketch). It’s not the end of the world, but limiting the options for Toonami isn’t great for fans. Something needs to change, time wise, so Toonami can have more options to pick up a variety of shows that fans want to see. With the new year upon us, maybe gaining an hour will be the announcement for all the Toonami Faithful’s out there.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. He hopes that the block can regain some time slots so they can add all sorts of shows. Feel free to debate with him about any anime topics on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris