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The Future of Anime on Adult Swim: What Needs to be Done?

For quite some time it has been rather obvious that Adult Swim seems to be losing its faith in anime. In their defense, the anime block on Saturdays hasn’t done incredibly well the past few years, and so it’d be reasonable for them to slowly phase anime out altogether. With the announcement of three new titles (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Kekkaishi, and an unconfirmed show), however, it seems as though Adult Swim may be giving this one last shot after the lackluster performances delivered by Code Geass and Death Note (need I even mention Moribito?). I’d say that if they truly want their anime to start performing well, they really have to start treating the properties better. Advertisement goes a long way, and unless they display their usual schedule on weeknights, most viewers are completely out of the loop as to what new anime is coming to the block and when. It can be difficult to get into a new show after missing the first few episodes, which means the show will never produce the ratings that Adult Swim wants.

Adult Swim needs to focus more on the casual viewers that it has; there are individuals who watch Adult Swim that do not regularly search the internet for information pertaining to the block. These are the many people who watch Adult Swim on weekdays mainly because of Family Guy and various other “adult” cartoons. They watch when they can and if a show catches their interest, they start watching regularly. A dedicated viewer will pick up on details on his or her own because they are either already invested in a new property or are reading animation-related sites, but there are not enough of these people. For the most part, Adult Swim needs to stop stop relying on them and focus its marketing on individuals who watch casually during the week. It really won’t hurt the block to throw in consistent advertisement for a show like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for weekday commercial breaks. If this doesn’t work then I can fully understand them going back to their old ways, but until it’s given a serious chance Williams Street really has nobody to blame but itself for the performance of the anime block.

Another issue is the scheduling itself. While the first season of Code Geass did not do well, its time slot was generally poor and the second season was killed before it even started. You can’t expect viewers to watch the second season of a show when they most likely did not finish the first because it was slotted at 4 AM. It was a bit ridiculous of Adult Swim to expect that fans would stay up that late to watch the show; even hardcore fans who loved it more than likely wouldn’t wait that long, and they didn’t. Also, Geass and the Saturday block in general suffered a lot of schedule changes. If you only watch one particular show then you will generally tune in that the time you’re used to, only to be frustrated when another show is suddenly in its place. The first time this happens is one thing; two or three times is just ridiculous and that will be a turn off for a casual viewer. Meanwhile Bleach, a show that was actually doing rather decently, has been in re-runs for quite some time now. Sure, you can’t run what isn’t dubbed, but viewers will eventually lose interest if they see an episode for the fifth time. Again, Adult Swim needs to think about the casual fans and their viewing experience. At this point you may be thinking that these casual viewers are low in number and don’t matter, but if the “hardcore” fans alone were enough then the anime block wouldn’t be in its current dismal situation.

With the recent new properties, there is yet another chance for anime to perform better on Adult Swim and get better treatment. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has done fairly well for itself, usually scoring around the 400,000 mark (dipping just a little below and above every week). This isn’t anywhere near the ratings Family Guy and The Boondocks brings in, but nobody expected that. Still, one successful property alone isn’t enough for substantial change. I’ll admit to knowing little about Kekkaishi, so it is hard for me to accurately give a prediction on how I think (and perhaps hope) it will do. The main complaint I have seen about Kekkaishi is if the material in question is in fact ‘adult’ enough for Adult Swim. In that case, Adult Swim really needs to focus on shows that are for the audience they are aiming at; a clear kid’s show on an adult late night block is fighting an uphill battle. However, if FMA: B and Bleach are telling at all, a successful Adult Swim show needs to have a good mix of action and drama in order to perform well. Not enough action will bore viewers, while not enough drama will make it rather bland.

While the third property hasn’t been announced, I’m going to assume it is Inuyasha: The Final Act. All the signs seem to point towards this, but hey, it could just as easily be a show out of left field that nobody saw coming. If it actually is more Inuyasha, then the show will more than likely be a hit-or-miss type case. The casual viewers that I have talked quite a bit about will more than likely not know what is going on so they probably won’t watch the show. Inuyasha, however, is unusual in that it really does have an established “hardcore” fan base to get the ratings, so how this show would do remains to be seen. Without a doubt, the anime block has been put through quite a bit during its time on Adult Swim. Whether it sticks around or eventually fades out depends on not just the viewers, but also in how Adult Swim utilizes marketing to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally watch these properties. For those of us who like the block and want it to stay, let’s just hope that these three new properties kick some ass.

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