AniTAY Asks: What Shows Should Toonami Air Next?

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With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis laying waste to the current anime season and likely the rest of the year, as well as the latest simuldubs which have been pushed back or slowly resuming production, Toonami has found itself in an unprecedented position this year. In recent weeks, the block reaired some episodes of My Hero Academia, the simulcast of Black Clover went on hiatus with no word on when it will return, and the Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure Part 5’s dub went on break with – wait for it – Ballmastrz: 9009 taking its place for now. Even if all of the simuldubs resume regular operations, at some point Toonami will need to start looking for further replacements while mitigating the possibility of further delays.

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Assuming new anime from this year is off the table (or pushed to a later date) and the rest of the schedule isn’t just pure reruns of previously aired shows, why not take a look at what’s already finished? Posting this topic to our Discord server, I invited some of our AniTAY contributors to pitch their best anime recommendations and why they think it would be a great fit for Toonami or deserve a chance at a broader audience.

Though I kept this fairly open with multiple entries allowed per author, I asked them to keep the following in mind:

  1. It has to be a show that could “realistically” be picked up by Toonami and not currently tied to one service (i.e. anything not being held by Netflix or Amazon Prime).
  2. It needs to be something that has never aired on Toonami – the one exception being movies/OVAs to previously aired shows.
  3. And the big one: it has to have a completed English dub.

Naturally, this topic invites all sorts of opinions and discussions of what exactly makes an anime a worthy recommendation, specifically, in the context of a mainstream cable programming block. To some, it’s a modern day hit with a built-in audience or something familiar to what’s come before. Others prefer older classics to run or even re-run for those who missed out the first time. But for those looking for new shows worth your time, you’ve come to the right place. Along with my own picks, here’s our 12 New Anime Recommendations for Toonami, in alphabetical order:

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

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Written by: TGRIP

Genre: Action, Seinen, Hardcore

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Not long after the climatic events of the second season of the show, the Lagoon company is enjoying an uneasy quiet period in the 1990s pirate town of Roanapur, even as our protagonist Rock is still reeling from the depressing fate of the Washimine Yakuza family and the role he played in it. This temporary lull is ended though with the return of one of the deadliest assassins ever to grace the city: Roberta. However, it’s her employer’s young son and his accompanying maid who warn Rock and the others about her, because Roberta is on a mission: a single-minded vendetta against a group of American mercenaries responsible for the death of her original employer that have taken up refuge in the city. With another young child caught in the crosshairs of a gang war, Rock must navigate treacherous waters to minimize the coming bloodshed against an antagonist who’ll let nothing get in her way before she kills every single last person on her list – collateral damage or her own soul be damned.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Because the anime block screened the original two seasons of Black Lagoon shortly after it came back, so it’d be more than fitting that it shows the remaining third of the series, not only turning it up to 11, but going so far as to attain a level of raw action and brutality that it almost comes off as Black Lagoon achieving apotheosis. If Black Lagoon can be compared to the Mad Max film series, Roberta’s Blood Trail is the show’s Fury Road. Not only is the action at its most brutal, but it’s also when Black Lagoon is at its most intelligent, with a central theme of escalation and its price: how far does one go to complete their objectives, and what are they willing to lose in order to achieve them? Not only is the city of Roanapur and its inhabitants pushed to the edge against a single enemy, but Rock too is forced to go beyond what he thought he was comfortable with, trying to find a balance between all the criminal groups that want to rule the city.

As with the first two seasons of Black Lagoon, you get all the gun fights and brutal violence you’d expect from the series, but the show’s dark tone and subject matter really are fine tuned to a razor’s edge. While this does mean the show’s sense of humor does take a bit of a hit, it’s instead replaced with a sense of purpose: Roberta’s Blood Trail is when the series reaches potential we only got glimpses of before, with extensive world building and reveals, characters being pushed to their physical and psychological limits, and the buildup of self-sacrifice that results in a situation there’s no going back from. Studio Madhouse might refuse to make sequels today, but this still stands as one of their all-time great productions.

