Who doesn’t know Afro Samurai? That is the question. The sheer coolness of our afro-enhanced protagonist and his number one headband perhaps even rivals that of Steve McQueen. At least that’s what the ratings of the man channel, i.e.
Spike TV, suggest.
Anime has always had a broad fan base, but suddenly even that stereotypical, testosterone-charged, crooked cap wearin’ bro in the Affliction tank top could speak a little otaku.
Seriously, could that much coolness come out of Japan?
Well, at AnimeExpo LA I stole a few minutes with Takashi Okazaki, creator of Afro Samurai.
Mr. Okazaki you’re obviously most known for Afro Samurai. But do you have any other creations that are especially dear, anything you want fans to know about?
"Personally Afro Samurai is my best. Out of all my work it is my best project."
The coolness, that hip-hip flavor which pervades this series, seems more indicative of the streets of LA or New York than Tokyo. What was the inspiration for Afro?
"Inspiration comes from what’s around me: movies, novels, news. Everything."
How was it having Sam Jackson on the project? Did he add something unique to your character, something unexpected?
"He found the pilot movie and it inspired him. He contacted the producers himself and got involved, so he is an important force for Afro in the US."
For Resurrection, were you involved with bringing RZA on board?
"Resurrection has not been released in Japan yet. And RZA was another important element for the sequel. I’m pretty sure his contribution will be kept in the Japan release."
Strong female antagonists are in no way strange to anime, but their aesthetic is usually slender. Sio is different. She’s curvy, if not bootylicious, as the boys might say. Was she always envisioned this way?
"When Sio was first designed she was tall and skinny. For the anime version character design wanted her to be more glamorous, especially her figure. So she was changed for the series."
The blending of time is also marked and elegantly done in Afro Samurai. Is this seemingly natural coexistence between the sword and high technology a phenomenon unique to Japan, because the katana is such an iconic image in its culture?
"The world of Afro Samurai is very unique. I didn’t just blend modern Japan with the middle ages. I wanted to bring the essence of modern technology to Edo Japan."
Okay I know you have to go, but what anime are you watching?
"Is it okay if it’s old?"
Yes, of course.
"Giant Robot. And the ova of Giant Robot."
And is there anything you’ve seen recently that struck you as visionary, that pushes the genre forward?
"I’m too busy to keep track of all the current anime. But The Girl Who Leapt Through Time made a big step for anime."
Thanks Mr. Okazaki. I appreciate your time.
Well there you have it. The world continues to collapse upon itself. Whether you find yourself working in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Mexico City, or Los Angeles culture and its influence is a TV or wi-fi connection away. Only now, only at this moment, can we have a samurai that rhythmically cuts to the beats of RZA, and whose methodical rival struts with a voluptuousness born on Western streets.
Oh yes, if you haven't seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, you're falling behind.