Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo set for a new animated Netflix adventure

Legendary cartoonist Stan Sakai’s longtime comic books epic adventure , Usagi Yojimbo, is coming to Netflix as an adapted new animated series. French TV company Gaumont has already begun production on what will be a CG-animated kid series titled: Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles.

This series will be very different from the Edo Japanese era, setting forth a fresh foundation for our samurai rabbit. Described “is a series takes place in the far future, set in a world that mixes modern high-tech images with classic Japanese references. It follows the teenage Rabbit Samurai Yuichi, descendent of the great warrior Miyamoto Usagi, on his epic quest to become a true samurai. But he isn’t alone! He leads a ragtag team of misfit heroes – including a roguish bounty hunter, a cunning ninja, an acrobatic pickpocket and a faithful pet lizard – as he battles depth-charging moles, metal-tipped winged bats, and monsters from another dimension, all in the pursuit to become the best samurai Usagi!”

The will have the original Usagi creator, writer, artist, Stan Sakai on board as the Executive Producer, along with Gaumont (Executive Producers Nicolas Atlan, Terry Kalagian, Sidonie Dumas and Christophe Riandee), Dark Horse Entertainment (Executive Producers Mike Richardson, Keith Goldberg and Chris Tongue), and Atomic Monster (Executive Producers, James Wan, Michael Clear and Rob Hackett). Candie and Doug Langdale (Maya and the Three, The Book of Life, Puss in Boots, Niko and the Sword of Life, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness) are attached as executive producers and showrunners. Ben Jones (Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teen Titans, Iron Giant) is Supervising Producer while Khang Le (Big Hero 6, Little Big Awesome) will serve as Art Director on the series. Mumbai-based 88 Pictures (Trollhunters, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, Fast & Furious Spy Racers) has been appointed as the CGI animation studio.

The comic series meanwhile is well-known to the comics industry for nearly four decades with many awards including including a Parents’ Choice Award, an American Library Association Award, and the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Award. It’s still has an enormous fandom, with creator-owned roots that began alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the mid-1980s, for which Usagi has also crossed over with in both the TMNT comics and animated series episodes.

Stan Sakai, legendary creator, writer and illustrator of the comic-book series speaks optimically of the new series in a recent press release, “It is a pleasure working with Gaumont and Netflix. I am involved in each step of the production and am enthusiastic with the direction we are going into. It is wonderful to expand the Usagi universe by collaborating with so many talented people. I am working with an awesome team and I’m looking forward to finally seeing an Usagi series on the screen! I thank my wonderful fans, friends and family for their support and encouragement over the last 35+ years.”

No release date has been set for the new Netflix series.

Editor Captain’s note: Personally, I am excited for this, though I would rather a more classic hand-drawn style than a CGI look. We shall wait for some visual previews, and hope it’s creative style matches the storytelling and direction that takes Usagi as something with more heart and care, than just being a sword-wielding cartoon rabbit.

A look back to the prequel past of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I love my Star Wars, especially in the hands and hearts of creative storytellers.

That’s why I am psyched for the new Star Wars: Clone Wars episodes, with Season 7 coming through on the Disney+ streaming service soon. Also, Dave Filoni, the original show-runner, is taking lead again. Finally, a proper send-off (I hope) to the original Cartoon Network series I felt never got its full respect of the Star Wars overall community, as the best representation and mood of the prequel era. The movies only set the stage, while the Clone Wars TV show was truly the grand epic space opera that George Lucas originally set fort in 1977.

The reasons I believe are obvious after going through the entirety of the TV series, though the art style took some getting used to for the visual part of the appreciation. The stories were a beautiful mix of character development of new and established characters, new legends built, old ones resurfaced, and an overall world-building that made the best sense of the vague references spoken by Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in Episode IV. Multiple award nominations including won Daytime Emmys, top ratings for its time slots, and heavy merchandise sales were further testament to its greatness.