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Blood Blockade Battlefront (Kekkai Sensen)

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Written by: Arcane

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Drama, Supernatural

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Seeking a way to cure his sister’s blindness, young photographer Leonardo Watch moves to the city of Hellsalem’s Lot, where our world and the supernatural meet in a chaotic collision and blend into an insane mix of the ordinary and the “you don’t see that every day,” fitting for what we used to call New York City. A case of mistaken identity leads him to the secret organization Libra, whose task is making sure that all of the wacky nonsense stays in Hellsalem’s Lot and doesn’t destroy the world, where he suddenly finds himself with a job after the last guy is killed by a monster. Behind Leo’s perpetually-closed eyes, however, lies a secret – his sister went blind because a demon forcibly took her sight to give him the All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods, which can see through any illusion and glamour to the smallest detail invisible to normal people.

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Wacky hijinks (and maybe the apocalypse) ensue!

Why Toonami Should Consider It: I mean, this is one where I’m pretty shocked that they missed out on it. Best known as the author of Trigun, Yasuhiro Nightow created a highly episodic tone with Blood Blockade Battlefront (particularly in its second season) that reads as a mix of his previous work and Soul Eater, and Studio Bones (before My Hero Academia and Mob Psycho 100) put their absolute A-team on this project. It still stands as one of the most gorgeous, visually-detailed TV productions ever made, even five years later.

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But the biggest reason to add this to Toonami’s catalog would be its stellar dub. Aaron Dismuke, most famous for being the original English voice actor for Fullmetal Alchemist’s Alphonse Elric, delivers one of Funimation’s finest dub performances to date, leading a fantastic cast of both familiar voices and talented fresh newcomers that are all masterfully directed by Mike McFarland, also responsible for several more superlative dubs (Eden of the East, Summer Wars, and Fullmetal Alchemist). Oh, and one of the greatest opening/ending duos of any anime, period.

Bungo Stray Dogs

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Written by: Dark Aether

Genre: Seinen, Supernatural, Mystery, Drama, Comedy

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: After being kicked out of the orphanage he was raised in, Atsushi Nakajima is left to fend for himself in the mean streets of Yokohama. Starving and left with nowhere else to go, he stumbles across a man drowning in a river only to discover he was in the middle of committing suicide. Introducing himself as Osamu Dazai, the two find themselves looking for a mysterious white tiger after a series of unexplained phenomenon brings the pair to the same destination. But when all is said and done, Atsushi finds himself caught in an ultimatum with his life on the line. Sensing his gifted potential, Dazai asks Atsushi to join the Armed Detective Agency.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: One of several key titles to debut in 2016, Bungo Stray Dogs is a rare jack of all trades, mixing in supernatural hijinks with traditional “shonesque” fighting and a solid cast of likable misfits. Inspired by various literary works, BSD reimagines famous authors as superpowered individuals who work as part of a number of factions that maintain the balance of power in Yokohama. While it never quite excels in any single area, the sum of its parts give the show a certain magic that simply would not work without author Kafka Asagiri’s odd sense of characterization, humor, and soul.

Even without an encyclopedic knowledge of literature or the authors referenced and their best known works, BSD’s momentum is carried with an ensemble of personalities not too distant from shows like Durarara or Blood Blockcade Battlefront, where several characters could easily fit the “main lead” position. Loosely based on the real life author of No Longer Human, Osamu Dazai is an enigma to his fellow investigators, shifting between cunning and brilliant detective to suicidal lunatic and playful tease – especially around women. While it’s impossible to talk about this show without bringing up the problematic elements to his character and the show’s portrayal of suicide, it paves the way for one of the series best arcs at the beginning of the second season which sees his character portrayed in a new light beyond his fixation to end it all. Likewise, Atsushi Nakajima, who serves more as a character insert for the audience in the first season, is a broken young man who continuously questions his self-worth even after discovering his “gift” following a lifetime of abuse. It is difficult to get into the technical aspects of each character as some of the show’s twists are tied in some fashion to their literary counterparts, the investigations, or both, but I highly recommend going into this without too much knowledge.

