'The People's Toonami Site'

Author: Andrew

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June 23rd: Countdown to Shippuden

If you have been following the Naruto franchise since Toonami began broadcasting it in 2005, you probably are aware that the current season is filler between Naruto and Sasuke's fight and Naruto's return to the Leaf Village after some training with Jiraiya. At that point he will be three years older and the series takes a slightly darker turn. But before we get to that "good stuff" we have to sit through a lot more filler and one can only wonder if the ratings in the US will see the same significant drop the Japanese ratings did when Naruto got to this very slump. CN barely promotes Naruto anymore, but some people might see that as a sign that CN expects the show to do fine even without promotion. Thus far it has met that expectation, but what does CN have planned for the arrival of Naruto's continuation, known as Shippuden?

I suppose we cannot expect the network to pull out all the stops like they did with the premiere of Ben 10: Alien Force, but the thought does sound enticing. I expect we'll see at least one more massive Naruto marathon before Shippuden arrives - possibly right before it.

Naruto is the only show that keeps the Toonami brand alive at this point, so its success can make or break the block. And this is where my worries come in. A lot of people enjoy the Shippuden stories as they were in the manga but I, like many, have found the anime itself to be rather dull and drawn out, so the promise for a better tomorrow seems slightly out of reach for Naruto fans who only have watched the dub thus far. It's still a good show, but it loses a lot of steam and the pacing can be absolutely awful - even compared to the pacing the first half of the series had. Still, I certainly hope it can succeed here despite those issues (which may turn the American viewers away even more than the Japanese audience.)

In terms of content, Naruto: Shippuden could push the envelope more than ever. It might even become the network's first non-Adult Swim, TV-14 rated show - but I suspect that Viz won't let it push beyond the current TV-PG restraints. That said, it will still be the most mature program the block has aired in quite a while. That type of serious drama could open the door to the likes of D.Gray-Man, and full series production for Hellboy. it perhaps could allow One Piece to make use of its current TV-PG rating. So much like the first half of Naruto, Shippuden has the power to change what we perceive to be "Toonami material".

Judging by how fast the series is being dubbed, I expect CN to keep up the double premieres until the end of the current Naruto series at episode 22. Viz will want to launch Shippuden sooner rather than later, but currently a mid-November date seems like the earliest premiere date possible - and an early 2009 date seems more likely.

Despite how some people feel about the series at this point, we should thank Naruto for getting Saturday Toonami as far as it has and feel somewhat assured that if all goes according to plan, Naruto Shippuden will keep the block alive and well for years to come.


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