The Clone Wars series focused on the destined paths of unique soldiers, space wizards, mercenaries, political figures; all with a mix of humor, drama, action, and sometimes unexpected philosophy and expansive thinking not often associated with the Star Wars brand.

In my excitement, I would like to share my favorite stories (usually multi-part episode arcs), through its overall progression.

Season 1 – Episode 5

“Rookies

An all around great episode that humanizes the clone warriors, where we see some individual human qualities to Cody, Rex, Fives, and others we get to know not just as soldiers, but as brothers. There is more humanization to these clones, as we can tell them apart from here and beyond. This episode truly brings out what makes this series great and standing well beyond its story progression onto Star Wars: Rebels.

Season 2 – Episode 20-22

Death Trap, R2 Come Home, Lethal Trackdown

A great story where we really get to know the bounty hunter Boba Fett as a great standalone character, as still young but fresh with dedication for revenge against the Jedi master who killed his father, Mace Windu. There’s a great mix of great action, many rogues, and pretty much everything that is fun about Clone Wars. I grew up thinking Boba Fett, was a cool space ninja dude. But, never could figure exactly why from just looking at the movies. He was just there with just enough of a presence to feel there was more to him. Episode II gave gave a little more background, but not enough.

This arc, delivered plenty on the cult character. We learn he was a young character coming to terms with the loss of his father, seeking vengeance, then eventually a meaningful path to himself, perhaps making his father proud eventually, but still selfish to those around him. This story arc sets his path well.

Season 3 – Episode 15-17

Overlords, Altar of Mortis, Ghosts of Mortis

Now this, is a powerful story that delves deep into the mystical side of Star Wars, and the nature of the force. What balance means, and the complexity of the Dark and Light side. This story deals with the Anakin, Ashoka, Obi-Wan drawn to a mysterious place where we meet a family trio of powerful force entities. The Daughter represents the Light, The Son represents the Dark, and the Father represents balance between the two. Anakin is given a difficult choice, and an unsettling vision of the future of what he will become, leaving a dilemma for the Family of Mortis to deal with.

The progression centers to Anakin as the central character in the movies, conflicted and doomed. His relationship to his apprentice becomes more important for the Clone Wars, leading the audience to care and share in his eventual fate, foretold here.

Season 4 – Episodes 7-10

Darkness on Umbara, The General, Plan of Dissent, Carnage of Krell

Wow, this story arch really blows me away. It’s a mix of Apocalypse Now (with the original Walter Murch as the story director) in a galaxy far, far away with twist and turns leading to an epic conclusion.

Even before we get to the main story, there is an amazing CG sequence of war and grit, mixed with classic and modern science fiction organic and mechanical imagery.

Then, we meet the general for the protagonist side, General Krell. He’s a tough Jedi, but then a psychotic murderer. His soldiers eventually must deal with him, an deadly nail-biting showdown. Everything about this arc is epic and truly badass, with an ending that leaves much for the audience to think about.

Season 4 – Episodes 19-22, Season 5 – episode 1

Massacre, Bounty, Brothers. Revenge, Revival

A huge story line revolving around Jedi Padawan turned bounty hunter Asajj Ventress, whose tragedy upon her people sends her on a quest for revenge. There is great development, but the story switches focus to a new character, Savage Opress who ends up on a journey of his own as he finds the remains of his brother Darth Maul, long thought dead in Episode I. He lives, as his brother gives him new life and purpose, making the galaxy a more interesting, and deadlier place. also, the new voice for Darth Maul by Sam Witwer brings a new emotional depth and dark tragic melody to the known Sith.

