Tomorrow night, Adult Swim’s Toonami block will begin airing its first non-anime features. Sym-bionic Titan and Studio 4°C’s Thundercats remake will appear in Toonami’s lineup at 2:00AM and 2:30AM, respectively. The two shows, which will replace Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, will be the first non-anime features to hit the block.
Before I begin: anybody, and I mean anybody saying “It’ll be better! You’ll see! Have some faith!” at this point should just sit and hang his head in silence. We’re past the point of things getting better, and far past the deluding ourselves in thinking that anime can sustain a full Saturday block. At this point, Adult Swim is actively running away from anime in the Toonami lineup.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised it too this long. Those of you who have been reading for a while have surely seen my occasional analyses of Toonami’s ratings. And, with each return to the numbers, we saw a predictable pattern begin to emerge. In particular, we saw Bleach and its direct follow-up (first Deadman Wonderland, currently Samurai 7) soar into the realm of passable ratings,while the rest of the line-up languished at the bottom of the charts. In the vast majority of cases, anime would occupy nine of the ten bottom-ranked slots in Adult Swim’s line-up.
Now, dear reader, please think about that for a moment.
In nearly every week since Toonami’s launch, anime occupied twelve slots, from 12:00AM to 5:30AM, every Saturday night. Nine of these languished at the bottom of the charts. 75% of all anime aired on Adult Swim ranked in the bottom ten shows for the entire network. The only show to consistently rank in the bottom ten that wasn’t anime was the Saturday airing of Venture Brothers.
For emphasis, I’d like you to take a look at the base ratings data for last week’s Toonami block, courtesy of Son of the Bronx:
|Title||Air Time||Rank: 9/30|
|Bleach||12:00AM – 12:30AM||86|
|Samurai 7||12:30AM – 1:00AM||123|
|Casshern: Sins||1:00AM – 1:30AM||142|
|Eureka 7||1:30AM – 2:00AM||146|
|Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood||2:00AM – 2:30AM||147|
|Ghost in the Shell: Second Gig||2:30AM – 3:00AM||148|
|Bleach||3:00AM – 3:30AM||145|
|Samurai 7||3:30AM – 4:00AM||149|
|Casshern: Sins||4:00AM – 4:30AM||152|
|Eureka 7||4:30AM – 5:00AM||151|
|Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood||5:00AM – 5:30AM||150|
|Ghost in the Shell: Second Gig||5:30AM – 6:00AM||153|
Note: 153 total programs aired on Adult Swim for the week of September 24-30)
The data presented above matches the same pattern that’s been established in past analyses. Now, remember that in a TV ecosystem, we’re the products. Us, the viewers. Advertisers pay the network for the sheer number of eyeballs that see their commercials. If a show does poorly, it’s cancelled with the hope that the next one would fare better with advertisers.
Now, let’s also note that both Thundercats and Sym-bionic Titan are old content. Sym-bionic Titans has been off the air for two years, while Thundercats was put on indefinite hiatus after its first season. These are shows that failed to generate revenue in their first attempts at the market. If they weren’t failed products, then they would have certainly been added to Cartoon Network’s “A List”, which includes shows like Regular Show and Adventure Time.
Think about that for a moment, dear reader. Adult Swim is stating that they’re more confident in products that already failed in the open market, than they are in licensing new anime.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the network continue to re-tool its lineup and step further away from the anime offerings. Thundercats and Sym-bionic Titans will likely be the canary in the mineshaft as we look at future plans for the block. If these programs do well, then I wouldn’t be shocked if Adult Swim doubles down on its two titles that actually perform on the network, while they stack non-anime content. However, if they flop as spectacularly as the anime they’re replacing, then it will be truly interesting to see how the network reacts.