Toonami's robot hosts TOM and SARA have a lot more personality than you'd expect from characters whose primary purpose is to advertise action cartoons. Various "Total Immersion Events" (T.I.E.s) have transformed the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim block's packaging into an intriguing universe of its own. For years, many Toonami faithful have wondered if TOM and SARA could sustain their own animated series. Cosmo Samurai, the latest T.I.E., offers perhaps the best path forward for such a show.
Unlike other T.I.E.s, which were made in-house by the Toonami team at Williams Street and integrated into the block's packaging, the four-part Cosmo Samurai series is an anime directed by Naruto's Yasuaki Kurotsu and animated by Telecom Animation Film (the studio behind Tower of God and the recent Lupin III series). It's "non-canonical," so the animation was not beholden to the specific designs used in the block's bumpers.
Cosmo Samurai's story packs a lot of action and energy into its collected 13-minute runtime. When their ship, the Absolution, gets attacked by space pirates, TOM and SARA get separated across the galaxy. Luckily, TOM gets rescued by the Cosmo Samurai, a team consisting of a swordfighter, a spear-wielder, a ninja and a psychic talking cat. SARA, meanwhile, is kidnapped by the Cosmo Samurai's dinosaur nemesis, so it's up to TOM and his new friends to save the day.
It's all very ridiculous in a classic "anime" way, but it's not a parody so much as an effective recreation of what makes these tropes so fun in the first place. It would feel right at home on any of the old-school Toonami line-ups, right alongside Tenchi Muyo, Ronin Warriors and Outlaw Star.
Cosmo Samurai ends on a cliffhanger that demands continuation, and Jason DeMarco, the co-creator of the Toonami block, has confirmed it will receive one next year. For the moment, however, he's playing coy about whether or not this continuation will take the form of another T.I.E. or a full half-hour series. The latter would be especially exciting.
In the streaming age, Toonami needs all the original programming it can get to stay relevant, and Cosmo Samurai seems to have cracked the formula for how to make TOM and SARA the heroes of a compelling ongoing narrative. This T.I.E. gave them a diverse and eccentric cast of characters to bounce off of and the freedom to tell grander stories unbound by the limits of Toonami's bumper requirements. It deserves a full-fledged anime series.