Season 5 – Episodes 2-5

A War on Two Fronts, Front Runners, The Soft Wars

A great story about intervention in a planet’s dispute and involvement with the Separatists, that is given restraint by the Republic and Jedi Order. Here we meet Saw Guerra, a revolutionary rebel later taking part in the Star Wars: Rogue One movie. His background and this story arc challenges both the viewers and our protagonists that not everything is simply good and evil, as there are moral dilemmas to ponder and sides to take for the Jedi and The Republic, in a conflict that becomes personal for Ahsoka. A tragic twist at the end, builds much towards Saw Guerra’s character, that made his later appearances more meaningful and interesting.

Season 5 – Episodes 6-9

The Gathering, A Test of Strength. Bound for Rescue, A Necessary Bond

A very different perspective to the Jedi Order than the usual conflict melodrama. Here’s its more about what makes a Jedi as a new generation of younglings take center-stage, where Ahsoka takes on a more teacher role. Her maturity feels like it reached full circle here, in a mentor role we will see more of in Rebels. Lots of bonding, but also a building melancholy when thinking about the tragic fates of this next generation.

Season 5, Episodes 14-16

Eminence, Shades of Reason, Shades of Reason, The Lawless

A great continuation of the journey of Darth Maul, as a great complex character with feelings and motivations of his own, reaching beyond the Sith agenda now. This crosses over into the world of Mandalore, with gives more background on the designs of Boba Fett’s armor, and the culture it represents. We also peek more into a potential love interest for Obi-Wan, Duchess Satine. There’s also the Darksaber weapon passed around, which just looks crazy awesome whenever used. The story moves toward more tragedy for both Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, as they both suffer personal losses, leaving them more intertwined than ever.

Season 5 – Episodes 17-20

Sabotage, The Jedi Who Knew Too Much, To Catch a Jedi. The Wrong Jedi

The story arc for Clone Wars as a whole to end on, before season 6 brings us to more self-contained side stories. This arc starts off as a murder mystery, but delves deeper into conspiracy and false accusations. In the heart of this, is Ahsoka Tano, who must prove her innocence. The story progression is an awesome mix of twists, action, drama, and revelations that lead for a shocking turning point for Anakin’s apprentice. This will need the most follow-up for Season 7, which I hope connects well to her later appearance in Rebels.

Season 6 – Episodes 1-4

The Unknown, Conspiracy, Fugitive, Orders

Hands down, my favorite Star Wars: Clone Wars TV series story. It’s also very standalone, with enough basis and knowledge of what happens when soldier Fives finds out that he is programmed as a murderous tool for a vast conspiracy well-hidden from him. A concern and paranoia sends him on a revealing journey, to the heart and beginning of his clone production. He, and the audience learn more about Order 66, and to what ends is its purpose. Of course, we know the answer…but seeing it through Fives view and determination is gut-wrenching, exciting, then tragic. Clone Wars has a lot of well-written tragedy.

Season 6: Episode 11-13

Voices, Destiny, Sacrifice

A story that takes the Force to greater mystery with its complexity and mysticism…which sets at ease that it’s all more than midiclorians. The setting for all this is incredible, with a mix of beautiful and haunting visuals. Liam Neeson returns as the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn, whose character journey reaches a far more proper and dignified end. We also have a more humbled Yoda on a quest to learn more, with still much to understand about the Force, This is where the Clone Wars ends, for then but not now.

That’s overall my impressions of Clone Wars, summarized on what and where I found it best. I would like to revisit its series and impact as a while, as I look forward to its completion as the best of what makes Star Wars great.

A Stranger Look towards Black Mirror: Season Three

  • Created by: Charlie Brooker
  • Executive Producers: Charlie Brooker and Annibel Jones
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Satire
  • Production Company: Zeppotron
  • Distributor:  Endemol UK
  • Time: 43 to 75 minutes

Synopsis:

“A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.”

The current series sits at two seasons adding up to a total of six episodes and a Holiday special. A third season will première on October 21, 2016.

