Date: 2006 November 02 09:18
Posted by Jeremy
Afro Samurai set to make its debut in January on Spike TV.
The debut date for Afro Samurai, one of the most anticipated anime projects in recent months, has finally been announced. ICv2 has announced that the five-part series, based on the self-published manga by Takashi "Bob" Okazaki and produced by Samuel L. Jackson (who also voices the lead character), will debut on the Spike TV network on Thursday, January 4th, 2007. The series was originally set to debut in November, but has apparently been pushed back for unknown reasons.
The multi-media bonanza that Afro Samurai has become is a surprising one, no doubt especially to creator Takashi. The Tokyo-based graphic designer wrote and illustrated the series – about a samurai named Afro out to keep his status as the Number Two fighter in the world so he can challenge the Number One fighter, the gunslinging Justice, and avenge his father's death – then self-published it in 1998, selling fewer than 100 copies. The manga was discovered last year by animation house Gonzo, which produced Samurai 7 which contacted the artist about making a series out of it.
But the series really started to gain some acclaim when Samuel L. Jackson came on board. After seeing the property, the actor, having recently starred as Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, agreed not only to voice the lead character, but also signed on as a co-producer. Jackson also signed on to star in a live-action version of the film, currently under development by Batman Begins producer Charles Roven, with co-production to be done with a Japanese film studio.
Jackson isn't the only one lending his star voice talents to the series. Ron Perlman, who recently starred in the successful Hellboy movie, will voice Afro's nemesis Justice. Kelly Hu, recently seen as Deathstrike in X2, will also star in the series, possibly lending her voice to the character of Okiku, a healer who so far seems to be the series' only main female character. And RZA, frontman for hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and musical director for Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Kill Bill, will be handling the musical score.
With such star power behind a series few had heard of until recently, Afro Samurai could very well be one of the biggest rags-to-riches, self-publishing stories in the history of comics and animation. And it won’t stop there, either. FUNimation Entertainment has secured the DVD and merchandising rights to the series, with the DVD set for a March, 2007 release and featuring footage that can’t be aired on Spike TV. Okizaki's even working on an all-new manga for release in the U.S., the details of which remain unknown, and Namco Bandai is working on two separate video games based on the title, one of which should hit the Xbox 360 sometime next year. Not bad for a self-published comic that even its creator didn't think would become so big.