If you are happy to see Toonami airing titles from a variety of companies, then this has been the year for you. While many are accustomed to seeing FUNimation dominate the screen time on Toonami, this year has had a different flavor. In what has to feel like an influx of fresh meat, Toonami has acquired not one, not two, but three new series that all happen to be licensed by VIZ Media. Before 2016, a few of my colleagues wondered if we’d see another VIZ Media title join Toonami soon.
That may not seem like a huge deal, because it’s not as if VIZ Media was shut out from Toonami. Thanks to Naruto Shippuden, there was at least one spot guaranteed to belong to VIZ Media on the block. During that time there was some clamoring about how the block would become stale if other companies weren’t dubbing shows for Toonami. It did seem like other companies weren’t dubbing as much as FUNimation was, making it hard for Toonami to pick titles from them (with their limited libraries). But the fear of having only one brand holding a monopoly on Toonami has died down, thanks in large part to the job VIZ Media has done, acquiring shows people want to see which also make sense for the block to air.
It was asked on the Toonami Faithful Podcast if VIZ Media was willing to “play ball” with Toonami while working out a deal to add more shows on the block. I always felt this sentiment was too strong and also very silly. As fans, we don’t get to see the inner workings of the negotiations to air a show. I don’t think it was an issue of VIZ Media not playing ball, but rather that VIZ Media probably didn’t have anything (at the time) that made sense for Toonami. Just look at some of the series in their library, such as Vampire Knights, Blood Lad, and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. All are fun shows, but none of them made sense for the block to air. You can make an argument for series like K, Tiger and Bunny, and Accel World, but perhaps Toonami didn’t think those shows worked for them or fit the mold. So I viewed this as a way for VIZ Media to work on acquiring more appropriate titles that the block would want to have.
I am aware of the rumors involving VIZ Media, Hulu, and Toonami when we talk about one particular show that could have made sense on the block (Sailor Moon). It seems as if some people are still upset at how that all unfolded, and believe that VIZ Media shows would be prevented from airing on Toonami in the future because of Hulu. However, I’m not going to fault a company looking to make the most amount of money it can get. If Hulu offered more, why should they walk away? This is a business, and it must have made sense to choose Hulu at the time. What hurts is that Hulu has dropped a lot of anime that aren’t very popular, making it feel as if the company that owns the rights doesn’t care.
So while Sailor Moon was locked up, none of their other titles made sense, leaving many to speculate that it would be a constant shuffle of new FUNimation shows, leaving VIZ Media only offering Shippuden. That’s not a bad thing, but I can understand the point of view of those who want a greater variety of dubbing companies (I find it nitpicking but to each their own). So what did VIZ Media recently decide to do? They picked up Hunter x Hunter (2011), which is a beloved franchise. They also acquired the rights to one of the most popular titles in the world right now in One-Punch Man. And they rescued JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure from Warner Brothers, all of which have been on Toonami. That’s a huge step from where we were just a year ago.
I guess you can call this VIZ Media “playing ball”, but I look at it as them pouncing on properties they know they can sell to a ton of fans. Just with One-Punch Man alone, VIZ Media will be kicking things into high gear with all of the merchandise they plan to sell. Plus, you can add that Weekly Shonen Jump (something provided by VIZ Media) has advertisements about the shows they license airing on Toonami, like One-Punch Man and Hunter x Hunter. VIZ Media is taking this seriously and wants their shows to succeed on the block.
Even now, I still hear from fans and analysts alike who want to see Hunter x Hunter earlier in the block, which speaks to its current popularity. I don’t mean moving it up ahead of Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans, but rather to kick off Toonami once Dragon Ball Z Kai ends (if the Buu Saga won’t air). While the franchise has been around since the 90’s, this adaptation, that began in 2011, has received mostly praise by the Toonami faithful since its arrival. People love the characters, the fights, and everything else in between. The best part? We’ve only just begun to watch Gon and his pals become hunters and roam the fantastic world built by its author Yoshihiro Togashi. I can only imagine the love that JoJo will receive now that it has premiered on the block, making me believe it could become a dynamic one-two punch in the lineup.