During its panel at New York Comic Con this past Thursday, the streaming service Crunchyroll announced its involvement in the development of the brand new animated series Children of Ether. The show is the latest creation of LeSean Thomas, whose latest work includes staffing Adult Swim’s The Boondocks (character supervisor, co-director) and Black Dynamite (supervising director and creative producer) as well as the creation of a pilot episode for his original Cannon Busters project.
To date the cornerstone of Crunchyroll’s business has been making Japanese animation, Japanese comics and selected Asian dramas and other live action shows available for a global audience, but Children of Ether is notable as the first time the site has taken an active role in sponsoring an independent and original animated project of this kind. To announce Children of Ether, LeSean Thomas himself took the stage at Crunchyroll’s panel to discuss the show’s premise and staff for the first time, revealing in the process that he had been developing the show for Crunchyroll for the past year.
In its announcement post, Crunchyroll offers this summary for Children of Ether:
Children of Ether follows Rhonda, a woman with a dark past and a mysterious power, as she is pursued by an unknown assailant after the death of her father. Aided only by her wits and a pair of orphans, Rhonda journeys through a decaying, dystopian metropolis populated by raiders, gangs, and the supernatural. As she struggles to survive in this harsh urban tangle, she meets both friends and enemies, and searches for answers about this power, “The Ether”, awakening within her.
Children of Ether is being produced by Eddie Mehong’s Yapiko Animation, a studio based out of Tokyo and Paris whose credits include such independent projects as Urbance, Sideria and the upcoming feature-length film Les Pirates de la Réunion. In addition to LeSean Thomas as director, the series’ production staff include character designer Hiroshi Shimizu (Michiko & Hatchin), animation director Yûichi Takahashi (Gatchaman Crowds, Comet Lucifer, Macross Frontier), animator Mitsuo Iso (Den-noh Coil, FLCL, Perfect Blue) and storyboard director Shingo Natsume (One Punch Man, Space Dandy). On other fronts British Musician Mr. Hudson is writing and performing the musical score, while writer Nicholas Thurkettle is scriptwriting. Early concept art for Children of Ether was provided by American comic book artist Ronald Wimberly.
While on stage, Mr. Thomas also offered some further details about the show’s core cast.
- Rhonda: “She’s the daughter of someone very, very powerful and important. She accidentally kills her father, she’s wracked with guilt, but she’s also on the run. She’s trying to uncover the secrets of this ability that she has that has killed someone so important to her, while trying to avoid the repercussions of that.”
- Pint and Copper: A brother & sister duo. For Rhonda, “They’re actually the only ones that she trusts in the crazy world that she lives in.” Pint has a pet that she takes in because, like her, it’s smaller than its usual size.
- Gio: “He’s actually one of the bigger obstacles in this project for Rhonda…He’s the boss of a pretty cool crew that Rhonda meets.” Rhonda isn’t sure whether he’s a friend or a foe.
- Aaru: Rhonda’s father and someone “serious to the storyline as well.”
A short video was also played to introduce the show to the audience, featuring concept artwork and remarks from some of the staff. Transcription for much of this commentary follows.
- LeSean Thomas on Hiroshi Shimizu: “I’m a huge, huge fan of Shimizu-san. He was the character designer and animation director on Michiko & Hatchin, which was directed by Sayo Yamamoto. It’s one of my all-time favorite animated shows, just from the depiction of people of color in that show. It’s one of the few shows I’ve seen in Japan that depicted brown folks, if you will, in anime in such a socially literate way. I wanted him on board as my character designer. Knowing that he said yes and found my project interesting and exciting to work on was just incredible.”
- Eddie Mehong: “We wanted to make things not only for one country, but for everybody.”
- Mitsuo Iso: “I’m being given an experience that’s hard to come by in Japan. In Japan, ‘it’s up to you’ is the most difficult instruction.”
- LeSean Thomas on the Collaborative Effort: I never thought I would be in a position to not only work with such incredible legends in Japanese animation, but to direct them. It’s unreal. They’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive, and it really helps when you have the stuff on talent all coming together in such a short period of time, and they’re all enthuasiastic about the project. I have to say this takes the cake for me in terms of my career. I’m really excited to bring a project on this level with a company like Crunchyroll. I think it’s perfect timing, I hope I do it again.”
Children of Ether will premiere on Crunchyroll at a future date to be announced.