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A Crazy Theory About [as] Anime in 2005


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Keep in mind that what I’m about to tell you has not been confirmed and could entirely be the product of pure coincidence. That said, I hope you enjoy my TED Talk.

Having watched [adult swim] since 2004, particularly its anime selections, I’ve come up with more than a few theories regarding the shows they’ve aired, in relation to their, well, airing of them. One such theory is that the main reason [as] exists is because Sean Akins wanted to air Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network without having to tone the content down to the Y7/PG standards that were the norm for the time. Another is that, despite being the biggest anime premiere event in the network’s history, Toonami never intended to air Akame ga KILL!, and only did so in order to secure the rights to Parasyte: the maxim. There’s also the surprisingly ecchi for Demarco’s taste Food Wars being picked up last-minute to sub in for an “LGBT-friendly” show Demarco really tried to get on the block, but I technically stole that one from /co/. But of all those theories and more, my personal favorite is that regarding the May 2005 premieres. Namely, the circumstances of how Paranoia Agent came to get on the block the first time.

Pretty much everyone on the ASMB’s Action Discussion back in the day knew that Samurai Champloo and Paranoia Agent were aired together as part of a package deal, or at least that was the only explanation they could come up with regarding why the latter aired on an action block despite being more drama, mystery, suspense and thriller than pure action. But after watching one of multiple videos bitching about [as]’s failures after their genius decision to shunt off Code Geass and Moribito premieres to the graveyard slot, where it was revealed Champloo and PA were part of an ASMB poll asking which anime the audience would like them to air – one that Toshiyuki Tsuru joint Gungrave won – I started to develop a headcanon concerning that very package deal, and what might have come about instead.

Considering all the Shinichiro Watanabe-adjacent pickups that [as] has made over the years, it goes without saying that between the two, Champloo was the one that they wanted. But in order to air it – rather, to get enough of a deal on it they wouldn’t have to overspend on their budget – they had to choose another Geneon property to air on their network. They were torn between two options: Gungrave, which had character designs from Trigun’s Yasuhiro Nightow, and Paranoia Agent, directed by the critically lauded and unfortunately late Satoshi Kon. So they decided to do something different and put it to a fan poll: they put up all three shows and asked which one viewers would like to see most out of the three. To tell the truth, I’m not sure if Champloo won the poll or if Gungrave won – judging from that one video guy’s attitude of “[as] never listens to the fans even when they engage them”, it was probably Gungrave – but Paranoia Agent definitely came in third.

But the failure to air Gungrave was not the result of [as] acting like assholes towards their anime viewership. Instead, they failed to air Gungrave because another cable channel stepped in and nabbed it while they were busy with the poll. In late 2004/early 2005, G4 aired Gungrave as part of their Anime Unleashed programming block, and much earlier than when [as] would have aired it, which would have been May 28, 2005 based on the premiere date of the other option. And while Paranoia Agent may have been a poor fit for the ACTN brand, I’m not too bothered by [as] airing it. It was always a fascinating series to me back in those days, and managed to work its way up to my all-time favorites list during its Toonami rerun last year. Still, also being a fan of Gungrave, one has to wonder what the block would’ve looked like had Gungrave aired as part of the American late-night anime king, now and forever.

Unfortunately, that’s not the theory I’m here to discuss today. I’ve had that aforementioned theory for years. This next one? Came up with it yesterday. And it is a doozy.

Some tend to overlook this fact, but Champloo and Paranoia Agent weren’t the only May 2005 premieres. On May 28, after Paranoia Agent made its midnight debut, another series followed suit, that being s-CRY-ed, Sunrise’s 2001 original action anime that introduced the American viewing public to Goro Taniguchi, the future director of future [as] pickup Code Geass. As much as I laud the series despite having only seen one episode twice and the ends of several that I felt were too much of downers – I blame High School DxD for that one – I always found s-CRY-ed to be out-of-place on [as]. Having all PG-rated episodes, airing after the much more serious Paranoia Agent, keeping its 12:30 timeslot after PA shifted down from midnight to 1AM… Even the fact that it was on Adult Swim’s On Demand exclusive selection before making its linear channel debut felt weird, because Earth Girl Arjuna and Argento Soma sure didn’t get that same treatment!

