As the decade winds down, people all over the world are reminiscing on their favorite media of the 2010s. Of course, Toonami Faithful isn’t missing out on all the fun. Join us as we look back at what we loved about Toonami in the 2010s and the top of our respective wishlists.
By now, everybody in the Toonami fandom is familiar with the old “Why isn’t x show on the block?!” song and dance. It’s an unavoidable sentiment at this point, and, while some are more tired of the endless yearning than others, it’s admittedly fun to play the wishing game. The past ten years of animation have been astounding, and it’d be impossible for Toonami to obtain everything the medium had to offer. Even so, we at Toonami Faithful couldn’t help but lament about what could have been.
Alien.Renegade – Blood Blockade Battlefront
As an avid seasonal anime watcher, I have always kept tabs on the most talked-about and interesting choice cuts of series that Japan had to offer. Every season, there are always several new faces that look like good fits for Toonami, but there’s at least one show that I watch and think “Oh yeah, this is definitely going to end up on the block.” So far, every show that I’ve marked with that description eventually did show up, but there’s only one anime that still remains unaired, tarnishing my perfect record: Blood Blockade Battlefront.
I thought it was an absolute “shoo-in” for a Toonami run, especially after one of Yasuhiro Nightow’s previous works, Trigun, had such a lasting presence on Adult Swim. Asides from the author’s connection, Blood Blockade Battlefront had fantastic animation, a killer soundtrack, tons of funny comedy, and above all, off-the-wall action. Considering how much hip-hop culture has influenced Adult Swim and Toonami’s brands, the New York setting of Blood Blockade Battlefront would have been a perfect match. Add in the fantasy elements of the crazy, grotesque monsters, deadly vampires, and superpowered freaks, and you have a formula for success on the block.
Studio Bones’ visuals aren’t the only redeeming features of Blood Blockade, of course. The world-building and story are great, especially in the first season (thanks to Rie Matsumoto’s masterful direction). The second season, despite losing Matsumoto, is carried by the well-written source material and expansion of the side characters’ personalities and backgrounds. It’s remarkably easy to immerse yourself into the world of Hellsalem’s Lot, and once you dive in, you won’t want to leave.
I’m baffled. There wasn’t a single thing about Blood Blockade Battlefront that would have been out of place for Toonami. So why? Why couldn’t this happen?!
Umeko – Juni Taisen: Zodiac War
Juni Taisen: Zodiac War is a series that I wish would’ve made it to Toonami in the past decade. The anime has what it takes to be on the lineup and has everything you’d want in a Toonami series. We watch as 12 mercenaries, who represent each animal of the Chinese Zodiac, compete in the Zodiac tournament in what can be called a brutal bloodbath of a tournament. Each mercenary swallows a poisonous jewel that will kill them in twelve hours, and to be victorious, all jewels will need to be collected. Killing is the only way to get each jewel, and the winner can wish for anything. But there’s something about getting to know each mercenary as well as the riveting action that makes Juni Taisen a complete series and one that I think deserves more spotlight than it got.
The level of violence in this series is similar to other shows that aired in Toonami, such as Hellsing Ultimate and Akame ga Kill. The action itself provided beautiful theater and can garner a lot of attention. Right at the beginning, fans are treated to some fantastic animated fight scenes (and continue throughout). But the series offers more than just violence, making it feel like a complete package thanks in large part to the backstories of each participant. These flashbacks humanized the mercenaries creating some incredible pathos that can grab a hold on viewers. It allows the audience to connect with an individual and can turn Juni Taisen into a huge spectacle to watch (where we cheer on our favorite killer).
Cheering for your favorite (or Zodiac sign) made this series overall stand out compared to the other series that aired not only on Toonami but during its simulcast run. I hope Toonami will pick up this series someday to give viewers a rare tournament to enjoy on Saturday nights. It helps bring in what I think Toonami has been missing for a while. Anime geared toward adults and a more mature audience. While Juni Taisen isn’t perfect, I think this series has a lot going for it and still can’t figure out why it never got a chance.
Sakaki – Detective Conan
“But wait, didn’t that run on Adult swim 84 years ago and get ceremoniously canned?” There’s no need for Conan’s deductive skills here; I can tell what you’re thinking upon reading my selection. It is true that Detective Conan or as known to audiences back in the 2000s; Case Closed had a chance to run on T.V. and didn’t perform, but I believe in second chances. Though I’m not the only one, as the animation company behind Detective Conan (and even Lupin!) Tokyo Movie Shinsha (known famously as TMS) is also trying to give Conan a second chance it deserves.
