During the 2000s, Toonami aired multiple memorable anime like, Hikaru no Go, The Prince of Tennis, Hamtaro, One Piece, and Yu-Gi-Oh!
Prepare yourself for a tantalizing trip through time as we dive headfirst into the fantastical world of Toonami anime. Remember those glorious Saturday nights, huddled in front of the TV, your senses electrified as larger-than-life characters battled it out on alien landscapes?
Those dramatic cliffhangers that kept you glued to your seat, biting your nails in anticipation of the next episode? Ah, sweet nostalgia!
Toonami’s 35 Greatest Anime Broadcasts
Toonami, a blend of “cartoon” and “tsunami”, is a programming block featuring action animation, primarily American cartoons and Japanese anime. Initially aired on Cartoon Network from March 17, 1997, until September 20, 2008, it was revived on Adult Swim on May 26, 2012, targeting a more mature audience.
Let’s have a look at some of the greats!
35Jackie Chan Adventures
Airing on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, “Jackie Chan Adventures” found a perfect platform to engage with a younger audience eager for action-packed animated series.
The show’s unique blend of comedy, martial arts, and fantastical elements made it a standout among other animated programs at the time. Jackie Chan’s involvement in the series, providing his voice and lending his martial arts expertise, added an extra layer of authenticity and excitement for fans.
“Rave Master” is an anime series based on the manga of the same name by Hiro Mashima. The show made its way to the screens of Cartoon Network’s programming block, including Toonami, introducing Western audiences to its exciting world of fantasy and adventure.
The story of “Rave Master” follows Haru Glory, a young boy who inherits the powerful Rave stones, which are the key to saving the world from the forces of darkness. Alongside his companions, Haru embarks on a quest to find the remaining Rave stones and defeat the malevolent organization known as Demon Card.
Recognize that bright-eyed, furry face? The cuddly protagonist of Hamtaro is a familiar figure in Japanese media culture, even finding itself unexpectedly emblematic of government greed in Thai student protests in 2020. This adorable hamster, with his vintage charm and sparkly eyes, continues to melt the hearts of both new and long-time fans.
Dive headfirst into the delightful escapades of Hamtaro and his lovable Ham-Ham Gang, always under the watchful eye of Laura (or Hiroko, as she’s known in the original Japanese version), Hamtaro’s adored ten-year-old companion.
“Robotech” is a classic mecha anime series that gained popularity through its airing on Cartoon Network, including on the legendary programming block, Toonami. Originally released in 1985, “Robotech” is an English-language adaptation of three different Japanese anime series: “Super Dimension Fortress Macross,” “Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross,” and “Genesis Climber MOSPEADA.”
As one of the pioneers of computer-animated series in the late 90s, “ReBoot” set the stage for the era of CGI. It explores the digital world of Mainframe, guarded by the valiant Bob, Guardian 452. He combats viruses like the infamous Hexadecimal and Megabyte, armed with his versatile tool Glitch, and strengthened by his friendships with inhabitants like Dot, Enzo Matrix, Phong, and Frisket the dog.
Introduced on Toonami in 1999, “ReBoot” showcased the infancy of CGI, without compromising the quality and intent of the series. It became a fun, action-packed timestamp of technology’s progress, ushering in the CGI entertainment age. Notably, the last two seasons were exclusively aired on Toonami in the US.
From the same creators that gave us a trading card phenomenon rivaled only by Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters exploded onto the scene as the second anime adaptation from the original manga. Whether you held a deck of Duel Monsters or not, you couldn’t help but be drawn into the thrilling journeys of the strikingly coiffed Yugi Muto, his enigmatic alter-ego Yami Yugi, and their friends.
From intense card duels to the exploration of Yami Yugi’s mysterious past, the show was a rollercoaster of adventure. Although Toonami didn’t air the full series, its captivating snippet was enough to ensnare a legion of dedicated anime fans for life.
Epic battles, enchanted swords, and mighty war cries made “Thundercats” an iconic show in the mid-80s. Set on Third Earth, it followed the eponymous Thundercats in their battles against the cunning Mumm-Ra and his mutant hordes. The show swiftly became a beloved part of 80s childhood and a merchandising phenomenon.
