L-R: Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Jonny Quest. Photo: Cartoon Network When most Americans of the last couple generations think back to when they first saw a Japanese animated television show, chances are it was after school, on an idiosyncratic, little programming block known as Toonami. Beginning on Cartoon Network on Monday, March 17, 1997, for two hours the channel was dedicated to action cartoons — Jonny Quest and Thundercats were on the first lineup, but so was giant-robot classic Voltron, and soon after, Robotech. They were later joined by Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, massive successes in their home countries, whose American dubbed versions had previously languished on Saturday mornings, often in heavily edited versions. On Toonami, they found their audience, and dozens of anime series — Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo! and later, One Piece and Naruto — found theirs as well. This was a time when it could be daunting and expensive (and often technically illegal) to access anime, and it was still a relatively niche interest in America. Toonami not only brought dubbed shows to basic cable, it also contextualized them in a world of hip-hop, DJ culture, comic-book sensibility, and starry-eyed sci-fi earnestness. Toonami was… Read full this story
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