With Japanese animation—anime—now a massive worldwide phenomenon, it is only right that the year’s biggest event, AnimeJapan 2021 in Tokyo, is the occasion to announce the anime that will have otakus glued to their screens. It is testament to global streaming giant Netflix’s commitment to the action-packed art form that the company was a major presence at this year’s AnimeJapan, which was a virtual event.
This is also fascinating because the fact that media around the world were able to watch the proceedings reflected the growing diversity of talent in anime; Netflix’s own original productions brandish a formidable mix of Japanese and foreign talent that can only benefit the genre and the fandom. Netflix’s chief producer for anime, Taiki Sakurai—basically Netflix’s animated overlord—began the event by announcing that Netflix will be streaming 40 original anime in 2021, almost twice compared to last year. “This means we are streaming a new title almost every week,” he said in Japanese. The titles announced at AnimeJapan 2021 were among some of the most sought after because they were based on extremely popular manga.
After 7 million years, the Gods’ Council decides that it is to end humanity’s existence—but mankind is given one last chance. Thirteen gods from different pantheons (including Thor, Shiva, Beelzebub and Anubis) and 13 of the greatest men (including Leonidas, Adam, Buddha, Jack the Ripper and Nikola Tesla) go toe-to-toe in order to settle the ultimate fate of humanity. This is the story of “Record of Ragnarok,” (“Shūmatsu no Walküre”) based on the manga in Monthly Comic Zenon by Azychika, Shinya Umemura, Takumi Fukui, and the adaptation is directed by Masao Okubo (“Accel World”). This series sounds like it’s going to split the sky with its epicness and you can catch it in June.
The other popular manga title that’s been adapted into a series by Netflix is exactly the opposite. “The Way of the Househusband” (“Gokushufudō” in the online Kurage Bunch) had actually already been adapted into a live-action series last year, but now it gets animated courtesy of director Chiaki Kon (“Naruto” and “Boruto”). This creation by Kousuke Oono is about the most dreaded of all Yakuza bosses—Tatsu, “The Immortal Dragon.” But then, one day, he just leaves the criminal life and all its trappings behind and nobody in the Yakuza knows why. It turns out that Tatsu has decided to—get this—become a full-time househusband so that his beloved career woman wife Miku can keep working. “Househusband” promises a mix of high jinks that ensue with a former crimelord trying to be domestic while also bumping into former, ahem, associates. Kenjiro Tsuda, who voices Tatsu said, “The show itself is incredibly fun, but there’s much to learn from it as well. You learn about being a househusband, and little tips and tricks of being one. I hope fans enjoy its chaotic storyline as much as we did. I think fans will enjoy the stark difference between his appearance and personality.” “The Way of the Househusband” premiered on April 8.
Perhaps the most whimsical of titles is also the visually most striking. “Eden” is set thousands of years in the future, on the planet Eden Three populated entirely by robots—except for one girl named Sara. A pair of robots (soon nicknamed Mama and Papa) decide to hide Sara and protect her as she grows up in this utopia. But the only remaining human is in danger as the being named Zero is leading his robot army in order to eradicate all humans. “To create a perfect world,” Zero says, “humans are a hindrance. They are evil.” Zero has come—and it is up to Sara to save herself somehow. Mariko Kohno, who is the voice of Sara, says, “This show is an entirely new story, without any existing works to base the storyline on. The show begins with Sara finding she may be the only ‘being’ on the planet. That is exactly where the mysteries and fascinations of this story kicks off. There’s much I wish I could talk about around ‘Eden’s’ story, but in the spirit of saving spoilers, I will just say that I hope fans enjoy coming with Sara on her journey to save the world.” The rich design is by Toshiro Kawamoto and Christophe Ferreira with “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” Yasuhiro Irie in the director’s chair. “Eden” starts streaming on May 27.
The rich mix of the future and the past is on display in the original “Yasuke,” where an alternate feudal Japan boasts both mecha and magic—and the bloody battles never seem to end. Yasuke is the greatest ronin (masterless samurai) this Japan has ever known but, tired of violence, now lives in peaceful obscurity in a tiny, sleep village. But then trouble comes looking for him when two rival daimyo (warlords) rip through the town in search of a mysterious child. Yasuke unsheathes his sword again and somehow spirits this child away. It is directed by “Cannon Buster’s” LeSean Thomas and designed by Takeshi Koike. “Its visuals are incredibly compelling, it took my breath away. LeSean Thomas is such a talented director. He boldly moved to Japan to create this show, working closely with production studio MAPPA, often visiting their studio in person. LeSean lives and breathes Japanese anime,” Sakurai says. “Yasuke” starts streaming April 29.
The most familiar title in the Netflix slate is perhaps the most anticipated one. Based on the immensely popular Capcom game, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” (in Japan, the games and the anime have always been known as “Biohazard”) “Resident Evil,” of course, is considered the most influential of all zombie survival third-person video games on any platform. FBI agent Leon S. Kennedy and his unit arrive at the White House in 2006 to investigate illegal access to the President’s classified files when they are met by countless zombies. There, he bumps into Claire Redfield, a charity worker who has arrived at the White House to ask for funds for a welfare facility. Redfield had been haunted by a drawing she got from a boy in one of the countries she worked at, a drawing of a victim of some kind of virus. Kennedy realizes there is a connection between the drawing and what is happening around them. “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” is done in full 3DCG animation and features two of the series’ most enduring characters. Toshiyuki Morikawa voices Kennedy. He says, “Regarding the timeline, the story happens several years after ‘Resident Evil 4,’ Leon looks like the direct agent of the President. I’m very excited to see the show as a fan, too. As a survival horror genre, the direction of the story is quite serious, but I am confident it will keep you on the edge of your seat.” “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” will premiere in 2021.