When it premiered on Toonami in 1997, it made history as the first show on the network, solidifying its status as a franchise flagship. The nostalgic charm of “Thundercats” stirred both old and new viewers, leading to a sequel series in 2011, once again featured on Toonami.
Unsheathing its sword in the West in 2003, following a 1990s debut in Japan, Rurouni Kenshin cut a strikingly unique figure in the realm of samurai anime. Meet Kenshin, a samurai in retirement, haunted by the ghosts of his wartime deeds. His past is soaked in blood, but he’s hung up his lethal swordplay for good.
That doesn’t mean Kenshin’s fighting days are over, though. He battles on, wielding a reversed blade, dealing out justice without taking lives. Watch Kenshin dance on the fine edge of his vow, proving that you can keep your word and still pack a punch. Dive into Rurouni Kenshin and experience a samurai tale like no other.
27Hikaru no Go
Imagine a world where cerebral board games and the supernatural realm collide, where youthful wonder meets ancient wisdom. Welcome to the epic saga of Hikaru, a young boy who shares his mind with the spirit of a Heian-era Go player.
This phantom guide doesn’t just occupy Hikaru’s mind but impels him to immerse himself in the intricate world of Go, revealing the game’s profound complexities as he goes head-to-head with formidable opponents.
Blazing onto Toonami in 2001, following its late-90s debut, Outlaw Star rocketed viewers into the thrilling lives of space adventurers on a quest for hidden treasure amidst the vast cosmic expanse. But beware, a ruthless syndicate of pirates is hot on their trail, ensnaring Gene and his crew in relentless cat-and-mouse chases.
While this cosmic rodeo didn’t enjoy as extended a run as its space cowboy cousin, Cowboy Bebop — a veritable pillar of the Adult Swim lineup — Outlaw Star’s time in the Toonami spotlight was nothing short of spectacular.
25The Big O (1999–2003)
The series is set in Paradigm City, a metropolis that lost all its memories forty years prior to the start of the show due to a catastrophe known as “The Event.” The story follows Roger Smith, a professional negotiator and pilot of the titular mecha “The Big O.” He navigates his way around the city, helping its citizens and gradually unveiling the mystery of what happened forty years ago.
Cartoon Network, particularly through its action-oriented programming block, Toonami, played a crucial role in introducing “The Big O” to Western audiences. The show was initially a moderate success in Japan but found a much larger fan base in the West, thanks to its stylish animation, thought-provoking narrative, and compelling characters.
Anime centered on card games or toys isn’t just a trend — it’s a full-blown revolution, with shows like Beyblade and Yu-Gi-Oh! proving that this fascination can capture hearts not just in Japan, but also across the western world. Enter Duel Masters, a show that dove headfirst into this tidal wave of popularity, finding a home on Toonami and making a lasting splash.
Duel Masters isn’t just a great show — it’s a rollercoaster ride that catapulted its eponymous card game to unprecedented popularity. Fans rushed to craft their own Duel Masters decks, inspired by the show’s dynamic and captivating storyline, even if the on-screen rules got a little… creative.
“Transformers: Armada” is an anime series that is part of the iconic Transformers franchise. It premiered in Japan in 2002 as “Transformers: Micron Densetsu” and was later localized and aired on Cartoon Network’s programming block, including Toonami.
When “Transformers: Armada” aired on Cartoon Network and Toonami, it captured the attention of young viewers and fans of the franchise. The show’s action-packed battles, intriguing storyline, and the nostalgic presence of beloved Transformers characters resonated with audiences.
Premiering during Toonami’s coveted Saturday afternoon slot, .hack//Sign blazed a trail in multimedia storytelling. Released in tandem with the first game, .hack//Infection, and accompanied by another anime, .hack//Liminality, bundled in the game disc, it was a powerful thrust into a sprawling, interconnected universe.
While each piece of the .hack universe shared some characters and the fictitious MMORPG, The World, they offered unique storytelling spins. .hack//Sign wasn’t your run-of-the-mill anime. It was a thought-provoking journey, a cerebral escape that plunged viewers into a realm of quiet introspection, delving into the intricacies of psychology and existentialism.
