Ten Years Ago Today, Bionix Debuted on YTV. It’s Time We Got It Back.

bionix10th

Earlier today, Corus Entertainment spoke before the CRTC in a hearing to determine the future direction of television in this country. Amid the myriad of talking points debating pick-and-pay television, preponderance of Canadian services, and availability of youth broadcasting, I wonder if at any point the Corus representatives thought “hey, isn’t today the tenth anniversary of that anime block that ran on YTV? Maybe we should bring that thing back.” It’s understandable if they didn’t – even I forgot that Bionix debuted ten years ago today.

There isn’t very much that needs to be said in terms of reflecting on YTV’s former prime time anime block, which began on 10 September 2004 and ended sometime in either 2009 or 2010. Depends on who you ask. I already ran through my personal favourite memories of Bionix on its fifth anniversary, and the various bumpers and branding that defined its aesthetic are thoroughly documented and archived on YouTube. If you need a whimsical nostalgia fix, it’s all right there alongside various cuts of Short Circuitz and those beloved 90s PSAs. Lose yourself in reflection if you want, but we’re at a point now where fans need to start shifting their mindset towards the return of adult-oriented anime on Canadian TV, if not outright restoration of the Bionix block, as a realistic possibility in the near future.

The last time I dared comment on the state of late night animated programming, I dismissed the idea of anime making a significant comeback. It was a reasonable stance to take at the time, given how Adult Swim’s anime block was on a serious decline in the States. The return of the Toonami branding less than two months later certainly changed those circumstances. Ratings have increased to the point that they’re now practically fetishized by the block’s most devoted followers, the risk factor on experimenting with titles has gone way down, and companies like Aniplex are now perceiving even extremely late timeslots as valuable exposure. The new Toonami still has to make do with a lower promotional budget than its predecessor and struggles to gain an earlier start time, but still demonstrates just how powerful a strategic change in branding can be.

I’d like to think that kind of sensation can be replicated in Canada with the Bionix branding, at least to a degree. The sheer fanaticism that surrounds Toonami for even its more casual followers can be linked to the fact that the minds behind the block were trendsetters and sought to create demand for then-unexploited forms of entertainment under a unique banner. They put many unique touches on the advertising, even going so far as to create custom intros for their shows, although that is a tradition I’m sort of glad never carried over here. Bionix, by comparison, was merely a response to the existing demand for anime on television, but it was a very well planned and implemented one. It’s presence as a block was low-key, but was more than enough to spawn multiple imitators, and still continue to resonate strongly with people who were into anime in the mid-to-late 2000s. A return would no doubt be embraced loudly and positively by that audience, so long as they have a reason to be excited. I think the most important thing that got the new Toonami block off the ground that Bionix fans are currently lacking is a glimmer of hope. When viewers anticipating yet another screening of The Room were ambushed by a special Toonami line-up as an April Fool’s Day prank, the enormous highly-trending response on Twitter was entirely unanticipated. I’m not sure if anime fans could accomplish such a social media feat here due to a more diffused presence in social media, but I do think that the amount of support could come as a surprise.

If you need a glimmer of hope, let me provide one: earlier this year, Corus Entertainment purchased Teletoon. This is a bit of a negative development in the grand scheme of things since this effectively gives the company a near monopoly on Canadian children’s television, but it has already resulted in some interesting changes. Earlier this month, Teletoon “inherited” the last of YTV’s kids anime programming. It’s not terrible surprising, given YTV’s gradual shift towards tween-geared comedy shows. While this pretty much guarantees that Bionix won’t be returning on YTV, it does suggest some major internal changes at Teletoon since they have not aired any non co-produced anime series’ since 2005. They’ve resisted airing any anime TV series’ in their late night block for almost their entire 18 year history, but under Corus’ influence it looks like just about anything is on the table.

It’s useless for anime fans to simply tell Teletoon that they want anime on TV, but hopefully it won’t be long before they recognize the huge success that Toonami has proven to be for Adult Swim in the States.  From my view the emergence of a block like this could be a pretty cyclical occurrence. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it sure feels like 2003 to me right now.

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9 responses to “Ten Years Ago Today, Bionix Debuted on YTV. It’s Time We Got It Back.