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Shows with multiple point of views tend to live and breathe by the strength of their core cast. Naturally, the English dub complements the distinct number of larger than life characters with an all-star cast including Max Mittleman (Atsushi), Kaiji Tang (Dazai), Patrick Seitz (Kunikida), and Erica Lindbeck (Yosano and Tanizaki), to name a few. With Toonami’s history for action based shows, Bungo Stray Dogs brings more than a few novel ideas to the table by tackling themes like death, justice, and loyalty through its cast of flawed, but deeply characterized misfits. While a number of previously aired shows have covered these beats, it takes a certain level of commitment to bring these elements together and somehow produce something unique, original, and fun. With three seasons under its belt, Studio Bones has proven itself to be more than a jack of all trades.

D-Frag!

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Written By: TheMamaLuigi

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance-lite

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation (sub & dub)

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Kenji Kazuma is a wannabe delinquent who, after a series of unfortunate events involving fire and blackmail, is forced to become a member of his school’s Game Creation Club. He finds himself increasingly embroiled in the shenanigans of the Game Creation Club’s antics, brought on mainly by club president Chitose and members Roka and Sakura. To make matters more complicated, Kenji has to deal with Takao, the president of the rival Game Creation Club! Time for misadventures!

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Everyone loves a good comedy, right? Well, what if I told you that D-Frag! is one of the best modern anime comedies? Through blending hilarious situations with characters that are simultaneously self-aware and completely oblivious, D-Frag! concerns itself with constantly engaging, amusing, and surprising the viewer with its setups and deliveries.

Key to this mastery of humour is the show’s understanding of and reliance on the interpersonal relationships of its characters to drive its events. Kenji aside, every primary cast member has some form of history with someone else, whether its Roka and Takao’s rivalry that stems from past incidents or the palpable friendship between the members of the Game Creation Club. Here is a show that prides itself on its characters and knows it is those characters that make it great. Luckily, D-Frag! avoids the pitfalls of similar shows of its ilk that sacrifice character likeability in favour of conforming to contrived comedic circumstances. D-Frag!’s characters are empathetic, charming people; not only does this attract us to them, but it makes us even funnier when they intentionally break their facades to get what they want. With Kenji as the show’s straight-man foundation, D-Frag! roots itself on escalation-based comedy that uses its characters as simultaneous subjects of admiration and ridicule.

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“Why should Toonami run this?,” you might be asking. Well! Not only is D-Frag!’s dub a top-notch showcase of talent, including Austin Tindle (Kenji), Megan Shipman (Sakura), and Tia Ballard (Takao), but it manages to effectively translate its humour from Japanese into English — a feat rarely seen in dubbed comedy anime. Moreover, Toonami’s comedy anime output is relatively minimal, making D-Frag! the perfect addition to an already-impressive catalogue and fitting nicely alongside absurdist shows like Pop Team Epic and shows with heavy comedic elements like Dr. Stone and One Punch Man. D-Frag! doesn’t just fit a niche, it can pave the way for Toonami viewers to discover other similar comedy anime like Love, Chuunibyo, and Other Delusions, Daily Lives of High School Boys, and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. D-Frag! is one of my favourite comedy anime ever, and through Toonami’s platform and reach, it can easily become many more people’s, too!

Digimon Tamers (Digimon: Digital Monsters, Season 3)

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Written by: Arcane

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Shounen, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Where to Currently Watch: Hulu

Spoiler-free Synopsis: In modern-day Japan, Digimon has become a pop-culture craze among the younger population, with a show, toys, video games, and trading cards capturing the imaginations of kids all over the country. One day, our hero Takato discovers a rather strange blue card among his collection, which seems to break his card reader upon being swiped... only for him to return after school to find a device he’s never seen before in its place, with a compass leading him underground. Upon following it, he comes across a newly-born Digimon – in real life! – that seems to be based on an original creation of Takato’s. Once initial introductions are out of the way, he’ll have to figure out how to take care of the monster, what the deal is with the two other kids he’s seen using them to fight, who the guys in black suits looking for them are, and why monsters are suddenly materializing in the real world to begin with. For this rookie Digimon Tamer, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Hear me out, because I know this is a wild card. It’s already aired with a dub on a children’s programming block over fifteen years ago... and yet, anybody that watched Digimon Tamers all the way through knows just how little it belonged there, because this season is heavy with adult-oriented themes and ideas despite starring kids.

