Over the weekend, Adult Swim announced that Dragon Ball Z Kai will run on the network’s Toonami block. The series is set to begin airing this fall. In addition, Adult Swim revealed that Cowboy Bebop will return to the block during the same period.
Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long for Dragon Ball to hit Toonami. Astute observers will remember that Dragon Ball Z was a staple of the block’s original run. The show was one of the numerous titles, including Outlaw Star and Big O, that made a regular rotation, to the point that it was a highlighted title in the big April Fool’s revival of 2012. It’s a title with great reach outside of the core anime fanbase, to the point that it can be found on shelves in common retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.
From a broadcaster’s perspective, there’s a great benefit in the show’s long run. Dragon Ball Z Kai, in its entirety, will contain about 165 episodes. In scheduling, this would amount to roughly twelve 13-episode seasons, or six 26-episode seasons. For Toonami, this would be about three and a half years of continuous programming, accounting for the regular breaks for post-season periods. In an ideal situation, this would mean that Adult Swim would be able to plan their programming blocks on a longer term. Specifically, this will allow for a “safe” block, much like Bleach or Naruto, which will allow for a more long-term sale of properties like advertising, as well as the opportunity to build a consistent audience. In addition, longer-term contracts contain the benefit of reduced costs of negotiation, as the network needn’t repeat the hunt and acquisitions process every thirteen to twenty-six weeks.
Cowboy Bebop, on the other hand, seems like somewhat of a mystery of an addition. While the title has been a staple of Adult Swim’s lineup for many years, the show’s ratings have been somewhat of a black hole since the 2012 Toonami re-launch. The show, which originally aired at 2:30AM and 5:30AM, tended to occupy the bottom slots of the ratings chart with little ability to gain ground with viewers. To see the show return makes me wonder if the network aims to capitalize on Space Dandy’s recent success, or if the run will be held in conjunction with an upcoming DVD or Blu-Ray release. At this point, though, any forays into the “whys” on Cowboy Bebop are pure speculation.
With the announcement of Dragon Ball Z Kai, we’ve received a first look at the makeup of Toonami’s fall lineup. With another strong, long-term title, we’re seeing another title that will reinforce the block’s overall foundation. While this will undoubtedly take away from the more “fluid” nature that led to shows like Space Dandy, Samurai 7, and Deadman Wonderland hitting the airwaves, it will allow for more sustainable strategy that should ensure that Toonami continues to run with fewer risks in the near future.