  1. Has it really been 10 years? Time sure flies huh.

    I remember emailing Teletoon back in the day to encourage Teletoon to pick up Fullmetal Alchemist and their response was basically that they had no interest at all in it.

    I don’t get the Teletoon channel anymore so I’m not sure what their late night line up is like but I’m sure they could find some anime to fit in with it. Or even just mirror whatever Toonami has like Bionix used to do IIRC.

    • Right now Teletoon’s late night line-up isn’t much different than it has been for the past few years, but the daytime portion of the station is undergoing quite a few changes under Corus. As long as the viewers keep the heat on, I don’t think it will be long before we see some signs of change in their adult programming.

  2. Wow 10 years flew that quick. I respect what your doing here Jonathanprimus, you have an unwavering and dying will that persists to go on and retrieve beloved anime back into Canadian Broadcasting.

    But unfortunately Canadian broadcasting if following a trend of sitcom and reality shows. I really do miss the glory days of Bionix. But all good things come to an end.

    • I’m not Jonathan, he runs I Miss Bionix which is independent from this blog.

    • ambimunch

      Hey, did you used to go by the name Katalyst? I could be completely wrong, but I think I knew you from the YTV boards before they went belly up. On YTV I was LivingInDreams. Sorry in case that’s not you lol

  3. Hey Jesse, longtime reader of yours and formerly zannen, I want to ask you a question about this. My theory is that Canadian broadcasters have completely abandonned anime because they don’t fit in with CanCon requirements. They would rather use their acquisition budgets to get contracts with American network like Nick/CN because these are often sure-fire hits. They don’t seek anything else from other countries because they would rather air CanCon content in their lowest-rated hours to fill requirements than try anime. Do you think this has any value? Canadian anime fans have since mostly turned to streaming for their content. I think it would be hard to get them back to cable. Exposure to new people is a good thing but I don’t think the core audience is going back to cable.

    • They may play a small role, but I don’t think CanCon rules are the primary factor, especially not now. CanCon rules have become more flexible over the past six or seven years, so any network who wanted to run an anime block certainly could without running into regulatory snags. The main problem is that no matter how you break it down, adult-oriented anime is a niche market. Yes, it’s a niche market that we all know has huge potential, but jumping into it is a risk and definitely requires a vested interest in the content. Keep in mind that even in the US, very few broadcasters have any interest in anime now. The only reason that Toonami is going is because of a handful of staff at Adult Swim who are driven to keeping it alive and thriving, often working over time with little-to-no additional pay.

      I agree that broadcast television is vital for exposure. On television, viewers can unwittingly stumble into the middle of an episode of something like Cowboy Bebop or Death Note and have their interest piqued. That can’t happen even on something with a large spread and high potential for exposure like Netflix.

  4. ambimunch

    A little late but whoa..10 years already! It’s very hard for me to believe a decade already went by. When I think back to where I was in 2004 compared to today (2014), I realize how many things happened in my life.

    Happy birthday Bionix (even though you’re gone lol), you were definitely one of the highlights of my childhood as well as YTV in the last decade overall.

    It is very intriguing how you compare the state of television today to that of 2003. I suppose we are at a point where big changes are taking place, which might just give a rise to something new, but I wonder what is the likelihood of 14+ anime shows coming back. If going by the Toonami example, such a move requires risk taking and employee dedication. Even if Corus takes that risk, I wonder how much effort would be put into it? Half a year ago in March, YTV dismantled their boards, where me and another few guys kept nagging about Bionix and it’s revival (we even got Andy from Crunch to comment on the petition and say he supported it :D ) — which was further proof of how little YTV cared.

    Despite being a fan, I think I am quite a skeptic too. I would bet my money that if anime were to ever return to cable, it would be no sooner than 2020 (roughly a decade after the shut down of Bionix), at which point both the corporate head honchos and the audience would be craving for something new. However, your viewpoint definitely opens up a new perspective and I sincerely hope anime-related changes will be made soon!

    • 2020 is a little too skeptical I think. Space Dandy and Attack on Titan are two of the biggest titles to get released in years, and I’m sure that they’ll generate some interest sooner than later, especially with all the Toonami buzz. Definitely not expecting anything to show up on YTV, though.