Toonami, which has been building you a better cartoon show since 1997, is still going strong over 20 years later. So, I’ve decided to do a weekly review of the entire block. The block is shifting heavily this month, with a bunch of series ending, another taking a break, and several new shows coming in to shake up the schedule.
In terms of the block itself, we got brand new promos for One Punch Man Season 2 and Demon Slayer, both of which premiere next week. I find it odd that Demon Slayer is premiering at 1:30am after Food Wars. The announcement was months ago, which is rare for Toonami, and in terms of tone fits in better paired up with Fire Force than the light hearted Food Wars and the general shonen Black Clover. I personally would have slotted it after Dr. Stone and moved the rest of the shows back a half-hour. As for the promos themselves, One Punch Man’s was fine, but Demon Slayer’s felt incomplete. It lacked a real punch, so to speak, to end with. With the promos out of the way, let’s get started with the main review!
Broadcast: The Miraculous Conclusion! Goku, Until We Meet Again! (Episode 131 - Series Finale)
This is the end of the line for Dragon Ball Super, as Goku, Frieza, and Android 17, all exhausted, must somehow take out Jiren as the Tournament of Power comes to its conclusion. Once the winner is finally decided, the wish on the Super Dragon Balls must be made, with the consequences that come with it.
While I do wish the fight itself had lasted the whole episode, with the finale being devoted to the denouement, this finale still kicked all kinds of ass. Goku already had several inexplicable recoveries in this tournament, so seeing him so exhausted he could barely turn into regular Super Saiyan was great to see, especially since Super Saiyan Blue is, in all honesty, really boring to watch unless Kaioken is also active. Furthermore, having Goku and Frieza team up and form a pretty effective duo was pretty awesome to see. The two had worked together in spurts before in this arc, but it was always just the two fighters trying to not get in each other’s way. With this fight, they legitimately worked together, with Goku launching Frieza at Jiren an especially cool maneuver.
Helping matters a lot was the spectacular animation. The show has been very up and down in terms of visuals its entire run, but these final few episodes have been a joy to look at, with the crowning achievement being this final fight. Goku, Frieza, 17, and Jiren all had exceptionally detailed and well-shaded models, combined with the extremely fluid in-betweens, made the final fight way more epic than it already was. Not even the inclusion of the terrible dubbed version of the Ultimate Battle insert song could put a damper on things. It was absolutely a tour de force for Toei’s much-maligned animation team.
The second half of the episode honestly felt a little rushed to me. I love that Android 17 actually won the tournament, since everyone expected Ultra Instinct Goku to win, but there wasn’t enough time for him to let it set in, since they had to fit in shots of all the Universes coming back to life as well as that final montage showing the Universe 7 characters coming back and getting back to normal life. I would have liked to have seen more time spent on the epilogue, instead of crunching everything down because they didn’t realize they only had a few minutes left. I’m also a little surprised it IS the finale. I legitimately expected Toei to have announced either a continuation or sequel by now.
Also, I know this is just me and long since relevant, but I still wish they had gone with Mark de Groot’s cover of Limit Break x Survivor rather than Nathan Sharp’s.
Broadcast: Two Nations of the Stone World & Where Two Million Years Have Gone (Episodes 6 & 7)
Since gen:LOCK ended a few weeks ago and the block needed to buy time until One Punch Man Season 2 premieres, Dr. Stone gets a whole hour this time, allowing it to catch back up after being pre-empted by the Dragon Ball Super marathon the previous week. Senku gets revived and splits up with his friends, charging them with a mission to spy on Tsukasa while he goes to find the other humans from earlier. He eventually runs into Kohaku, a powerful and skilled girl, who takes him back to her village, where he meets Chrome, someone who shares his passion for science.
This is where the series goes from being relatively fun and entertaining to really awesome, with the introduction of the village and its inhabitants. Now, Taiju and Yuzuriha are fine characters, but they’re a bit one-note and Taiju especially could get really annoying with his giant wild takes about everything. Kohaku makes an excellent first impression, showing off her impressive battle skills, as well as her caring and harsher sides. In only one and a half episodes, she already establishes herself as a well-rounded character. It’s also quite heartwarming to see her warm up to Senku so quickly, but in a rather natural way.
We only get a brief glimpse at the village in this episode, but you can already tell that the new cast members bring a fresh new energy to the show. Chrome, being obsessed with science but lacking in the finer knowledge, is a perfect compliment for Senku’s genius and one can already tell just by episode’s end that the two will make a powerful duo. Kinro and Ginro, though they have less focus than Chrome and Kohaku, also get some amusing scenes. The scene where the two were fascinated by mere bubbles was pretty funny, in particular. These episodes pairing together was also a bit of a lucky break, as they perfectly transition from the initial arc to expanding the wider world and truly exploring the new world Senku and company now find themselves in.
