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.
An underrated form of artistic expression is the art of curation, and using one’s video editing skills to effectively tell stories in ways the original story can’t. AnimeXSundays (Jared Ross), a Morehouse College graduate hailing from New Jersey, sits down with me for the limited “Toonami Top 5” series. In one year, with collaborators all across the nation and sagaciously brilliant anime original material for all types of anime enthusiasts (especially those of color), AnimeXSundays has curated his influential presence to notable level both on and off social media.
MV: What are the basics that people should know about you?
AxS: Well, [I’m] from West Orange,New Jersey born and raised. Professionally working to be a successful screenwriter and filmmaker.
MV: Top 5 Anime of All Time? Explain why if you feel moved to do so.
1. One Piece
4. Hunter x Hunter
5. Death Note.
I chose these because they’re pretty much perfectly balanced with action, drama, suspense and story as well as great character development.
MV: How have your favorite animes expressed themselves in your creative profession?
AxS: Well, I mean I do run a small vlog about anime, so I would say it has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone, and express my knowledge and passion about one of my oldest hobbies, which is watching anime.
MV: What are 5 things that make a really good anime to you? (i.e Plot, Soundtrack, Animation Style)
1. World Development, just like how interesting is the setting, you know? Like if it’s just another anime about magic, I’m not gonna think it’s as dope as like a Hunter Hunter or One Piece.
2. Probably how mature it is. Like, if there’s no death I’ll probably rank it like a medium-tier anime just ‘cause it’s pretty boring if there’s no real drama.
3. If it’s a fighting anime, then the animations GOTTA be fire and also the context in when fights take place. You know, if they just fighting for no reason, then I’ll think it’s ok, but not great.
4. Plot can’t be too predictable. Of course I know some things are easy to guess, but for the most part I wanna always be surprised.
5. Lastly, I guess the acting for sure. The voice actors–new or veterans–should always be making me feel emotionally attached to the characters; so basically good acting is a must.
MV: Future Goals in your creative process?
AxS: Mainly just want to be an acclimated screenwriter and eventually write my own anime series one day; maybe direct a few movies, but I’m not as pressed for that as I am to be a writer.
You can check out AnimeXSundays on instagram @ animexsundays and Anime Sundays on YouTube.