Yesterday, Anime News Network reported that Adult Swim is listing its replacement for Deadman Wonderland. Beginning August 19, Samurai 7 will run in the Toonami’s 12:30AM and 3:30AM time slots. Overall, the reaction to the news has been surprisingly muted. Due to the Persona 4 debacle, much of the emotion that seems to punctuate decisions like this was directed more squarely at Sentai Filmworks and Atlus. Still, the decision is one that warrants a closer look.
Deadman Wonderland, for the most part, is a dark show with a fairly simple premise. Delinquent kids are sent to a private prison, where they fight in a twisted modern version of the Roman collosseum. Some political intrigue occurs, and a fair amount of blood is spilled. It’s gritty, it’s twisted, and it’s incredibly appealing to both anime fans and curious onlookers alike.
The show is currently one of the few bright spots for Toonami, as it consistently rates in the network’s top 125 titles. Aside from Bleach, it is the only anime title to chart within the top 100 for the network. A title that hopes to continue the momentum that Deadman is generating will need to have a similar appeal.
Unfortunately, Samurai 7 certainly won’t fill that niche. It’s a Japan-centric title that adapts Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai to a sci-fi setting. It lacks a lot of the visceral “oomph” that Deadman delivers, and the pace slows to a crawl shortly after the opening act. Since the show is eight years old, much of the CG stands out as both ugly and primitive. While there’s a fantastic story buried under the show’s baggage, many of those in the TV audience won’t have the patience to find it.
The big question at this point, though, is “why?” Why would Adult Swim pick up a series with such limited potential?
In this case, it might be wise to look at the obvious answer. Due to its age, Samurai 7 would be a fairly inexpensive license to acquire. Toonami is currently operating on a shoe-string budget, partly due to its status as an “experimental” block, and partly due to the fact that it continually rounds out the bottom of the network’s ratings. Since we can presume that the show had to cost less than a similar, newer title, the idea of a decent show with twice the content would be enticing to a network buyer seeking content.
While Samurai 7 won’t have the same impact on Toonami’s ratings at Deadman Wonderland, it will be interesting to see just how well it performs. Since it is “new” content in the context of the network, there should be some initial buzz generated among viewers, which may soften the impact of the overall genre-shock.
At this point, all we can really do is speculate. How much of a drop-off, and whether there will be a drop-off are all hypotheses at this point. While we do have some foresight based on the show’s IFC performance, we will need to observe, to see whether the show becomes a decent performer or yet another dodo that plummets to the bottom of the charts.