Broadcast: The Promise (Episode 10)
Ah, Fire Force. For whatever reason, I always forget this show is on the block. Anyway, after defeating Rekka and stopping the creation of the Infernals, Shinra is summoned to the Imperial Capital along with Obi and Tamaki. There, it’s revealed that the main bad guys are called The Evangelists, that Shinra’s ability is known as an Adolla Burst, and that Shinra’s thought-dead brother is actually running The Evangelists.
This show has a lot of potential, but the story moves way too fast to be able to take advantage of that. We’re on Episode 10, but the story thus far feels like we’re in the beginning of Season 2 or something. The status quo still hasn’t been established very well, so the revelations of The Evangelists and the fact that Shinra’s brother is running them aren’t as Earth-shattering as they would be in another show. Moreover, the writing can be really sloppy at times. The head honchos want to keep Shinra in protective custody in the capital, but Obi asks them to let him stay at Company 8, saying he’ll keep an eye and not let Shinra be taken by the bad guys. Immediately after, we find out that Obi left Shinra at the capital, all alone, because he wanted to look around some more. He didn’t even leave Tamaki as a backup or bodyguard! What happens? Joker appears in front of Shinra almost immediately and likely could have kidnapped him right then and there if he wanted to. I facepalmed during that whole exchange. On a positive note, I did like that Shinra told his group about the encounter before episode’s end rather than keeping it bottled up for 20 episodes.
Unfortunately, Fire Force’s constant flaws are still around. The characters’ quirks are mostly still feel forced (Shinra’s “smile when nervous” thing), annoying (everything about Arthur), or annoyingly forced (Tamaki’s fanservice bits). The fact that she can’t even put on an apron without getting naked in front of the boys is not funny, it’s just stupid. It’s not that I hate ecchi or fanservice, but this show does not know how to invoke it in the episode nearly as well as Food Wars does. Arthur also is back without an explanation after wandering the desert lost last week, which is another annoyance I have with the cast. It’s not as bad as the whole “I was holding my sword in the wrong hand!” thing from a few episodes ago, but it’s still grating.
However, the thing that annoys me most about this series is probably the storyboarding. Sure, the fight animation is very fluid and beautiful, and the visual style is striking enough, but how the show is put together feels incompetent at best. There are so many jump cuts during conversations that it feels like a CBS cop drama, characters teleport positions between wide shots and close ups, the framing tries to be dramatic but fails miserably, and there’s a distinct lack of transitional shots. What I mean by that is that, for example, when a character enters a scene, we don’t see them running up and joining their allies, they just appear out of nowhere. It’s as if they cut out all the scenes where somebody wasn’t talking or fighting, leaving it a disjointed mess.
Broadcast: Eggs Before the Dawn (Episode 13)
Soma and the gang are still in their training camp, but Soma is still reeling from being defeated by Kojiro last episode. When the next test is announced, the class has to busily prepare, as their next mission is to serve 200 breakfast plates in the morning. Most of the cast are moving along at a decent pace, but Soma, despite making a nice plate, has only had 10 plates eaten.
I’ve been reading the manga since shortly after it’s introduction in the US Weekly Shonen Jump, but I never started the anime until its Toonami debut. It still feels weird to see Soma’s hair is red, as it’s colored black in the manga, which I always defaulted to in my mental image. Yes, I know color pages established he was red, but those were few and far between, especially in Weekly Jump.
Anyway, as to the episode itself. It’s not as intense as the previous episode, but that’s rather nice, as it allows the audience to catch their breath, and the cliffhanger ensures that the intensity will come back next episode. We don’t really get a lot of food recipes or foodgasms this time, which makes the episode stand out a little less, but it was rather necessary with all the setup needed for the challenge. Having to serve 200 breakfast plates is a fun little challenge, but I have to wonder how bad the customers’ cholesterol will be after this is over, given all the eggs used in every dish. Alice and Ryo also enter the scene, and the moment where Alice reveals that Ryo only looks intimidating as part of an act, complete with the hilarious innuendo, provides some much needed and genuinely funny comedic relief.