Detective Conan is a curious tale both in an out of the series itself. It follows the exploits of a teen detective turned elementary schooler after being drugged and left for dead by two mysterious men in black. The protagonist Shinichi (Jimmy) Kudo takes on a new alter-ego in Conan Edogawa to solve crimes and hopefully restore his stature and defeat the men in black who poisoned him while living with his childhood sweetheart and her father with neither of them aware of who he actually is. It’s a rather simple premise, but the great character writing, unique artwork, and of course, the mysteries are a considerable draw to keep audiences coming back for more. Gosho Aoyama and the staff at TMS have a knack for keeping the “whodunnits” and slice of life packaging entertaining by balancing both as the intrigue of the overall plot keeps things moving. It’s the kind of series that could run on its character interactions alone and still be entertaining, but when the confrontations with the Black Organization taking center stage, they’re thrilling.
Outside of the series Detective Conan has the misfortune of being somewhat hard to pin down demographics wise. It runs in a shōnen magazine in Japan, much like Hunter X Hunter and Dr. Stone (which is also animated by TMS!); however, it is a misnomer to think of it as just another Jump manga –mostly because it runs in Shounen Sunday. That’s known for having quieter and more laid back works opposed to its contemporaries. That is perhaps where Conan ran into its issue with Adult Swim. Its content of constant murders keeps it from running with the younger crowd, but the protagonist and many of his friends being children make it hard to justify it being an “adult” show. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s the “thinking man’s” shōnen anime, but it’s a little less visceral than some of the other shows of the block.
If you think that’s case closed, you’d be wrong. In the last year, TMS has been dubbing movies and showing them at cons, indicating that they have an interest in marketing the pint-sized sleuth around again to interested audiences. With more than 900 episodes and 23 feature films (with a 24th on the way this year in April) I realize a complete Conan comeback is asking for a lot, but to ignore something this huge in its native country, and even here in many circles is a worse crime than the ones Conan solves every week. I think it is high time to give Detective Conan a chance to shine with another audience with a keen eye for details and entertainment.
HappyKuroKitty – D.Grayman
Toonami did a great job with show selection this past decade, satisfying my need for shōnen-based action as well as exceptional character-driven drama. However, a huge missed opportunity in adding a series that arguably would have been a perfect fit for the block, D.Gray-man and D.Gray-man Hallow.
Hallow, a 13 episode series that aired in 2016, is the sequel to the original 103 episode series D.Gray-man. The story takes place in a 19th-century version of our world, which is riddled revived souls of the deceased called Akuma. A select group of exorcists from the Black Order use a mystical substance called innocence to battle the Akuma. The innocence weapons take many forms, either as part of an object or embedded in the exorcist’s body. The primary antagonist of the series, the Millenium Earl, leads corrupted reincarnations of the biblical Noah family and creates the Akuma from Dark Matter. The main character is Allen Walker, a teenage Exorcist with a cursed eye that allows him to see the hidden Akuma. His innocence weapon is his arm, which transforms into a cannon that blasts enemies out of the sky. It has a distinctive judeo-christian setting coupled with a steampunk vibe, which makes for some interesting animation. The action sequences are elaborately detailed and pair well with each arc’s narrative.
The sequel series Hallow, which digs deeper into Allen Walker’s background and the Noah family’s obsession with him, was a perfect opportunity for Toonami to air both this and the original series. Though the original series aired ten years prior in 2006 on the Funimation channel, revivals of series have performed well on the block (Samurai Jack being the perfect example). A re-airing of the original 103 episodes would easily garner a renewed interest in the show. There is also precedence for starting from the beginning of a series, as Toonami did with My Hero Academia. It’s a great opportunity to gain new fans, and appealing to older fans desire to re-experience a beloved series.
D.Gray-man and Hallow fit the formula for the ideal Toonami program but still has unique qualities to make it successful. It’s an action-based shōnen set against an edgy, gothic backdrop with a focus on compelling character-driven arcs. Part of what makes this enjoyable are the creative uses of innocence for each character, along with the various ways they employ these weapons. Perhaps it is a stretch to use the last decade’s sequel as an excuse to reach back to the original series, but one could argue that was a theme for Toonami in recent years. While the series Hallow has not continued beyond it’s 13 episodes, the manga series is still ongoing, leaving plenty of story material for continued animation. If we were to learn anything from then FLCL and Samurai Jack comebacks, it would be that there is always hope!