But what if I told you there was reason behind s-CRY-ed’s out-of-place placement on the block? And that it was because, like Food Wars over a decade later (probably), it was selected as a last-minute replacement for a show that fell through?

As of late, I’ve been thinking about Elfen Lied, the 2004 adaptation of Lynn Okamoto’s original manga. I watched the series twice over back when I was in middle school – once for a hypothetical [as] edit list, and again for a hypothetical SyFy edit list – but even before then, I knew it as an anime that was so objectionable, [as] refused to air it! Though to simplify it in such a manner would be selling short the whole story. Despite having mature subject matter and kid-inappropriate content that exceeded even their original productions of the time, [as] seriously considered airing Elfen Lied on their network, all thanks necessary to Kim Manning making enough of a case for its appeal to win over the skeptics. As far as we know, the show was in such high consideration that the first episode was given to Turner Standards and Practices to determine what edits would need to be made for it to go to air. But between Lucy’s extensive nudity during her opening escape scene and the graphic bloody violence she left in her wake – from the severed arm that served as the show’s first image to her beheading a comic relief character for getting in the way and using her body as a human shield – they deemed it “too much” for them to air and that were it to air regardless, the cuts made would have rendered it “unintelligible”. Thus, to preserve its quality and integrity, [as] ultimately turned down the show, leaving it an Anime Network exclusive to this day.

Back then, my teenaged response to “[as] will never air Elfen Lied” was “but what if they did?”, and as a result I came up with a list of hypothetical edits to the language and nudity that would make it eligible for broadcast, at least from my perspective. But as a working man, my response to “[as] will never air Elfen Lied” now is still “but what if they did?”, but different from how it was back when. Assuming Turner S&P gave so little of a shit about losing advertisers that they allowed [as] to air it with the minimum possible effort put towards hiding away all the nipples, if not fully uncut, where on the schedule would it have fit? Remembering that Elfen Lied was released stateside on DVD sometime in 2005, I was able to place it to the same time frame as the show’s 2005 premieres, where it would’ve aired presuming a push was made for dub premieres. If they were able to do it for Milk Chan, why not another ADV property?

But it wasn’t until I went on Anime News Network and looked at the release date for that first single – May 17, 2005 – that it all clicked. To illustrate what I mean, riddle me this: what if [as] was not only so serious about airing Elfen Lied that they gave it to S&P to review, but they made room for it on the schedule under the assumption that it would’ve passed the litmus test it ultimately failed? With that question in mind, plus the earlier “dub premiere push” sub-theory, it’s likely [as] wanted to premiere Elfen Lied close to its home video release, so as to allow ADV enough of a buffer to dub the episodes. With that initial release date in mind, that would have placed its prospective premiere close to that of Samurai Champloo and Paranoia Agent. Close to that of s-CRY-ed.

From there, everything started making more and more sense. s-CRY-ed being the only On Demand exclusive to see full promotion to the channel proper, the 12:30 A.M. timeslot, the 13 episodes it aired alongside Paranoia Agent before, the week after the latter’s finale, it took a break so the channel could premiere the second Inuyasha movie… Stupid and pointless and reckless and insane as my theorizing might be, I can’t help but think that this theory makes sense to me, that it’s just as legitimate in my mind as G4 cucking [as] out of airing Gungrave while the latter was making sure it was what the fans wanted over Paranoia Agent.

And that’s my theory of the hour: that s-CRY-ed was pulled from the On Demand archives as a last-minute replacement on the schedule for Elfen Lied, and that’s why it saw airtime when it did and where it did.

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