For years, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim (where it originally premiered as an April Fools’ Day gag) have used the Toonami name as branding for more action-centric cartoons and anime imports, with a little robot mascot named TOM stepping in to replace original “host” Moltar (from Space Ghost!) early on. TOM, voiced by Cowboy Bebop’s Steve Blum for the last 20 years, generally just introduces new shows—give or take the weird eras where Toonami had a plot and TOM did game reviews—but on last night’s block he took a break from talking about Naruto and Dragon Ball Z to talk about Black Lives Matter.
Which, this being Toonami, involved talking about Naruto and Dragon Ball Z. The clip, which was shared by fan page Toonami News on Twitter, seems targeted at Toonami and Adult Swim’s white viewers, explaining that if you think the current conversations about racial inequality and the protests against police violence aren’t really relevant to you and your life, then “you’ve got some truth to uncover.” The clever angle, though, is that the speech preemptively addresses the people who are going to say “this isn’t why I watch Toonami” with clips from shows that have aired on Toonami of characters talking about fighting against hatred and injustice—as it to say, “Yes, this is why you watch Toonami.”
Toonami co-creator Jason DeMarco explained on Twitter that the idea for the speech came from Toonami employees who wanted to find a way to directly acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement, with the final clip being produced, written, and edited by Black members of the Toonami staff. Also, Steve Blum tweeted that he stands by the statement, putting a recognizable human face (at least to the anime community) on what could otherwise be read as the same potentially hollow stance that every big company has made over the last few months.
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.