You know, like Evangelion.

You honestly could slot this “kids show” right into Toonami’s schedule (maybe with a high-definition remaster, like we got for Zeta Gundam) and it would fit right in, otherwise unaltered. Saban’s usual gag dub couldn’t hide the show’s plunge into the darkness of the soul with Tamers introducing human antagonists, permanent death, and dark religious symbolism into what had previously been – overall – a much more light-hearted and optimistic franchise.

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Over the years, though, what was once a rather divisive entry has become a fan favorite for good reason. Once the audience grew up and revisited it, we all started to understand what a stroke of genius this show was, courtesy of writer Chiaki Konaka, most famous for Serial Experiments Lain, of which the themes in this show are almost an expansion. It’s still well worth the time.

Garo: Vanishing Line

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Written by: Dark Aether

Genre: Action, Supernatural, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Since ancient times, demonic entities known as Horrors have plagued and corrupted the hearts of humans, feeding off of their darkest desires before consuming their souls. Throughout history, a holy order of Makai Knights and Alchemists have defended humanity against unspeakable nightmares, always preparing for the next inevitable threat. Among the most powerful Makai Knights is one who bears the title of “Garo” – the Golden Knight.

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In the present day backdrop of Russell City, a man named Sword has taken up the mantle to protect the unsuspecting public from the evil within its streets. Wielding his forebears’ golden armor and blade, the new Garo is on the hunt for Horrors, uncovering a larger threat linked to the words “El Dorado.” After saving a young teenager named Sophie who is looking for her missing brother, the two discover they are both headed towards the same destination.

Why Toonami Should Consider It: A spin off of the Japanese Live Action TV series, the Garo franchise found its way to North America with the release of Garo: The Animation – a collection of anime now spanning three separate entries across multiple eras and characters. The Garo franchise has rarely been lacking in creativity when deciding the era to tackle, but with 2017’s Garo: Vanishing Line, the series took an unexpected left turn by exploring a setting not often portrayed in anime. Whereas the previous two series took inspiration from the Medieval Ages and Japan’s Heian period for The Carved Seal of Flames and Crimson Moon, respectively, Vanishing Line explores the fictional American metropolis of Russell City. Further distancing itself from its predecessors, it quickly dials it up to 11 with its over the top antics and classic action film riffs. Though Toonami would likely start at the beginning, for the sake of brevity, I’m focusing on the third series as my entry for consideration.

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Oozing with style, Vanishing Line is unapologetically retro, in a manner not unfamiliar from other big budget action films and video games of its ilk. While its core cast is composed of your stock muscle headed action hero, tech savy teenager, femme fatale, and silent marksman, along with eventual foils, their personalities and chemistry carry the show as the story transitions from a monster-of the-day structure to a road trip of discovery. A radical departure from previous wielders of the Garo armor, protagonist Sword (Taliesin Jaffe) is a veteran demon hunter with a bottomless appetite for meat and fixation on attractive women. Like Devil May Cry’s Dante, his machismo is played up following the age-old tradition of “the rule of cool” with the confidence and wit to back it up.

Vanishing Line’s other cast of rogues also take after an old school aesthetic while adding a touch of charm and visual flair. Sword’s spunky sidekick Sophie (Madeleine Morris) drives much of the audience’s point of view as events unfold and she dives deeper into the shady underbelly of the city and its Horror infestation. Originally a thorn in Sword’s occupation as the only normal human among the group of hunters, she becomes a guiding voice in their journey to El Dorado as the two’s partnership grows to something akin to a paternal/sibling bond. Makai Alchemists Gina (Trina Nishimura) and Luke (David Matranga) round out the main cast as they work along Sword and Sophie. Each has their own distinct methods of getting the job done that sometimes borders on “extreme,” but their contrast to Sword and his laidback yet focused nature makes their dynamic and individual personalities equally stand out in between the action, no doubt in part to the stellar English performances by the cast.

