Gabe finally Watches: Michiko and Hatchin

So Toonami recently started airing Michiko and Hatchin, which I’ve used as an excuse to finally watch the series in its entirety myself.

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TV Block Progress Report: Toonami (2012)

It’s so weird to think that earlier this year, the twitterverse exploded on April Fools’ Day when Cartoon Network decided to bring back their Toonami block for a night… and what a night it was. Now ten weeks into the official re-birth of the ol’ action cartoon block and I must say that I’m enjoying the direction The Absolution’s being steered to.


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So I watched Toonami last night

As an April Fools of sorts, last night’s [adult swim] block on Cartoon Network was replaced with a Toonami block as hosted by the last good iteration of TOM.

So what can I say about bringing back a block chock full of action anime sprinkled with bits of new game reviews and voice work for TOM from the Steve Blum himself? Just that last night will be remembered by many as the night that many ’90s kids watched actual cable programming for the first time in years. Even if this was just a stunt pulled by the guys at Cartoon Network, you could tell that there was a good amount of time and effort put into things, from the choice of episodes to air, to the general mix of all things old and new from the programming block.

I’m sure I’ll be repeating myself from my ’90s Are All That post, but whatever. In a time when DVR and boxed sets of every show under the sun is commonplace, it’s made the general concept of plopping yourself on the couch in front of the TV to watch “whatever” rather outdated. Enter Toonami–the programming block that was ahead of its time. Unlike [adult swim] which has become a mishmash of random animated shows with crude humor awkwardly mixed in with teen-centric action anime, Toonami kept its focus on the action cartoons. From this focal point, Toonami expanded outward, with a robotic host on board his spaceship The Absolution, with female companion SARA at his side. The entire world of Toonami was just so immersive and was just as essential a part of the programming block as the shows themselves.

Today when you’re skimming through titles online, or even scrolling through sub-menus on your DVR, you might be presented with recommendations of other shows based on your search history. But at the end of the day, it’s ultimately your decision to decide to click on whatever item was recommended to you. While the same could be said about choosing to watch whatever comes next in a programming block, you have slightly less control in that the following program will play regardless of whether you like it or even if you even know of its existence. When watching Toonami last night, I was bombarded by its lineup, some I knew and some I didn’t. I was able to bask in the familiarity of the shows I grew up with, while also being put in a good enough mood by the block itself to be willing to take a chance on the shows I was previously too young to care about. Being dropped in an episode in what was clearly the middle of a story arc had me trying to figure out the basics of the world in order to better appreciate the action scenes that flashed before me on screen. It’s a feeling that most people are rarely able to experience nowadays since we’ve been given a more active option in picking and choosing exactly what we want to watch, whether it be through streaming or direct purchasing of series.

It’s these exact feelings presented through such an immersive programming block experience that made Toonami what it was. And whether or not the stunt pulled last night was for kicks or for a serious testing of the waters in terms of viewer interest may still be up in the air, I sure hope that it’s the latter. I’ve lived in a time where the sun rose in a world without Toonami for far too long.

Marathoning Musings

With the rise of movies and television being available not only through DVD and Blu Ray, but in Special Editions, Unrated Editions, Digital Copies, 3D Editions, Full and Widescreen, etc, it would be an understatement to say that we’ve reached the point that consumers have more than just a couple of options when deciding to make a home video purchase. And with even the crappiest of shows and movies practically guaranteed a release of some kind on the market, one must wonder what television’s fate has become in the midst of all this home release nonsense—in particular, scheduled television blocks.

While channels for the most part roll with your standard television schedule, I always saw block programming to be particularly interesting. Unlike commercials, I didn’t feel insulted when channels tried to schedule their programming days in accordance with the demographic that would most be likely to be tuning in at that particular time. Whether it be One Saturday Morning, Nick: GAS, or good ol’ Toonami, I could always rely on there to be something I know I’d be interested in between a block’s designated start and stop time.

But with the dawn of the modern home video collector, what’s there to stop someone from simply hoarding on their favorite titles and watching them at their own leisure, minus the commercials and with the inclusion of a pause button?

Such is the conundrum for today’s block viewers, who’d be more likely to marathon through their DVDs than stand slave to a television channel’s air times. But that exact same problem is why block programming still appeals to me. Rather than finding the various aspects of aired programming annoying, I’m starting to find them more like a novelty than anything else. Just the thought that some kind of team went to the trouble to finding which shows would best be suited to play after each other in combination with what types of commercials to air at that time mixed in with some quirky bumper mini-programming (ie: TOM and Sara’s banter during Toonami) and you have quite the interesting entity formed.

Even when taking into consideration all the signs of the times and the push towards being able to watch something on your time rather than the network’s, I find it interesting that the push for program blocking in some way, shape or form is just as strong.

Let’s look at Toonami (as if I haven’t done that enough already)—hours of action programming all bundled together nicely under the roof of TOM and Sara’s ship, the Absolution. Not only do the programs themselves complement each other, but the block’s hosts also do an effective job of setting the mood as well. Add in the occasional total immersion events and you have quite the programming block to deal with.

So, imagine my surprise when I find that Toonami—action cartoon programming king for 11 years before its untimely cancellation three years ago this month—is getting a revitalization of sorts in the form of Neo Toonami. I’d say more, but that’s what the video’s for:

 

Okay, maybe some explanation’s required. According to the site’s FAQ, Neo Toonami is a fan-run web stream, airing select action cartoons online without the restrictions that would otherwise be present if it were to be aired on television. Add to this a revived TOM, Sara and Optimus Prime-ish narrator, and you essentially have the ol’ cartoon block set in the present. Here’s where I’d make some kind of comment on how Toonami’s slogan was “The revolution will be televised” except swap out “televised” with “streamed,” but I couldn’t find a better way to do it other than the way I just did.

While the date of the first web stream has yet to be set, you have to give props to the team behind Neo Toonami for even getting this far. I personally can’t wait to be able to marathon through some choice action cartoons without the need of swapping out DVDs every 20 or so minutes. Not to mention that when I have personal marathons, I feel like I owe it to myself to actually sit down, pay attention, and absorb every second of what’s playing. With a block, I don’t feel that pressure and am able to watch it more casually, even as background noise in some cases. And that’s really what the heart of block programming does—it conveniences the audience by airing choice programming you can chill out to. They’re kinda like mix tapes in that sense, except without the connection to hipsters.

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