No Need For Sentai!
One of the most frequently requested shows for Toonami is the infamously violent and sexual Highschool of the Dead. A show about high school teens killing zombies and risking losing their own humanity in the process, HOTD revels in trashiness by putting its female characters in compromising positions (even though some of them, particularly Saeko, are capable of kicking serious ass) and forcing underwear and panty shots on the viewers – along with zombies getting their heads and bodies mutilated.
It’s never gonna happen. In fact, HOTD was just announced for Neon Alley, the PS3/Xbox 360 anime streaming service. While a Neon Alley announcement doesn’t mean that a show won’t run on Toonami eventually (Naruto is a testament to that), chances are pretty damn slim – at least for now. But the truth is, HOTD probably wouldn’t have come to Toonami anyway. Rumors say that there’s virtually no chance a show from Sentai Filmworks will make it onto Toonami anytime soon. The reason being…well, we don’t know. We don’t even know how substantial these rumors are. But rumors usually do have a kernel of truth.
Sentai Filmworks (in its previous incarnation, A.D. Vision) had very little luck getting its properties on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Giant Robot Week briefly showcased some ADV shows, but the event was considered a bomb. And while Super Milk-Chan and Neon Genesis Evangelion both got runs on Adult Swim, neither show did very well. In fact, the ratings for Evangelion 1.11: You Are [Not] Alone basically doubled what the Evangelion TV series was ever able to accomplish. Perhaps one explanation is that ADV (and now Sentai) has a terrible marketing department. Another is Sentai’s perpetual rivalry with fellow Texas-based anime company FUNimation. FUNimation’s relationship with Williams Street and Toonami has never been friendlier, and that could be a turn-off for Setnai. FUNimation suing Sentai over a bunch of complicated legalese doesn’t help.
But here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter.
Does Toonami need Sentai Filmworks programming? No. While it would be nice to have Persona 4: The Animation or CANAAN on the block, Toonami’s six hours are crammed full of material. The prime slots are going to be locked down by Viz and FUNimation properties until 2014, when Soul Eater and Bleach conclude. And it’s likely another Viz or FUNimation property will just take those shows’ places. To reverse the question, does Sentai Filmworks need Toonami? Honestly, not really. Sentai’s invested heavily into its Anime Network on-demand service, which pays enough to keep Sentai licensing new properties. Also, Sentai’s library tends to be more niche compared to rival companies Viz and FUNimation. If the shows have an audience, they tend to be a cult audience. But Sentai spends less money on these obscure titles and cranks them out hoping to net a tidy profit. Viz and FUNimation, on the other hand, are looking to get the maximum amount of exposure and money possible. Sentai’s business strategy is subtler, and prevents clashes with the industry’s remaining titans.
Unfortunately, that means Sentai’s Toonami-ready library is pretty slim. CANAAN has a ton of spectacular visuals, gunplay, and one of Sentai’s few fantastic dubs. Xam’d: Lost Memories has the Eureka Seven pedigree, with plenty of Studio Ghibli inspiration as well. The retro-looking Towanoquon probably would fit the block, but Toonami may balk at an old-school look after Casshern Sins’ ratings problems. Persona 4: The Animation may be the best fit of all, but who knows what the asking price for that show would be? And what about Angel Beats!, you ask? Probably too cultish for Toonami’s tastes. Highschool of the Dead? Too much exploitation, as mentioned above – while Deadman Wonderland was plenty trashy, it didn’t straddle the borderline of hentai like HOTD gleefully does.
I could go on and on.
The truth is, Sentai and Toonami are pursuing different goals. Sentai wants to be low-key. While they won’t get many blockbusters, they’ll make small, decent profits that’ll keep the company going. Toonami is after titles with mainstream appeal that earn the block higher ratings and more money. Viz, FUNimation, and Aniplex’s quirky American arm are the only games in town for that – though for now, Toonami’s business is with Viz and FUNimation. That’s probably the crux of the “oil and water” theory between Sentai and Toonami. They’re incompatible because both entities want different things. There’s nothing wrong with that.
So while a relationship between Sentai and Toonami is potentially a nice thing, it’s not necessary for either entity. Which means it isn’t going to happen for a long while, if ever. And we can all live with it.
Originally published on ToonamiAlliance.