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2004 Year in Review
Anime on TV

by Bamboo Dong,
At the end of each year, it seems necessary to pause and reflect on the huge strides that anime has made on television. Considering the continual growth over these past several years, it's almost a custom now to draw attention to the new landmarks that were made. Like all the previous years, 2004 was no exception. From broadcast television to video on demand, anime has been making its strong presence known in every cable box across America.

Remember when the Cartoon Network first started showing anime so many years ago? The variety was scant, but fans were overjoyed to see it on their screens every weekday. Flash forward to now and the difference is phenomenal. Thanks to ever-increasing slots devoted to anime and the realization that not only children watch these series, the network has been able to target more demographics with its choices. With its action blocks, its Toonami blocks, and Adult Swim, viewers are virtually guaranteed something to match their tastes. Younger audiences can be happy with shows like Duel Masters, Rave Master, and Knights of the Zodiac. Mecha fans have Gundam Seed, shounen fans have Yū Yū Hakusho... the list goes on and on. In the end, 2004 saw the broadcast of a giant spectrum of shows, such as Case Closed, Inu Yasha, Cyborg 009, .hack//SIGN, and the second Lupin III TV series. They even tried their hand at comedy with the quirky (and sadly unintelligible) Super Milk-chan. If that wasn't enough, they piled on fan favorites like the Read or Die OAV series, Wolf's Rain, and most recently, Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. With this menu of delectable anime series, could the anime broadcasting scene get any better?

Yes. Of course.

The invasion of anime onto American stations had no intention of limiting its growth to one channel. There were plenty of other networks that stocked themselves with new shows, though they didn't have quite the wide demographic appeal of the Cartoon Network. The Fox Box worked its magic with shows like One Piece. At the same time, they also showed that they wanted to appeal to female viewers by licensing Tokyo Mew Mew. However, the reaction wasn't all favorable, as fans balked at name changes and potential edits. What transpires won't be known until later this year, when it finally airs.

Then there's TechTV, which started showing Last Exile at the beginning of spring. Shortly afterwards, they were bought by G4, but to the relief of anime fans, the Anime Unleashed programming block was preserved. Well aware that anime is watched by more than just kids, the network presented viewers with shows like R.O.D. the TV and Gungrave. And why not? A few years ago, anime was finally beginning to be seen as acceptable and interesting. Now it was seen as profitable. Anime was popping up everywhere as everyone stepped in to grab a hold of the new market trend. And yet, anime on TV was to get one more huge boost in 2004.

At the end of June, what North American anime fans had been fantasizing about for years finally came true—a 24/7 anime channel on cable TV. After being on Comcast's Video On Demand service for so long, The Anime Network went linear. Granted, not everyone had access to it, but it was a healthy start. Insight Communications and Buckeye Cable subscribers in certain areas now had anime at their fingertips whenever they wanted. With just a flick of their remote, they could immerse themselves into the different programming blocks featured on the network. For action fans, there was stuff like Mezzo, Chrono Crusade, and Noir. For mecha fans there was RahXephon and Evangelion... The full list could easily fill up a whole sheet. From action to mecha, from comedy to drama, The Anime Network was like a dream for some fans. The only question is, will it be the only one of its ilk forever? Not likely.

Other companies made comments about starting their own Anime Network too. FUNimation president Gen Fukanaga stated that they were considering an all-anime channel as well. As far as new channels go though, 2004 also marked the launch of a New Network by the name of Imaginasian. Dedicated to serving up a variety of Asian entertainment, the network also airs some anime series, including A Wind Named Amnesia, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, They Were 11, Figure 17, and others.

Now that the anime cash cow has gotten fat, other companies are investing in it too. “Anime-inspired” cartoons are being thrown onto television screens, featuring big eyes and colorful hair. Shows like Totally Spies and Code LYOKO on the Cartoon Network, or MTV's Kappa Mikey are seizing the popularity of anime. After all, if that's what hot right now, why not join in the buzz?

Like the past few years, 2004 has been nothing but growth, growth, growth in terms of the North American anime industry. Reaching more viewers than ever before, the industry has found a comfortable balance between keeping current fans happy, all while ensnaring in more potential anime fans every day. What will happen in 2005 is still a mystery, but with the way things have been going so far, it will be surprising if it's anything short of amazing.

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