Oh, and I have to praise something really quick. I am not sure who did the shortened Toonami opening and endings for this series, but they deserve some props. It was probably some intern at Sentai Filmworks (Toonami doesn’t do any of the shortened songs), but it was well constructed and the transitions into the chorus were very well done and felt natural. Given how crappy a lot of other Toonami intros are (looking at you, Dr. Stone and Black Clover), I feel like a proper job well done should be recognized.
Broadcast: The Black Bulls’ Hideout (Episode 88)
As Asta and the other Royal Knights storm the Eye of the Midnight Sun’s stronghold, the rest of the Black Bulls are taking it easy. Most of them eventually leave to run errands, leaving only Gauche, Grey, and Gordon to defend the hideout when Rades, Sally, and Valtos attack. In the end, a new Black Bulls member reveals itself, to the shock of everyone.
Even back in the manga, it felt really weird to show the Royal Knights attack the Midnight Sun’s base, then immediately cut to Gauche and the others. It’s a bit emphasized here, as the attack doesn’t happen until mid-episode, leaving much of the first half to be relatively light-hearted and empty, a rather jarring tone change considering the arc we’re starting. It’s not helping that these three Black Bulls have one real character quirk that gets hammered home in every appearance, and very little is done to deviate from that, especially Gauche, who spends the first half of the episode making a doll of his little sister.
The second half improves things a bit, as we finally find out Gordon’s magic while Grey gets a new spell. Seeing them step up and legitimately attack was a nice sight to see, given that they’re two of the least focused members of the group and that their magic isn’t as flashy as Yami’s or Magna’s. The returning bad guys, however, feel decidedly low stakes at this point and were only used so as to not waste time introducing new bad guys to get beaten. Also, for some reason, Gordon’s subtitles disappear during the second half of the episode. The Japanese version did the same thing, but that version has normal subtitles anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal, but with the dub, it ends up being that you truly can’t understand what Gordon’s saying. I wish Funimation had Gordon talk just a slight louder. Overall though, it was a perfectly fine, if unspectacular, episode.
Broadcast: The Chunin Exams: The Recommendation Meeting (Episode 50)
The final episode before the movie retell arc begins sees Konohamaru, Moegi, Udon, and Shino recap the previous 49 episodes, as Konohamaru struggles with allowing Boruto to take the upcoming Chunin Exam. Then, alcohol gets involved and hijinx ensues.
Man, this was not a good episode, timing-wise, after it was announced that Boruto is leaving in a few weeks for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5. This was a clip show, going over the various Genin and their accomplishments and failures in the context of the upcoming Chunin Exam. More than likely, this was done to free up some resources for the later episodes of the movie arc, especially given how insane the finale of the arc is, though the fact that Toonami viewers won’t be able to see it before the end of the year is a bit sobering.
Still, it wasn’t as bad as other clip shows. The second half relocates everyone to a bar and eventually joined by Hanabi, where both she and Konohamaru get drunk and start carrying on. It was genuinely amusing seeing the two of them interact like that, since they are two characters we don’t really see together all that much. Udon being passed out while Shino losing control of his insects just added to the hilarity. Even with the clip show stuff, there was enough new stuff, especially in the second half, to make watching the episode worthwhile in a vacuum.
Broadcast: Forbidden Words (Episode 269)
The Fourth Great Shinobi War continues its beginning, as Darui, Samui, and Atsui confront Ginkaku and Kinkaku, the Gold and Silver Brothers, off the western shores of the battlefield. The two brothers have powerful ninja tools that soon trap both Samui and Atsui, but Darui manages to turn the tables.
This battle is interesting in many ways. For one thing, it focuses entirely on Cloud Village participants on both sides. The only Leaf shinobi to really see any screen time is Tsunade in the beginning. It also adds a bit of a personal touch to the battle seeing two generations of Cloud ninja fight each other, adding a bit of history to the Village, which was needed since we don’t get to spend a lot of time there. Even the battlefield is refreshing, as the stone cliff backdrop feels fresher than generic forests, while the majority of the battle taking place well out into the ocean makes for some cool shots of the characters as they attack.
I really do like Kinkaku and Ginkaku’s gimmicks, as trapping people based on their most said word or if they’re silent for too long is really unique and adds to the tension without needing to have a new form or super mode bail them out. The newcomer Atsui is a pretty lame character overall, but he merely exists to be canon fodder, so it’s no big deal. Darui is a really interesting character, though, and easily carries the episode. I wish we got to see more of him in Boruto. Maybe we’ll get an arc in the Cloud Villageventually.