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Ever since Toonami’s resurgence in 2012, the platform has been making progress beyond the standard lineup that propelled its inception. From darker, grittier shows like Casshern Sins and Hellsing Ultimate to more obscure, weirder titles like Pop Team Epic and the future Uzamaki, the programming block has given us a glimpse of what else is currently out there, offering anime that would have likely – let’s be honest – never been considered in the early Toonami years. If you’re here for thrills, kills, and one banger of an opening via JAM Project, Garo: Vanishing Line delivers on those fronts in spades. From intense monster hunting action and ridiculous vehicle sequences, to a climatic duel for the ages, now is the time to reignite the engine and hit the road for one unforgettable journey.

Golden Kamuy

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Written by: Dark Aether

Genre: Seinen, Action, Adventure, Historical

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: In the late Meiji era, Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto finds a new purpose in life after the Russo-Japanese war, retiring from the line of duty in order to provide for the wife of his deceased comrade. Deep within the lands of Hokkaido, there is a rumor about a secret treasure of Ainu gold that was stolen and hidden away. Seeking a way to finance an expensive surgery for his comrade’s blind widow, Sugimoto ventures out into the wilderness with an Ainu girl familiar with the land. With other parties in pursuit of the gold, the two find themselves in a race against time.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Toonami has rarely been lacking for broader anime with classics such as Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bepop, to modern day hits like Fire Force and Dr. Stone. Despite the availability of dedicated streaming services, the platform to a certain extent still functions as a bridge to “gateway anime” for first time viewers or those with no general exposure to the medium. With Golden Kamuy, the lineup would introduce a new type of genre that bridges the gap between anime and those looking for something outside the norm: historical fiction.

2018’s Golden Kamuy garnered positive reception during the course of its run with its emphasis on the era and focus on Ainu culture, but never quite took off given the unusually high volume of quality anime that year – arguably one of the best of the last decade. The story follows war veteran Saichi Sugimoto and Ainu hunter Asirpa as both of them give chase to secret pile of gold that was hidden away by a death row inmate, with the only remaining clues to its location tattooed on the bodies of his fellow convicts. Sugimoto is a soldier suffering from PTSD trying to make ends meet for his friend’s widow and find some closure for his past while Asirpa is a skilled hunter who is familiar with the unforgiving world around her after the death of her father. Their relationship starts off as one of necessity that quickly grows into a partnership as the two grow to rely on one another beyond survival or the gold.

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Despite its grim premise and brutal fight scenes, Golden Kamuy is a hybrid of several genres beyond action. Over the course of the series, we get to know Sugimito and Asirpa as the latter teaches the former how to survive the wilderness with a surprising amount of exposition on not only the Ainu customs, traditions, and cooking, but an extensive focus on the region. Author Satoru Noda clearly wanted to make the setting stand out as much as its characters, so there is a huge emphasis on Hokkaido’s weather and wildlife along with the more routine aspects of traveling. Though not a nature show or a slice of life anime, it’s this attention to detail and commitment to its world building that Golden Kamuy carefully navigates its central murder/mystery treasure hunt while being grounded enough to give its other characters some levity in between backstabbing each other – and having a casual dinner conversation about dicks.

Golden Kamuy is a one of kind anime that mixes many of Toonami’s existing genre checkboxes – action, comedy, and recently, “edu-tainment” – while standing out in nearly every sub-genre with its portrayal of the time period, authenticity to the language and customs of the Ainu, and self-awareness through its central premise and crude sense of humor. With an incredible voice cast including Ian Sinclair (Sugimoto), Monica Rial (Asirpa), and Ben Phillips (Shiraishi), along with an upcoming third season planned for later this year, Toonami has a golden opportunity to bring this wild show to a new audience.

