What y’all know about Toonami? Anime has never been a trend in the United States–it has always been THEE trend. Anime shows are just Japanese cartoons in a nutshell, but it’s a bit deeper than that, as written in the beginning of one of my last pieces on a modern Mangaka making waves in the DMV-area and beyond.
Toonami was a western machine of cartoon programming in which afternoons (and then later entire evenings) were blocked off to show select popular anime from Japan to US audiences in the late 1990s through mid-2000s on Cartoon Network. The host of the select time block, Tom, with his colloquial language, cool voice and futuristic Hip-Hop like design, was able to make anime cool for young audiences. It is through Toonami that Western audiences were first introduced to the Dragon Ball Franchise, Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, YuYu Hakusho, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach and more. Toonami has since now returned in the 2010s with a rebooted, rotating roster of new generational anime for the masses to enjoy.
Toonami was the reason *some* individuals were teased for running down middle school hallways Naruto-style and staging fake anime fights in public with their other weeb friends. If you saw Toonami marketing promotions, witnessed Tom’s hyping up of every show, enjoyed the lineups, caught the special series, and had the ability to come back to school next weekend to chat with your classmates and strangers about the premieres of the past weekend, you would understand why anime was massively popular on an entire generation of Americans of every demographic.
One thing about anime is that it was just as easily accessible back in the day as much as other Cartoon Network throwbacks, meaning if someone had basic cable, or had a friend that did, anime was easy to watch. Contrary to popular belief and conservatism from those in their own community, the African-American community (myself included) heavily indulged in anime for a multitude of reasons. Anime, as juxtaposed to many mainstream American programming archetypes, frequently explored concepts of poverty, racism, struggle, perseverance, comedy and more ways that African-Americans could relate to with the canon of their own experience in the United States. Anime has been so influential that it has permeated into other parts of mainstream culture in the past decade–such as rap and more forms of artistic expression.
Toonami Top 5 is limited journalist series by Maurice Valentino (yours truly) highlighting African-American creatives from every walk of life and talent, with rooted interests and inspiration from the television genre and programming that galvanized an entire generation. These are their stories.
Art breathes and thrives even in an environment of adversity. Chris Cassius is every part of Baltimore’s eclectic composition all funneled into one powerful being. Chris Cassius exemplifies Baltimore culture from his accent to the hairstyle, attire, direct involvement in the city, high level of cognizance about the conditions of his city, being a product of his environment, being a caring community man, but not one to try the patience of or he’ll knock the block off of you and those of your crew. In the creative field, Chris Cassius also exemplifies the power of Baltimore through his fashion modeling, songwriting prowess and own higher-echelon rap. Simply put, the young man is talented as a motherfucker.
Discovering him at the beginning of journalist residency in the city and the DMV area gave me hope and zeal for the city’s new creative scene, as I watched his raps, project concepts, chest vest swagger, and nuance capture fans and comrades from every walk of life across the city. Chris Cassius gives me hope for the future of Baltimore, with a story of determination that speaks for itself. Beyond this, he also happens to be an anime fan himself.
MV: What are the basics that people should know about you?
CC: I was born and raised in East Baltimore, Maryland. I am a music artist [and] I express my art through Rap and R&B styled melodies. My biggest accomplishment to me was doing Soundstage my first year (performing my 3rd show to be exact) with no connects or networking prior.
MV: Top 5 Anime of All Time? Explain why if you feel moved to do so.
CC: Sheeeeesh. I’m kinda late to the anime wave, but I really like Hunter x Hunter, 7 Deadly Sins, My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball Z, and Death Note. I like Berserk too.
[With Hunter x Hunter], well I was fucking with the whole test–it’s like Survival of the Fittest. Everybody was broke into teams and trying to become official hunters. I fucked with the competition of it all, especially since the story was following the underdogs too. I liked that they was underestimated so much and was just destroying shit.
MV: How have your favorite animes expressed themselves in your creative profession?
CC: Most of them have a story of determination and a lot of growth along the way. Like, the characters start out weak and just trying shit, but they know they [are] destined for great things and can attain more skills and power along the way, so it probably shows in my drive. Like, I have to win I know I can and I’m gonna get better doing so.
MV: What are 5 things that make a really good anime to you? (i.e Plot, Soundtrack, Animation Style):
CC: I’m really big on the style and plot. I’m into anime that have really detailed fights visually, like really show me the powers being used and the effect they [are] having. And of course, plot works for everything: from movies to sitcoms plots. [Plot] make[s] the show, so a good story is foundation.
MV: Future Goals in your creative process?
CC: My biggest goal in my process is just to leave my stamp and make people believers.
MV: I believe what you have coming next is definitely about to make that a reality.
In August 2019, Chris Cassius released a defining and powerful project called ‘PURPL6’ –encompassing everything about about his skills from his exemplary ability to composing songs, lyrical acuity, and skills project curation. You can read the official review here as well as stream the project on major streaming platforms alongside his other music.
You can follow the captivating music and powerful journey of Chris Cassius on Twitter & IG @ chris_cassius .
*DBZ Narrator voice* Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of Toonami Top 5!