Broadcast: The One Year War (Episode 13 - Series Finale)
As Char continues on his mission to search for Operation V, he runs into the fleeing Revil, allowing him to go free and stoke the war further. Meanwhile, Sayla and Mirai arrive at Side 7 as Amuro is determined to find out more about the top secret project his dad is working on called “Gundam.”
Oh, Origin. You had such promise. On its own, the series is fine, though the TV cut is horrible compared to the original OAV episodes. The animation is very well done, the battles exciting, and the English voice cast is mostly excellent, though Revil’s voice is a bit too low for my tastes. I also have a hard time hearing the voices of the White Base crew since I’m so used to the Ocean Group cast from the original series, most notably Brad Swaile’s Amuro, which I maintain is still absolutely perfect.
Unfortunately, the dub is wasted on an inferior product. Now, if this leads into a full on reboot of the original show, fine, but as a prequel to the original 1979 series/movie trilogy it is absolute trash. Char himself was far more ruthless and uncaring than he was originally, as if the writers were only familiar with his Char’s Counterattack incarnation. The Zabis all have heavy character exaggeration, especially Garma and Kycilia. Sayla is turned into a freedom fighter. Kai is a hotheaded jerk and is good friends with Amuro despite being unmotivated and a stranger to Amuro. Fraw already takes take of Kikka, Katz, and Letz instead of them all meeting after becoming war orphans. Amuro is actually interested in the outside world instead of being a major shut-in, which is a major part of his character in the early goings. I don’t even think Amuro and Fraw are still neighbors. Not to mention all the massive continuity issues with the original series due to being based on a manga that rewrote the original series from the ground up.
I don’t fault anyone who enjoys The Origin. On its own, it is a fine show. But man, I wish it had been a proper prequel.
Broadcast: Let’s Talk About First Loves (Episode 16)
Lupin and Ami escape the Padar army and successfully infiltrate the palace. With Jigen and Goemon as backup, they manage to expose the High Priest’s treachery and encourage Dolma to be a “villainous” princess for Padar. Meanwhile, the Shaking Hands Corporation continues to extend its reach, while Zenigata finds out that Lupin and Fujiko are having relationship troubles. Ami takes the opportunity to proclaim she’s in love with Lupin.
Lupin the Third continues to be the best show on the block (arguably tied with My Hero Academia, and Dr. Stone close behind) and watching him effortlessly, with the help of Ami, sneak into the compound and expose the High Priest was hilarious. This episode was basically everything great about Part V all come together. Excellent character interactions, Lupin and company being ruthless to the opposition (Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon kill a LOT of soldiers in this episode), and some character depth for not only Fujiko, but Zenigata as well, as he feels sympathy for Lupin and Fujiko breaking up. The franchise is at its best when Lupin and the gang get to be crazy awesome, and this episode was one of the best examples.
Ami also continues to be a worthy addition to the cast. She’s become a well rounded character and her friendship with Dolma was enjoyable to see, especially at the end when they discuss their first loves. I know that if there is a Part VI, Ami will only appear in a cameo at best, but I would not be opposed to having her as a semi-regular or even a regular cast member going forward. Unlike Rebecca, who essentially shoved Fujiko out of the spotlight and didn’t really add anything substantial to the plot, Ami perfectly compliments Fuji-cakes and her hacking ability is extremely useful to Lupin’s thieving career. I hope we see her again in whatever the next Lupin project is.
Broadcast: What’s the Big Idea? (Episode 59 - Rerun)
As the Hero License Exam continues, Gang Orca invades the arena to act as a villain. Todoroki and Yoarashi step up to hold them off, but their animosity towards each other gets in the way, forcing Deku to get their heads back in the game.
The Season 3 rerun continues in preparation for Season 4 (which is almost a certainty now given what the schedule has in store) and this arc has been quite fun. Yoarashi is a fun character with a very cool power, and his hatred of Todoroki feels rather natural considering how Endeavor’s son acted when the show started. True, it’s mostly a showcase to show how far Todoroki has come as a person, but it was important to really showcase that, since we don’t really get a chance to know Todoroki before his character development kicks in.
While the arc does feel a bit deflating compared to the intense One for All/Rescue Bakugo arc, I think it’s rather nice refresher to have much lower stakes and less intense fights, especially compared to what will come in Season 4. Deku being the one to get Todoroki to think straight feels a bit cliché, though. I know he and Todoroki have a connection and that he’s the main character and all, but he feels a bit shoehorned in to the fight and I wish someone else had said something to Todoroki, possible Yayorozu. It was just kinda nice to have a major fight without Deku or Bakugo involved at all. Still, this is a minor nitpick and the episode was still great overall.