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.
I sat down with a New Jersey African-American songstress and rapper supreme who is a product of the Toonami generation. Her aura and level of synchrony with nature/the universe is impeccable, and this can be felt from her mystical aesthetic, trill ass bars, shows, and her well-spoken articulation in any given moment. I’m not only a fan, but a good portion of those in America who can clearly see how bomb she is. I was blessed getting her for this interview, with her describing her Top 5 anime series that have influenced her extraordinary art.
MV: What are the basics that people should know about you?
S, A: Bet, I’m Saturn, Alexander and I’m from South Jersey, right by Philly. I’m an artist, meaning I don’t just rap, but my whole life is art. Down to the food I cook.
I’ve been featured on BBC London, Lyrical Lemonade, Earmilk, done shows with Rico Nasty, Tommy Swisher, been in a mag or two, and I can rap better than your homeboy sending out SoundCloud links without any context.
MV (recalling her fire ass lyrics from her raps mid-interview): You are correct!!!
Top 5 Anime of All Time? Explain why if you feel moved to do so.
S, A: Aha thank you man! And man, it’s so hard honestly. The list changes all the time. Because it reflects what currently speaks to me, like the anime plots be so FUCKING THICC. Shit wild. But right now:
(In no order)
- Soul Eater
- Yu Yu Hakusho (duh)
- D. Grayman
- Fullmetal Alchemist/Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Honestly, Soul Eater was the first anime that made me cry. I felt so connected to Krona at the time because I felt soooo misunderstood and I was homeschooled at the time, so it also helped pass time. It was that weird stage for a girl who only has brothers when they’re only chilling with each other and you alone and shit.
Kyōsōgiga because it’s like no anime I’ve ever seen. It’s so colorful and almost is reminiscent of a Miyazaki movie with how it makes you feel, and then the ending has you like WHAT. Also, honorable mention to Future Diary because it had the craziest ending I’ve ever seen in an anime, ever.
Yu Yu Hakusho because it’s a classic, “Smile Bomb” is a BOP, and Yusuke my fav anime protagonist of all time. Legit was calling niggas “bitches”.
D. Grayman because the character development is WILD. Like WILLLLLLD. So upset it didn’t have a proper ending, and FMA/FMAB always gonna be on any list I ever create. It was so well done and has two versions that are equally good. Like the original legit followed it’s own story up to a point because the manga hadn’t finished before they started animating and they needed an ending; then Brotherhood followed the manga but both were just as good. Like, that shit will have you thinking DEEP. “Changed my life”-type shit, WILD.
But that’s how I feel about all anime, if you allow it. It’ll change your life.
MV: How have your favorite animes expressed themselves in your creative profession?
S, A: I think that every anime I enjoy reflects me. The darkness of Soul Eater, the brightness in Kyōsōgiga, the grittiness of Yu Yu Hakusho, the mystery of D.Grayman, and the fullness and completeness of Fullmetal Alchemist/Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I try to balance them all in every song.
I think right now the project I just put out speaks to that. It’s only two tracks, but they’re completely different. They make you feel opposite feelings, but when you put them together, they’re complete. They’re yin and yang. They are the darkness and the light. I try to embody that in all my work.
As artists, I feel like we’re middlemen. We help or are supposed to help people get in touch with and define their feelings, or lack thereof. I try to pose issues with answers, or pose states of minds with perspectives. I always aim to accomplish more than one thing with a track, and I feel my love for anime not only helps, but strengthens that skill. After all, a plot is just a thick ass story, and that’s all songs are to me: Stories.
MV: What are 5 things that make a really good anime to you?
1. OSTs (original soundtracks). Yo, OSTs make anime. I listen to Pokémon in-game OSTs. to this day. Bleach has some fire ass OSTS.
2. Animation and, not to mention, consistent animation. (This is my problem with Black Clover right now haha.) But yo, some smooth ass animation just helps the story flow better.
3. Character Development. Think about it. The reason we all like Naruto so much is because we literally know everyone in that village. We know their stories; they mean something and we’ve grown with them at this point. Proper character development in an anime is KEY.
4. (I mainly watch subs so) A GOOD ASS SCRIPT. You can tell in a sub or even a dub when the script is trash. The way shit is worded is key, especially when it’s translated. The Japanese language is like poetry–you can tell when the script is just shallow, or when the dubbed version butchers the script, because it’s always translated differently.
5. PLOT. It’s the last, but almost most important. Plot holes, too much fan service, too many fillers…all of these can KILL a good anime. Shit, the Bounts almost killed Bleach. Fillers almost killed Bleach. Niggas would be in the middle of a battle one episode, and at the beach the next. Naruto was the same. A well thought-out and healthy plot goes a long way.
MV: I know you get this a lot but coming from someone who has traveled the world and met the most esoteric people, you are a damn genius ma’am. A whole ass prodigy.
Fantastic answers. Last question!
What are the future goals in your creativity process?
S, A: Fam, it really means so much man. I really just be trying to add to people’s lives as much as I can so I try to be as knowledgeable as I can and be able to add to as much as I can. Honestly I want to rule the world, as bad as it sounds haha. I just want to be in a position to effect EVERYTHING. I realize that the only way I’ll ever see lasting change is to be able to be an example to the ones around me–financially, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally-so they can affect the people around them, so they [the group afterwards] can affect the people around them, and it just becomes a chain reaction.
I wanna be the homie that can drop 20 racks on you to start ya new business, and you don’t have to think about paying it back. I want to be able to position as many people to operate out of their fullest creative capacity, because that’s the slice of life. I want to show people by example manifestation, because manifestation is the only true creation of something from nothing. It’s what truly places us next to God. Like I wanna do so much man.
Saturn, Alexander is a rare talent currently in orbit. Celestially align yourself with greatness by checking out more of her content, from her own website welcometosaturn.com, her recently released project SIGNS out everywhere now, and much, much more. You can follow her on all of her social media accounts at @welcometosaturn .
*DBZ Narrator voice* Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of Toonami Top 5!