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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (DanMachi)

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Written by: Requiem

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy

Where to Currently Watch: HIDIVE, Crunchyroll, Netflix (Season 1)

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Is It Wrong to Try And Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? – hereafter known by its Japanese nickname DanMachi, because I’m not typing that out 20 times – is set in the city of Orario, in a world where the gods have descended to live with mortals. Here, they form familias, or families, and grant their blessings on their children, allowing them to go into a labyrinth known as The Dungeon to hunt monsters and find treasure. This is the story of Bell Cranel, a young man new to the city and the only member of the Hestia Familia, his goddess, and the band of allies he accrues through his adventures. Oh, and Hestia wears a boob ribbon – but nobody ever brings that up.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Frankly, it’s somewhat surprising DanMachi hasn’t already made its way to Toonami. For a block that is aimed mostly at young(ish) males, it’s always leaned heavily towards your action oriented shounen types, and DanMachi is a perfect fit in that regard. It’s got action, romance (to a degree), monsters, video game mechanics, and even some fanservice for that part of the demographic. I’m too old to know what the kids are into these days, what with their Snapchats and gimcracks and all, but one has to believe there’s still Mythology nerds amongst the youth, and DanMachi is aimed squarely at their hearts, with gods, goddesses and monsters pulled from every mythological pantheon imaginable. Where else can you see Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu gods all hang out?

Of course, none of that matters if the show isn’t good, and thankfully, this show is good as hell. It’s a rollicking adventure with a likable main character in Bell, who manages to be a shounen protagonist who’s not annoying and easy to root for, a supporting cast filled with colorful, fun characters, and a continuous supply of waifu wars bait. Because nothing says ratings like waifu wars Toonami!

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When you look at what has worked for the block in the past, it seems obvious, at least to this humble writer, that DanMachi is an absolute slam dunk.

Kuroko’s Basketball

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Written by: Dilkokoro

Genre: Comedy, Sports, Shounen

Where to Currently Watch: Crunchyroll, VRV

Spoiler-free Synopsis: High schooler Kuroko loves basketball, and looks to find a team that loves the game as much as he does. In middle school, he was “the phantom sixth man” on a killer team known as “The Generation of Miracles” since the team was comprised of the top five players in Japan. After meeting an exchange student from America, Kagami, Kuroko is determined that his new high school team can defeat the Generation of Miracles.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: When considering an anime that would have a run at being aired on Toonami, one has to consider degrees of realism. There are several things that make Kuroko’s Basketball a match for Toonami. These include the manga’s English publishing by Viz Media, the length of the anime, and the demographics the series appeals to. By considering these, it should be clear that Kuroko is a natural fit for the Toonami lineup.

Starting off with the manga, Kuroko saw its first US run thanks to Viz Media. Viz, as many know, is a long-time partner with Toonami. Consider some of the most recent hits they’ve promoted heavily: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Boruto, One Punch Man, all with manga published in the US by Viz Media. This opens the door for a realistic conversation about giving Kuroko a go on Toonami’s lineup.

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Something that made Naruto so successful for Toonami was that it was not going to run out of content to give the networks to pump out. In more cases than not, anime have had more presence on US television when they had a wealth of episodes. Consider some of the powerhouses that have influences viewers since the 2000s: Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon – which were on the Saturday slot on KidsWB, but is still really worth noting – Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Bleach, and, a much more recent example that has captured audiences, My Hero Academia. These all have a stockpile of episodes and, as a result, are easier to pitch to executives thanks to the stability.

Finally, it is hard to ignore the fact that Kuroko is a shounen anime through and through. Many of these successful anime previously listed fit the genre of shounen. Love it or hate it, the genre has undeniable success on Toonami. Underdog stories filled with cool characters along the way have been the blueprint to success, and Kuroko’s high flying wild basketball ride could give Toonami a new utility tool at their bench.

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Noragami

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Written by: TGRIP

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Drama, Shonen

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Hulu

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: In modern day Japan, spirits, ghosts, and gods exist. Unknown to most normal people, these supernatural forces coexist with us peacefully most of the time, with classic Japanese gods maintaining a balance between the living and the dearly departed. There are hundreds of gods, from well-known ones who’re responsible for fortune, knowledge, and war, and further down the proverbial ladder are lesser gods who’re simply trying to make ends meet by taking up odd jobs. The latter is a perfect description of our protagonist: Yato. A minor god, he one day dreams of having a temple and followers of his own, even though he’s still a relative unknown, and as is the case with minor gods, can only accept jobs from mortals for just 5 yen.

