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Gather around, friends, and let me tell you a story of a programming block. A long time ago, back in 1997, a block of time was set aside for Thundercats, Voltron and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. The block was called Toonami and, like a tsunami, it rolled in with a wave of good programming. You wouldn’t expect much out of two shows from 1985 and a 2d/3d revival of a 60s franchise, but there it was. Those three shows were good stuff, Thundercats had the action and majesty of 80s western animation, Voltron was everything a sentai show should be and Jonny Quest even managed to breathe life back into a dead franchise with good writing. There was something there, something hard to grasp. The viewers, mostly children, were tuning in for a sort of cartoon they didn’t get a chance to see.

1998, Cartoon Network decided to keep up the block, but try more anime and more 3d animation. They added Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Robotech, Transformers: Beast Wars and even hedged their bets with Superfriends just incase the secret to success was the 80s appeal. On top of this, they introduced a host. They brought in TOM.

TOM was likable and personable host who perfectly suited the block of programing he was built for. He helped tie the programs together into the block. No longer was it a collection of shows, it began to grow into something more. Every time Toonami started, TOM would begin broadcast out on his fantastical ship in space. Every time Toonami ended, he would sign off, wishing the audience the best until next time. This wasn’t just a block of amazing programing that defied the norm, it was a message from space. From 4 to 6 every day, viewers would sit entranced by not only the quality of the programing, but the style and grace with which is was presented. This did not go unnoticed. Cartoon network extended the program an hour; TOM began broadcasting until 7 every weekday. Furthermore, they refined their style, launching a block of programming that is one of the finest I’ve ever seen.

-Sailor Moon
-ReBoot
-Dragon Ball Z
-Gundam Wing
-Tenchi Muyo!
-Batman: The Animated Series

There was something for everyone here! As for me, I watched all of them. Many of us did. We watched with our eyes wide open. There was something powerful here, something that said “Look, this is what I have to show you! Good writing here, feel the characters! This one has an amazing artistic technique! Can’t you feel it?!” There was something greater than the sum of the parts there. We began to feel like Toonami was trying to teach us something about humanity through parable.

And then TOM died. The reactor overheated, he did his best to save the ship. He did his best to save our shows. WE WATCHED HIM DIE! Powerless on our couches, we watched a Toonami special where our beloved buffer for commercials showed us all the qualities that we had come to expect of him. He was a hero and he was martyred for our cause…

But he rose again.

Inhabiting a new shell, with a newly refitted ship, TOM2 had the same soul. If you ask most fans about Toonami, the image that resonates strongest within them is that of TOM2. This is because the TOM2 period represented some sort of beautiful period in weekday where there was magic and meaning in the world. TOM would send you and image of Gene Starwind overcoming his past or the crew Blue Sub 6 fighting for their very existence as a race. Then, when the show was over, we would eagerly await the next time. There was a powerful sense of wonder and style about it that I simply haven’t seen the like of since. I leave you now with a video of a man riding an elevator, sitting in a chair and then pushing 3 buttons. Before you watch it, I want you to reread my last sentence. That is all he is doing; he is riding an elevator, sitting in a chair and pushing 3 buttons.

It feels a lot more powerful than that, doesn’t it?

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5 Comments

  1. Tom2 era Toonami, I think, was the first program I ever won a contest with. Won Pikmin some online game thing? It was awesome, although my parents were really confused because I didn’t ask before putting in my actual address information. Whoops.

    I miss you, Tom2 and Toonami.

  2. Oh the nostalgia. Meet my first friend that way. About 6 months after my house burned down, I was walking home from school as did my friend. Everyday. Me on the left side him on the right. He lived about 3 houses further down and also on the left but prefer to walk on the right. I asked him one day, “What’cha go home and do?” He said “Eat some ramen and watch DBZ on Toonami.” I said “Me too!” He said “What flavor?” I said “Cajun Shrimp. You?” “Spicy beef,” he replied coolly, “wanna come over and eat and watch tv together?” I was all like “Yeah!”

  3. WHY! Why would one end a programming block this great!

    • Ah, I will have you recall, sir, Toonami’s final block consisted of Bakugan, Blue Dragon and Ben 10.

        • BJP
        • Posted March 5, 2011 at 3:30 am
        • Permalink

        Dear God!

        Let me forget those times and remember the good. >.<


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