In a surprise move the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim has reduced the number of anime series in its Saturday night lineup.  Starting this Saturday, September 13th, Viz Media’s Bleach will lead off the Adult Swim block at 11pm (ET, PT) followed by an episode of FUNimation’s Fullmetal Alchemist.  The previous schedule, which had been announced on August 25th, featured four anime series--FUNimation’s Shin Chan (at midnight ET, PT) followed by Bleach, Bandai’s Code Geass and Media Blasters’ Moribito.  All four anime shows were then rebroadcast starting at 3am (ET, PT).  Now Shin Chan is gone from the schedule and Code Geass and Moribito have been banished to 5am and 5:30am (ET, PT) respectively.


This latest scheduling change, which reportedly was a reaction to low Saturday night ratings on Adult Swim, continues a long term trend that has seen the number of anime series on Adult Swim gradually diminish.  The only anime series that is shown on Adult Swim during the week is Viz Media’s Inuyasha, which has been relegated to a 5:30am early morning slot.  Now Adult Swim is reducing the anime presence in its Saturday night lineup, which followed and complemented the Cartoon Network’s Toonami Saturday night block that represented the Cartoon Network’s primary anime venue.


What difference do these changes make?  Well, the Cartoon Network is available on the basic tier of most cable systems, which makes it more available than many of the other cable networks that show anime, some of which are not included in the basic package of all cable systems.  Also, the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim in particular have long been the prime venue for anime on American TV.  The enormous popularity of the Cowboy Bebop and Trigun anime series was the direct result of their being shown on Adult Swim. 


Thus the Adult Swim scheduling changes represent blows to Bandai and Mediablasters.  Code Geass premiered on Adult Swim last April and the second season of the stylish anime series was scheduled to air on Adult Swim (see “Second Season of Code Geass”), and the changes could be even worse for Mediablasters’ Moribito, a fascinating fantasy series from Production I.G. and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, which just debuted on August 24th, has not received the same amount of exposure as Code Geass.