Colt Buhr (AmbientVirus) – Hazbin Hotel
I know what you all are thinking, but hear me out. Think of Hazbin Hotel as a combination of Food Wars, Pop Team Epic, and Hellsing Ultimate. It’s a very raunchy, cartoony violent show that stars a variety of what could only be defined as Hell’s best-intentioned demons. As Charlie, the princess of Hell, attempts to create a rehabilitation center for the citizens to stop a yearly purge style event and help reduce the population by sending redeemed souls to Heaven. As she builds up her crew, she meets with the most powerful demon, Alastor, who wants to help if only for his amusement. With songs being sung and the tone far more suggestive than perhaps even Food Wars (though that is a solid argument,) I feel Hazbin Hotel has some potential to be either on Toonami or Adult Swim in general.
While this only aired recently and on Youtube, there is a precedence for this show potentially airing sometime in the future as either a one-off of the pilot or the potential for the entire show if/when it gets fully done. Plus, we have finally started to go beyond the normal action content with series like Food Wars and Pop Team Epic. So comedy is likely going to be somewhat more commonplace on the block going forward (I hope anyway.)
Not to mention that it’d be a nice change of pace to add shows outside of Japan (or as Paul would say, more “Murica'”).
The animation style is impressive, and I can easily see this fitting in alongside other shows on the block. While it’s only a pilot now, I do hope that someone eventually picks this show up for more content to be created. It does have a Patreon that’s at 100 percent, so there’s at least that, but I hope for an official release on a more significant medium. So if you haven’t seen it yet, do it and spread the word if possible. This one-off is a real gem in the rough for animation in my eyes.
Varun Gupta (VLordGTZ) – Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
Toonami got a ton of amazing shows this past decade, but there are some series that end up falling through the cracks at the last minute. One of these titles was Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. In 2015, Jason DeMarco confirmed on Twitter that the anime was considered for the block, but it ended up not airing due to its heavy sexual content. The series was so close to getting the spotlight it deserved, but it never materialized. It’s a real shame too because it’s easily the most fascinating Lupin series to date.
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine is a divisive work even among veteran Lupin fans. Rather than following the lighthearted episodic formula of previous Lupin titles, the series decides to take the franchise in a darker and more narrative-focused direction. While some may be turned off by this change, I was blown away by how such an iconic franchise had been reinvented for the modern era. As you’d expect from the title, Fujiko gets the most spotlight, and the exploration of her character is incredible. We get to see the manipulative seductress come face to face with her trauma, as she attempts to find her own identity. It’s the kind of character development that would never be present in a traditional Lupin title, and that makes the series so much more unique.
As mentioned earlier, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine has a lot of nudity, but this is not without any reason. The female director-writer duo of Sayo Yammamoto and Mari Okada take great care to convey sexuality as an extension of one’s own personality. Fujiko takes pride in her own body, and she sees no qualms in laying herself bare to society as a result. Fujiko’s greatest weapon is herself, and she will define her life on her own terms. The series takes the pitfall of sexualization and transforms it into a beautiful form of empowerment.
I have my doubts that The Woman Called Fujiko Mine will ever air on Toonami, but I’m happy that it was at least considered for the block. Despite being the black sheep of the Lupin franchise, it’s a story with an unparalleled substance that will likely never be replicated within Lupin’s history. I think this is a series that everyone must experience, and I highly recommend that people seek it out.
Darrell – Jourmungand
When thinking about a series that I’d expect to see on Toonami, Jormungand is at the top of my list. After all, the producers of Black Lagoon had a heavy hand in this anime, which would have easily translated well on the block. Even though Jormungand is an older anime, it is still full of action and provides enough a good story plot and lots of development with the main characters in the series.
I consider Jormungand to be a hidden gem, as it is the ultimate mercenary anime. It has a great story to tell, and it has a ton of high action gunfights that are perfectly coordinated throughout the series (which is something Toonami fans are always done to watch). There isn’t a dull moment with this show, so that it would fit the current lineup now. Due to my personal background, I enjoyed the level of realism that Jormungand portrayed and taught people a harsh lesson about the world. Sometimes you need to do evil things for the right reason, and it can lead to many questionable actions throughout the entire story. But the way the Jormungand didn’t sugarcoat these decisions made it a more memorable series that I think others would find interesting. Not to mention, there was some amazing comedy throughout the series. In some of the direst moments, comedy ensued to break the seriousness of the moment when the characters are in danger (which is pure genius). It was one of the things I loved about this anime, and the fact that there were a lot of moments like that, gave it the complete package. The characters are believable and don’t fit the typical anime tropes even though particular aesthetics still show up, which was fun. So I’m left wondering, what kept it away from Toonami all these years.