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One day though, Yato bumps into someone unexpected: Hiyori Iki, a high school student who can see him for some reason. After unintentionally weakening her link to the mortal world, Yato takes up a new job of restoring her to her normal self, and shortly thereafter he also picks up a new business partner, a recently deceased boy named Yukine. The three form an unexpected bond with each other as Yato navigates job requests, exorcises vengeful spirits, and makes peace with his own sordid past…

Why Toonami Should Consider It: Because this was one of the best shonen series of the 2010s. Shonen is Toonami’s bread and butter, from the two Fullmetal Alchemist shows and various Shonen Jump adaptations, to even edgier stuff like Attack on Titan and Parasyte -the maxim-. Noragami still stands out today because it’s part of a rare breed of shonen that’s on the opposite spectrum from those latter shows: it’s built on a surprising amount of empathy and heart. This show has surprisingly great character writing in how, at its core, it’s about people trying to make better lives for themselves as best they can, finding family in others when their own previous relatives are responsible for so much trauma and pain that still feels inescapable at times. The dynamic between Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine is easily the best part of this show, with the three learning how to take care of each other, learning what causes pain to others, and how far others will go for their own adoptive families.

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Noragami’s world is weird in that it’s hard to fully detail and describe to complete newcomers, but the best way I’d put it is if Bleach stuck to its first arc, and had characters that were based off of actual mythological figures, who are interpreted in a pretty fun and, well, “human” fashion. Being a Bones show, the production throughout is top notch, with great action and a surprisingly good musical score, and while the first season did have to make some tough creative choices in order to end on a good note, it was worth it for just how incredibly good season 2 was. Overall, if you want an impeccably made action show with a surprising amount of heart, I can’t think of a better recommendation than Noragami.

Radiant

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Written by: Dark Aether

Genre: Shonen, Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Where to Currently Watch: Funimation, Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a world where demons fall from the sky called Nemesis, those that come into contact with them and survive are known as Sorcerers. Branded as “Infected,” they are the only known deterrent against these creatures while feared for their very nature, often treated as less than human. Seth is an aspiring young sorcerer who dreams of becoming a Nemesis Hunter. Hoping to end the discrimination against his kind, he sets out to find the source of the Nemesis, the legendary Radiant. Encountering both friendly and hostile people from all walks of life, he soon discovers the Nemesis are only the beginning of his adventure...

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Shonen has seen a large boom in the last decade, evolving to a point where there literally is something for everyone. Toonami is seemingly aware of this, hosting not only some of the most popular classic shonen, but also cultivating the next generation including My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer: Kimtesu no Yaiba, and Mob Psycho 100, for example. Fresh off the heels of a remarkable second season this year, it’s no secret that I consider Radiant to be one of the best new shonen at a time where the genre has seen a considerable shift in the status quo.

Hard-headed, clueless, and prone to let his actions speak for himself, protagonist Seth bears many of the standard shonen trademarks. But what makes him and Radiant a prime example of the genre today is a common thread that has begun to permeate in several recent titles, emphasizing the importance of humility, kindness, and embracing change. Rejecting the traditional setup of becoming the best or most powerful in his field, he quickly abandons the notion of heroism for self-benefit – he just wants the infected to live a normal life. And when his own humanity is repeatedly challenged over the course of the series, his ability to recognize his shortcomings and accept he has the power to change his circumstances – along with some helping hands – becomes his lifeline back to what led him to seek out Radiant. Seth isn’t perfect and rarely has all the answers, but like the show itself, his heart and empathy for the people around him are a masterclass in writing compelling character arcs.

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Speaking of masterclass, Radiant’s extended cast doesn’t fall behind either. Mélie is a friendly, cheerful character cursed with a split personality that when stressed causes her to grow hostile and aggressive towards everyone. One of Seth’s first companions, their friendship forms much of the show’s core while avoiding the typical pitfalls of most shonen heroines by building their relationship as partners. Doc is the group’s pragmatist, often protesting and fleeing at the first sign of danger while becoming the indirect voice of reason after a certain event places the group on divergent paths. Introduced in season 2, Ocoho is a headstrong, confident squire with dreams of becoming a knight. She plays a key role in the main story in addition to shaking up the dynamics of the original cast with her optimism, bravery, and assertiveness.

