Before he won a couple of Eisners, Stan Sakai also participated in a panel at Comic-Con@Home previewing the upcoming Netflix animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles. Joining him were Gaumont EVP, Terry Kalagian, creatives Doug and Candie Langdale, Ben Jones, and Khang Le, and voice talent Chelby Rabara, Aleks Le, and Mallory Low.
Sakai is very involved in the show having input on the direction and approving everything. The first arc involves the yokai or Japanese haunts, monsters, and goblins of folklore. It is a character driven story targeted to younger audiences. This Usagi is different from the comics because he is younger and is still learning to be a samurai. He is brash, impulsive, and over confident and the audience watches as he grows and matures into a leader of a ragtag group of characters with their own backstories.
Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles takes place a thousand years in the future and follows Yuichi Usagi, a young farm boy who goes on a journey to be a samurai. He is joined by his best friend, Spot, a tokage. When they arrive at the city of Neo Edo, Usagi accidentally frees all the yokai that are trapped in the Ki-Stone, a mystical and magical crystal that powers the city. There are various forms of the yokai that are made of spirit energy with some made to look like skeletons and giant spiders while others, tsukumogami, possess objects.
Usagi won’t have to go it alone and he’s joined by several familiar faces who are also descendants of their comic characters. There is Kitsune (Rabara) a fox street performer/thief, Gen (Le) a rhino bounty hunter, and Chizu (Low) a ninja cat. Though they resemble their comic counterparts, they do have their own spin to make the characters unique. For those wanting to see Miyamoto Usagi, he also appears in the series but has his own twist.
The animated series has a unique aesthetic that is drawn upon both modern and traditional Japanese architecture to create the futuristic looks. Neo Edo and the show’s technology combine present Tokyo and designs of 17th century Feudal Japan. This style can be seen in their vehicles including airships and the ashibasha. Usagi’s costuming is a mixture of samurai related elements and current street wear as well. Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles also has a lighten tone inspired by Hong Kong action films starring Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow and will incorporate both 2D and CGI animation.
There was a lot of art shown and even previews into some of the episodes. Near the end, an animation screen test was played and if the show looks anything like the teaser, it’s going to be great. Watch the entire panel below for all the visuals and it’s already set up at the test footage (approximately the 34-minute mark). We can’t wait to see more but no release date has been announced yet.
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