CJ Maffris – Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World from Zero
During the past decade, there has been a plethora of great series Toonami hasn’t acquired. But reflecting on the past few years, one show comes to mind that baffles me as to why it never did air on the block. The only correct answer to the question “what was the biggest series Toonami missed out on” is RE:Zero Starting Life in Another World. This series dominated the streaming market at the same time that the critically acclaimed Yuri on Ice was streaming. While Yuri on Ice was taking over the U.S., RE:Zero was dominating the streaming audience worldwide, turning into one of the most massive hits in anime the past decade. Considering that Crunchyroll and Adult Swim are working with each other, I’m honestly shocked this series hasn’t gotten a push from the company to air, because it’s right up Toonami’s alley.
Watching Subaru try to survive as he’s transported to another world, left a great impression on me. While RE:Zero has the typical tropes that come with isekai, the series takes a much darker route that I think the Toonami audience will find compelling. Its story is the series’ strength, and it’s one of the best things I’ve watched in anime. Not just for the past year, and not just for the past decade. One of the best stories I’ve watched in my life. Period. Just like how Attack on Titan cliffhangers had fans craving for more, I think RE:Zero would have the same effect. It has all the accolades, fanfare, and a second season to debut in 2020, making it puzzling as to why RE:Zero hasn’t had the chance to grab the Toonami audience for a wild ride.
Sketch – Tiger and Bunny
During the Cartoon Network days, Toonami was host to a number of superhero shows (mainly series based on DC comics). Now Toonami is the proud home of My Hero Academia and occasionally a season of One-Punch Man, but before Saitama came along, the only superhero show to wander onto Adult Swim’s Toonami was an all too brief airing of Beware the Batman. Warner Bros doesn’t see fit to offer other animated series or films to Toonami, at least not without a very steep price. Toonami was at a loss for superheroes because of that, but there was a fantastic show that could have filled that position ever since the block returned in 2012. That show was and still is, Tiger & Bunny.
Sunrise’s unique vision of a city where super-powered individuals compete to be the MVP on everyone’s favorite television show “Hero TV” puts a clever spin on your typical superhero series. At the center of the series are Kotetsu and Barnaby. One is a bumbling father struggling to stay in the hero business, and the other is a hot-shot rookie out to avenge the death of his parents. They get paired up for marketing reasons due to having similar powers, but eventually, they form a tight bond. The series is action-packed and full of compelling drama and plenty of laughs. In my opinion, Tiger & Bunny breaks the mold like One-Punch Man by balancing the usual hero stuff with relatable everyday problems and the annoyance of bureaucracy. I can’t think of a much more ideal action show for Adult Swim, so it baffles me why it still hasn’t had a shot. The real-life sponsors may have been an issue, but there’s a version of the show that doesn’t use those. Toonami doesn’t regularly look into the backlog of their partners these days, but I don’t believe it is too late to air Tiger & Bunny, and I hope they will consider it.
Paul Pescrillo – Psycho-Pass
Sometimes there’s a show that screams Toonami. Psycho-Pass was and still is one of those shows, and honestly, I’m still surprised Toonami hasn’t aired it. It has similar elements to series like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell, making it an enjoyable ride to watch. While the second season has a more mixed reaction than the first, I’d be more than satisfied to see Psycho-Pass get a shot to wow the Toonami audience much like it did for myself.
Besides having the typical gun action and fights you’d see on a Toonami series, I do think Psycho-Pass has a lot more casual appeal than one would think. Cop dramas dominate American television (CSI, NCIS, Law and Order SVU, etc.), and Psycho-Pass fits the same mold perfectly. I could go on about this but, a few years ago, Toonami Faithful reviewed this series:
Bottom line: Toonami should have aired Psycho-Pass.
So much animation, so little time. While it is nice to dream about Steve Blum’s wonderful voice speaking the name of our most-wanted series, it’s important to not let that affect our overall love for Toonami. Although the sad reality is that not all of our wishes will come true, Toonami has taught us all that nothing’s always set in stone when it comes to the world of television. If your favorite show hasn’t made it on the block (and isn’t locked down by streaming service exclusivity), just hold on to that faith and let your voices be heard (calmly). Who knows, maybe yours or one of our favorites will be the subject of a new decade miracle!