Much like the characters, the English dub is a diverse cast of new and old voices including Christopher Lewyn Ramirez (Seth), Shawn Gann (Doc), Alle Mims (Ocoho), and Eric Vale (Grimm). Best known for a number of recognizable anime roles (Winry in Fullmetal Alchemist), Caitlin Glass has made quite a name for herself on the directorial side, most recently with 2019’s Fruits Basket and Astra Lost in Space. Serving as ADR director and the voice of Mélie, she continues to deliver some of Funimation’s finest simuldubs with an impressive range of talent and performances, pushed further with an emotionally driven second season. Simply put, if you’re looking for another high quality shonen series with a lot of heart and a bit of a French twist, look no further than Radiant.

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Toradora

Illustration for article titled AniTAY Asks: What Shows Should Toonami Air Next?
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Written By: TheMamaLuigi

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life

Where to Currently Watch: Crunchyroll (sub & dub), Funimation (sub & dub)

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Ryuuji Takasu has a heart of gold, a love of housework, and… a terrifying face that immediately brands him as a delinquent! He meets Taiga Aisaka, a small but fiery classmate who has a crush on Ryuuji’s best friend: Yuusaku Kitamura. Ryuuji and Taiga agree to help each other woo their crushes and live happily ever after — or so they think. Cue twenty-five episodes of romance, drama, laughs, and tears as the Dragon and the Tiger realize that the person they hold feelings for might be closer than they think.

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Why Toonami Should Consider It: Toradora is a legendary anime, sitting comfortably in the upper echelon of ever-popular series that never really leave the zeitgeist. Why, though? What is it about Toradora that appeals to so many? Is it the likeable characters? The engaging and affecting story, complete with moments of bombast and subtlety? Is it the occasional fan service? The answer: all those things and more.

Ostensibly about how two outcasts find solace in each other, Toradora displays a masterful understanding of how character growth arises in both inter- and intra-personal ways. Through Ryuuji, Taiga, Minori, Ami, and Yuusaku’s trials and tribulations, each character changes in ways that are profound in their minutiae. Minori’s bubbly personality hides inner turmoil, Ami’s struggle to conflate being sexualized and being sensual, and Yuusaku’s difficulty with knowing much of the show’s conflicts revolve around him perfectly accentuate the budding romance between Ryuji and Taiga. Toradora, in its focus on growing over time rather than in definitive moments of change, reaches for something more recognizable and empathetic than other romance-based anime. It’s comforting in how it conforms to typical romantic tropes, but in doing those tropes better than nearly any other series, it stands apart and above the rest, making it a must-watch for anime fans new and old.

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And it is that must-watch status that makes it perfect for a place in the hallowed halls of Toonami. One glance at their catalogue reveals a veritable smorgasbord of well-regarded and “beginner” anime — the shows that bring you into the medium and stick with you as you pass 300 completed shows on MAL. Dragon Ball, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Mob Psycho 100, FLCL, Eureka Seven, Toonami prides itself on airing the biggest, the best, and the most accessible (or most “anime”) anime outside of Japan. And Toradora deserves a place among these treasured shows through how it represents the best that romance anime have to offer, and, even nearly twelve years later, it remains just as relevant, accessible, and enjoyable. Add in a who’s-who of dubbing talent, including Cassandra Lee Morris (Taiga), Johnny Yong Bosch (Yuusaku), and Christine Marie Cabanos (Minori), and you’ve got a recipe for something even more impactful and legendary. Perhaps an airing on Toonami could trigger a new wave of romance anime getting aired in North America, including Clannad, Golden Time, or The Pet Girl of Sakurasou!

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You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. To join in on the fun, check out our website, visit our official subreddit, follow us on Twitter, or give us a like on our Facebook page.

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