Akira Poster - 20131116Earlier tonight, Toonami announced that they will run four anime films this December. The network will screen the following titles:

  • Akira – 12/7/2013
  • Summer Wars – 12/14/2013
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa – 12/21/2013
  • Trigun: Badlands Rumble – 12/28/2013

The four titles are all interesting choices, to say the least.

Both Trigun and Fullmetal Alchemist have their roots in Toonami as a whole. Trigun originally aired on Adult Swim in 2003, where it sgained a fairly large following, both in the core anime market and the mainstream. The show’s quirky sense of humor, fast-paced action, and strong writing won over audiences of all stripes. The series’s popularity was so great that the first volume of Dark Horse’s release of the manga sold through its initial 35,000-issue print run within days. While sales numbers aren’t as readily apparent for the anime, the manga series would go on to become the top-earning manga release of 2004.

Fullmetal Alchemist, on the other hand, has been a regular appearance on Toonami since its return in May 2012. The series was actually airing as part of Adult Swim’s anime block for several years beforehand, as it premiered on the network in 2010. The series, which continues to post decent ratings in the block’s lineup, has a passionate following that actively evangelizes the franchise.

On the other hand, both Summer Wars and Akira are powerful titles in their own right. Summer Wars, which hit Japanese theaters in 2009, was an amazing film that weaves sharp social commentary into a clever tale of an online world, a grandmother’s birthday party, and a cyber-terrorist that will link these two realms together. It’s won numerous awards, and was considered for an Oscar nomination. The film’s been a strong seller since its physical media release, and continues to delight and entertain new audiences today.

Akira is, well, what can I say about Akira that hasn’t been said? The film is a landmark of cinema. It inspired generations of filmmakers, animators, and artists. It created a cult following that most films would be jealous of. It’s a film whose tale of science gone wrong is weaved into a riveting narrative laden with mysteries, corruption, political intrigue. The film’s earned its place on must-see lists from major publications like Time, and continues to be viewed as a staple of anime fans worldwide.

Due to their pre-baked audiences, I expect to see both Trigun and Fullmetal Alchemist post strong ratings. While we have seen some ratings fatigue from Fullmetal Alchemist, this shouldn’t be a factor in the overall performance of either film. Since both films are newer installments, they should enjoy a boost from their base, as well as those who may be interested in the franchises but may be less willing about investing the time to jump into an established and running show. Depending on the reception of the Fullmetal film, we could see a small residual bump in ratings for the series for a few weeks.

Akira and Summer Wars are a bit of an unknown, though. While both are fabulous films, they do have their potential drawbacks. Akira, for its influence and accolades, is quite old. It’s 25 years old and counting at this point, which will immediately turn off a certain audience. Summer Wars, while insightful and well-told, may not have the allure to pull in those far removed from the anime spectrum. Overall, though, these are minor concerns. The opportunities for an increase in viewership far outweigh the minor potential drawbacks presented by the two films. Given the existing strength of their brands, I don’t doubt that they will both attract a decently large audience, even without the inevitable promotional blitz that Adult Swim will unleash.