21The Prince of Tennis
Bursting from the pages of its best-selling manga namesake, The Prince of Tennis catapults us into the life of tennis wunderkind Ryoma as he steps onto the courts of Seigaku, an academy infamous for its prodigious tennis team. The series swings us into a thrilling exploration of teamwork, a burning passion for the sport, and its technical nitty-gritty.
Sure, Slam Dunk might’ve slam-dunked basketball into Japan’s spotlight, but The Prince of Tennis holds its own court in the sports anime genre. With its legacy living on in stage musicals, live-action films, and a 2022 reboot commemorating its 20th anniversary, this series serves up a testament to the enduring love for the sport and the show.
Enter Tenchi Muyo, catapulting onto the Toonami scene in 2000, despite its initial nineties release. This was the first stride of many more for Tenchi Muyo on Toonami’s platform, defying typical harem anime tropes by adding a fantastical mix of space pirates and ancient Japanese magic.
The mash-up of genres didn’t just work, it sizzled. It served up a feast for harem anime fans, even if Toonami did decide to put the brakes on some of the fan service. But worry not, you purists out there — other releases deliver all the uncensored Tenchi Muyo goodness you could ever want!
19He Man and the Masters of the Universe
This revamped and modernized rendition of “He-Man,” which debuted on Toonami in 2002, invited young audiences to explore the world of Eternia while honoring its 1980s origins. With more intricate world-building, upgraded animations, and fresh character designs, the series kept fans on the edge of their seats with epic battles and a conniving Skeletor.
This adaptation excellently balanced fidelity to the original series and fresh innovations, crafting a rich, future-fantasy lore that appealed to both new viewers and longtime fans. Thanks to its broad allure, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” became one of Toonami’s most underrated gems.
Gundam Wing didn’t just land on the scene in 2000 — it exploded, seizing the imagination of a young audience, despite its initial airing in 1995. This iteration packed a punch with a grittier narrative and a record-breaking array of Gundam models. To say it was a hit would be a colossal understatement.
Such was its success that Toonami boldly launched a nightly, uncensored run of the show, giving birth to what we now know as Adult Swim. The unedited version added some grit — a dash of language here, a sprinkle of blood there — but nothing to knock you off your seat.
Cyborg 009 burst onto the scene around the same time as .hack//Sign, initially carving its niche in the weekday slot before shifting gears to the weekend roster. The narrative zooms in on a dynamic ensemble of nine heroes, each sporting a unique array of mechanical enhancements.
Meet Agent 009, the eponymous cyborg, who wields the power to warp time with his Mach speed abilities. Today, Cyborg 009 may not be as widely known and might even seem a bit straightforward or cliched to some. But for fans of cyborg-centric action, this is a hidden gem that’s absolutely worth unearthing. So, buckle up and dive into the riveting world of Cyborg 009.
Sailor Moon, inspiring numerous beloved magical girl anime, gained wider popularity when its English dub premiered on Toonami in 1998. The show maintained its staple status on the block for 200 episodes and three movies, with the exception of its fifth and final unlicensed season in the United States. Nonetheless, it remained a top offering on Toonami for years.
Standing out from typical Saturday morning cartoons, Sailor Moon blended traditional magical girl anime tropes with aspects of tokusatsu and Super Sentai shows. Usagi Tsukino, the unexpected hero, charmed audiences with her goofy and panicky demeanor. Yet, when the situation demanded it, she proved herself as Earth’s strongest protector.
Dancing onto screens in the 1980s, Dragon Ball, the first animated adaptation of one of history’s most celebrated mangas, later found a new home on Toonami’s early 2000s reruns. This scheduling encore breathed life into a new generation of fandom for this legendary series.
Sure, the successor series, Dragon Ball Z, might’ve captured more limelight, but Dragon Ball was the trailblazer, the unstoppable force that propelled its successor into fame. It kickstarted an unforgettable, action-filled animated adventure that continues to live vividly in the hearts of fans to this day. Dragon Ball is not just an anime, it’s an epoch of memories and excitement that never fades.
14Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is not just an anime; it’s a pulsating phenomenon that’s captured the hearts of shonen genre enthusiasts everywhere. This series seizes your imagination, hurling you into a world of epic transformations, planet-shaking battles, and some of the most unforgettable scenes in anime lore.
Join Goku, Vegeta, and the unstoppable Z Warriors as they soar to unimaginable heights of power, squaring off against a slew of intergalactic threats. From the nail-biting clash of Goku and Piccolo against Raditz to Gohan’s momentous showdown with Majin Buu, the roster of memorable Dragon Ball Z moments is nothing short of staggering.
Under the direction of Shinichiro Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop tells the story of the bounty-hunting crew aboard the ship Bebop, as they grapple with their pasts while trying to earn a living. The setting brims with futuristic technology, but societal progress lags behind. Despite the technological wonders, Wild West rules still govern human life.
The relationship between Toonami and Cowboy Bebop is complex. Initially a part of Adult Swim’s anime block, Cowboy Bebop holds the distinction of being the first anime ever to feature on Adult Swim. Over time, Toonami has cycled the show in and out of its lineup multiple times, as the network gained and lost syndication rights and replaced it with other shows. Interestingly, the airing order of the episodes often varied, with episode 14 being the premiere!
12The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest
“The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest,” a modern sequel to the 1960s original Hanna-Barbera show, hit the nostalgia chord while pushing boundaries with its new stylistic take. Premiering in 1997, this series offered episodic adventure-exploration with complex storytelling, cutting-edge digital painting, and a blend of old and new that drew mixed reviews.
What set “Jonny Quest” apart was its inclusion of strong female character Jesse and a nuanced portrayal of minority character Hadji. It ignited curiosity and ambition in young viewers, embodying Toonami’s mission of preserving tradition while innovating for future generations.
“Yu Yu Hakusho” plunges viewers into a world where death is the start of a supernatural journey filled with demons and spirits. Launching on Toonami in 2003, it trails Yusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old spirit detective. Once a delinquent, Yusuke now combats evil threats with his newfound powers, cheeky attitude, and potent squad, although achieving success proves challenging.
A fan-favorite, “Yu Yu Hakusho” is celebrated for its feisty characters, gripping narrative, top-notch humor, profound character development, and exhilarating action. It’s an undisputed Toonami classic that keeps audiences glued to their screens.
Elevating the cool ninja concept, “Naruto” offers a captivating blend of supernatural action and compelling storytelling, catapulting anime to new heights. Premiering on Toonami in 2005, this global phenomenon introduced a timeless adventure that’s enthralled viewers ever since.
The magic of “Naruto” lies in its dynamic characters, innovative combat systems, and its seamless fusion of humor and intensity. With a fanbase rivaling that of “Dragon Ball Z,” it commands fiery loyalty. Every Toonami Saturday night, fans eagerly anticipate their return to the Village Hidden in the Leaves.
9Attack on Titan
Toonami aired Attack on Titan in seven separate runs from 2014 to 2022. As one of the best anime series of all time, excluding it from this type of list would be absurd. Furthermore, its maturity makes it a stark contrast to the cartoons typically seen on Cartoon Network hours before it broadcasts.
8My Hero Academia
Set in a world where 80% of the population possess superpowers, or “Quirks,” My Hero chronicles the life of Izuku Midoriya, also known as Deku, a rare individual without a Quirk. The distinctness of My Hero lies in its fascinating world where no two characters share the same Quirk.
Currently, My Hero is recognized as one of the finest “modern” anime, celebrated for its diverse characters, power scaling, engaging story arcs, and humor.
“Samurai Jack,” set in a dystopian future, narrates the thrilling journey of a samurai, Jack, who faces robots and supernatural beings while fighting the evil demon Aku. After being flung into the future by Aku, Jack strives to return to his time to rewrite the terrifying future he’s trapped in.
Launching on Toonami in 2002, “Samurai Jack” won hearts with its meticulous animation and gripping fight scenes. Despite the minimalist dialogue, the show skillfully unfolded a coherent story through its characters’ actions and visual storytelling. Its tonal shifts, oscillating between light and dark, added an intriguing dynamic. Even though it had a brief stint on Toonami, it holds the honor of being the last show aired on the channel in 2008, prior to its 2012 comeback.
