The first time I watched you, Moltar from Space Ghost was still hosting. He broadcasted from Ghost Planet Industries and had a UFO as a sidekick. I was six and, thanks to parental controls, only vaguely aware that TV could be anything other than Sailor Moon and Jonny Quest. Back then, you were just a semi-nameless string of shows, a cursory blip on my consciousness, the thing I squeezed in between finishing my homework at three and starting my piano lesson at four.
But as I grew up, so did you. Six became 10. Jonny Quest became Gundam Wing. Sailor Moon became Tenchi Muyo! Moltar disappeared and was replaced with the helmet-wearing, wisecracking robot TOM (which stood for “Toonami Operations Module” — a fact I’ll admit that before today, I was completely ignorant of). Ghost Planet became the spaceship “Absolution,” and you became a regular, three-hour fixture in my after-school routine.
I remember getting into fights with my little brother and shouting out (sadly to no avail) the words, “Kamehameha!” and “Moon Tiara Magic!” I remember falling, at six years old, hopelessly in love with Tuxedo Mask. I remember you scaring the shitake mushrooms out of me as I watched the first TOM die (die!) trying to save the ship. Granted, TOM 2.0 was ultimately my favorite incarnation, but at the time, all the trauma and distress seemed just a bit much for my poor, fragile, young heart to bear.
Eventually (and a bit thankfully), I started growing out of my anime phase. I started watching real shows like Lizzie McGuire and decided I could have only so many pretend-boyfriends before it started being weird. In my defense, you also might’ve let yourself go a little, dropping YYH and DBZ for Ben 10 and Transformers: Armada. In any case, by the spring of 2003, it was time for me to move on. I didn’t hear from you for another nine years, until last week, when I came across an interesting hashtag in my twitter feed, reading “#ToonamisBackBitches.”
Suddenly, all the fond memories came flooding back. Squeez-Its. Bagel Bites. Thundercats, ho! I even forgave you for that brief lapse of sanity a few years ago when you decided to give TOM a face. Like several others all over the twittersphere, I couldn’t wait for May 26th, when, at least for a few hours, I could go back to being nine, 10, 11 years old. Toonami was back, and along with it, my childhood.
Sadly, the Toonami I tuned into last month was not my Toonami. It was my TOM (the cool, dark, face-less TOM), and it was my ship, but it was not my Toonami. It wasn’t you. With tragically deficient fanfare, Adult Swim launched into an episode of Bleach, followed by new shows Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins, before finishing up with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop.
And while this new line-up was undeniably good, a huge part of me still yearned for the really good ol’ days, for power-ups taking six episodes at a time, for attacks made of swirls and rainbows and hearts.
And can you blame me? Finals are coming, summer’s almost here, I’m about to head into my last year as an undergraduate, and I don’t know. I guess a small part of me just needed you for a minute there. But I guess I can’t have you anymore. Wherever you are though, somewhere kicking around the outskirts of my memory, I just wanted to say how much you really meant to me. Because even though I didn’t get it at the time, Sailor Moon taught me the importance of friendship. Gundam Wing taught me the tragedies of war. Reboot taught me that computer viruses are bad (or something). And you. You defined a generation. So thank you, Toonami, for everything.
Stay gold. Bang.
A Hopelessly Nostalgic ‘90s Kid