Toonami’s 18th Anniversary: A Brief Look At An Iconic Block

Today marks a special day for anime fans across the United States. On March 17, 1997, Toonami made its humble entrance into the world on Cartoon Network. The initial lineup was a mere four shows: Thundercats, Cartoon Roulette, Voltron, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.

Even with such a meager lineup, though, it was clear that the seeds of greatness were being sown.

Since its early days, Toonami has been seen as a gateway, a shepherd into anime fandom for many. It was always regarded as a special block, with shows that both newcomers and veterans alike could sink their teeth into. Ask a fan about the early days of Toonami, and they’ll probably fondly reminisce about shows like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and even Outlaw Star.

At a glance, the shows weren’t anything special. Titles like Tenchi, Outlaw Star, and Rurouni Kenshin were staples of the typical fan diet of the time. Still, there was something magical about Toonami as a whole.

Maybe it was Tom, or the bumps on the Absolution. Maybe it was the American shows weaved into the lineup. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fact that fans could finally share their fandom with other people, outside of clique-ish anime clubs and comic shops.

Whatever the case, the block gained a devoted following, which hung on to the bitter end. When Toonami signed off in 2008, fans openly mourned its passing.

And, like that, it was gone. For four long years, it was buried, but not forgotten.

Fans had their chance to prove themselves once more in 2012, when a now-famous April Fool’s prank became the top-trending topic on Twitter, and a source of action for those who wanted to see Toonami come back into the world.

The crazy thing about it all, though, is that it worked. Adult Swim listened, and Toonami returned. Granted, it came back as a Saturday-only block with an incredibly shaky early season.

Still, for many, it was rightfully seen as a victory, a chance where voices were heard and acted upon. For the first time in a while, Toonami fans were happy and excited, and they wanted the world to know.

Which brings us to today.

Recently, we’ve heard a bit of bad news from the block, with reports of flagging ratings and sharp schedule cuts. Glimmers of hope have arisen, with shows like Kill la Kill and Sword Art Online II joining the block, but it remains to be seen as to what Adult Swim will do with the block going forward.

Still, the fact that Toonami’s been around for eighteen years is nothing short of astounding. Countless fond memories have been made with Tom, the Absolution crew, and the many shows that have been a part of the experience for nearly two decades. And, while it’s hard to say what form it will take in the future, I do hope that we continue to see Toonami continue to exist, in some form, for the generations of anime fans to come.

Happy 18th Birthday, Toonami. Here’s to 18 more, through the ups and downs, the good and the bad.

Note: Adult Swim tweeted their own birthday greetings, which we’ve included below.

About the author

Samantha Ferreira

Samantha Ferreira is Anime Herald’s founder and editor-in-chief. A Rhode Island native, Samantha has been an anime fan since 1992, and an active member of the anime press since 2002, when she began working as a reviewer for Anime Dream. She launched Anime Herald in 2010, and continues to oversee its operations to this day. Outside of journalism, Samantha actively studies the history of the North American anime fandom and industry, with a particular focus on the 2000s anime boom and bust. She’s a huge fan of all things Sakura Wars, and maintains series fansite Combat Revue Review when she has free time available. When not in the Anime Herald Discord, Samantha can typically be found on Bluesky.

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