6Pokemon: Master Quest
“Pokemon: Master Quest” aired on Toonami, a programming block on Cartoon Network dedicated primarily to animated action series, predominantly consisting of American cartoons and Japanese anime. Toonami played a significant role in introducing Pokemon, and anime in general, to a broader audience outside Japan.
By airing on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, “Pokemon: Master Quest” was able to reach a wider viewership, contributing to the Pokemon franchise’s global popularity. It was a part of many viewers’ childhoods and further cemented Pokemon’s status as a beloved and enduring part of pop culture.
Cardcaptors, also known as Cardcaptor Sakura in Japan, is a celebrated anime series that found its way to western audiences, including the United States, through Cartoon Network’s programming block. It was originally created by the manga group Clamp and first aired in Japan in the late 1990s.
The series follows Sakura Kinomoto, an elementary school student who stumbles upon a mystical book in her father’s library. Upon opening the book, she inadvertently releases a set of magical cards, known as Clow Cards, into the world. Each of these cards possesses a unique power, and it becomes Sakura’s responsibility to recapture them to prevent a potential catastrophe.
Ichigo Kurosaki, blessed with the uncanny ability to see ghosts, stumbles upon Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki and inherits her powers. This draws him into a realm of warriors guiding deceased souls to their final resting place. As he hones his new abilities, he forges lifelong friendships and confronts progressively formidable foes.
Ranking among the “Big Three” manga and anime of the late nineties and early 2000s — alongside One Piece and Naruto — Bleach joined Toonami quite late. Its first appearance on the block came in 2012, as the original series was winding down, beginning with episode 255 out of the pre-Thousand-Year Blood War total of 366 episodes. Despite its late arrival, Bleach carried its devoted fan base to the platform, ensuring its place as one of Toonami’s most popular anime.
“One Piece,” a staple in the anime world, is renowned as one of Shonen Jump’s “Big Three” and holds the title of best-selling manga and top-rated anime in Japan. However, its journey on Toonami was not as smooth.
Most of Toonami’s initial “One Piece” broadcast was filled with reruns of 4Kids’ controversially censored dub. After 4Kids lost the rights, Toonami aired Funimation’s more accurate dub, but only until partway through the Sky Island arc, before the network canceled the show. However, “One Piece” found its way back to Adult Swim’s Toonami block from 2013 to 2017.
2Astro Boy (2003)
In 2003, a new adaptation of Astro Boy was produced to reintroduce the beloved character to a new generation of viewers. This remake was visually updated, yet it retained the core themes that made the original series so poignant, like discussions on what it means to be human, the relationship between robots and humans, and social justice issues.
This series also became a part of Cartoon Network’s lineup, exposing a broader audience in the United States and globally to the charm and allure of anime. By broadcasting Astro Boy, Cartoon Network played a pivotal role in promoting the popularity and acceptance of anime outside Japan, helping to foster an appreciation for the unique storytelling and animation style inherent to the genre.
Notably, Voltron holds the distinction of being the first anime to grace the Toonami airwaves. As such, it laid the groundwork for the anime-focused programming that Toonami would ultimately adopt and become known for. Its initial season, “The Lion Force,” sporadically ran on Toonami from 1997 through to 2000.
The central narrative of Voltron revolves around an intrepid team of five pilots. Each of these pilots has control over a unique robotic Lion mech. When needed, these individual mechs can combine to form the formidable and eponymous Voltron. This transformative, mechanized titan is the cornerstone of their defense strategy.
Their mission is to safeguard the planet Arus from an array of threats. This includes the menacing King Zarkon, his equally dangerous son Lotor, and a wicked witch known by the name of Haggar. This diverse cast of villains presents a persistent and escalating threat, keeping the team on their toes and perpetually testing their courage, cunning, and cooperation.
Each episode introduces new challenges and new scenarios that test the resolve of our protagonists. Through their actions, they not only protect Arus but also strengthen their bonds as a team. As the series progresses, we witness their individual and collective growth, painting a rich tapestry of adventure and camaraderie that’s sure to enthral all viewers.
Toonami 25th Anniversary