Writing breathlessly now. I'm due on a morning flight to Los Angeles and must sleep for an hour or two.
As I mentioned earlier this week, the first big-budget Japanese and American anime collaboration, Afro Samurai, debuts tonight at 11 on Spike TV. The artwork, direction, production, conception and script all come from Japan. Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman, and other American actors handle the voice acting; the RZA of Wu Tang Clan cinched the score.
I will be interviewed along with the RZA and others by author, historian, critic and animation encyclopedia Charles Solomon in an Afro segment airing today on National Public Radio's "Day to Day."
In many respects, this is a signal series ? a litmus test for cross-cultural anime productions ? which is precisely why numerous stories surrounding its making and execution, not to mention the personalities 'behind the scenes,' feature significantly in my book. If anime is going to continue to grow as a medium, and as a product, this is one crucial way it might do so.
Talent is both aging and thinning back in Japan, right at the time the audience is expanding in the US and elsewhere. Far too many Japanese producers seem at a loss, befuddled by both scenarios. As author Matt Alt, anime director Michael Arias, and others told me, even the medium itself seems to have reached an aesthetic plateau ? an excellent one, in some cases, but not one promising growth.
Arthur Smith, British president of the international division of GDH/Gonzo, the original producers of the Afro series, has been there from the beginning, six years ago, and was responsible for linking Afro to America. "Only a European could coordinate between both cultures," he said. "The Japanese want freedom, no time constraints, no specs. The Americans want contracts, deadlines, and storyboards. It's been a very long and difficult road."
American Eric Calderon, who headed MTV's animation division in the Beavis and Butthead years, managed the creative side, working directly with the author of the story, Takashi Okazaki, and the Japanese artists and animation director. "You almost have to unlearn everything you've learned in Hollywood," he said.
After my book was completed, both told me in separate conversations that there are at least two other big-budget, collaborative anime projects in the works to follow Afro. Based on the riveting visuals of episode 1, there ought to be more to come.
I am finishing a novel at the moment ? polishing, sharpening (but not preparing for a knife fight.) There will a bit more to come from me. From Los Angeles.