A look back (Spoilers)

Having been described as a modern-day take on Twilight Zone, Black Mirror presents a new storyline coupled with new characters every episode, all presenting the theme of technology and postmodern life. Despite the role of technology so heavily driving the plot, it is not an overpowering presence; allowing it to frame the progression, and not lead it. Black Mirror features plot progression through interaction, not focusing mainly on plot devices. This way, the events seem more real, and relatable than a typically jam-packed action plot of the typical American sci-fi.

Illustrated through a new plot every episode, Black Mirror takes a psychological approach to the topic at hand, allowing the viewer into the mind and thought process of the characters in question. It allows a deeper connection and understanding, granting more relatability to the character than through thoughts and actions alone.

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Dark, emotional, intriguing, and mysterious, this show leaves the viewer questioning almost to the end about what will happen. Through out each episode, I analyzed the plot and created predictions, expecting the storyline to follow accordingly; but every single time, I was wrong. Following the plot, the change is so smooth that the initial hitting factor is not out there and ridiculous but slow enough to a real and understandable shock.

Much like The Twilight Zone, the viewer delves into a fully developed and thriving world, left to observe and create conclusions based on what is in front of them. This world, much like our own, has distinct differences and an order that which all characters follow accordingly. From rice-sized memory recording chips to the ability to fully block a person in your physical life, each technological advantage frames but does not lead the storyline. In drastic contrast to other sci-fi series of similar nature, the technology does not absorb the narrative. Apart from a few differences, most of the world is recognizable, leaving all other aspects unchanged.

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Through out each episode, the storyline focuses on the characters involved, highlighting their relationships, interests, occupations, mindsets, and overall characteristics to create a personal and intimate understanding of them. In no way is it difficult for the viewers to place themselves in the character’s shoes, looking at the topic at hand through their eyes. I do not believe there was a single character that I could not empathize with, the connection so strong that all motives were understood.

Black Mirror does a wonderful job on manipulating viewer emotions, not only through that deep connection but through setting. The series is no stranger to using lighting or music to its advantage. In the second episode of season one, one of the main characters uses a song for an audition, ultimately disappearing and never being seen again. To hear those lyrics being sung five episodes later brought back those initial emotions, flooding me the sorrow and fondness I had initially felt.

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Personal Thoughts (Spoilers): 

Black Mirror can easily be described as one of my new favorite shows. Upon watching the first and second episode, I fell in love with the characters, storyline, and general theme coupling its execution; all in all creating an experience that I had not witnessed with any other show. Black Mirror prides itself on taking the topic at hand and breaking it down into smaller segments, covering each part in such a way that even the tiniest details are shown in depth.

Through out the six episodes and holiday special of season one and two, my favorite episodes would have to be episode one and two of season one. The thought and emotion put into these plots really grabbed me, leaving my eyes glued to the screen until the very end. With the goal of grabbing and pulling a viewer and their interest in, I would hands down say that Charlie Brooker did a wonderful job.

Episode one, The National Anthem, presented many different takes on one situation: the kidnapping and holding of Princess Susannah, the Duchess of Beaumont. Through out the narrative, the situation highlights the lack of privacy and opens conflict in a modern world. In 12 hours, news had spread from a youtube video left up for seven minutes, to a global knowledge. With the kidnappers making the ransom video publicly known, it allows the information to be open to anyone, not allowing the politicians to keep it hidden and discreet. Par the request of the kidnappers, the Prime Minister must perform unsavory actions with a pig, promising the Duchess’s safe return if all conditions are appropriately met. On top of the struggle to save Princess Susannah, a moral and emotional dilemma is added to the mixture by means of the Prime Minister.

To have such a curious and far fetched idea be the first episode of a new series, the viewer cannot help but be drawn in from the questions that surrounds the topic. How will they attempt a safe return? What steps does the government take to go around such a vulgar demand? To what further extent do the kidnappers go to ensure they get their demands met? And finally, what is the ultimate decision of the Prime Minister?

Upcoming: 

As of late 2015, the movie streaming company Netflix has now commissioned the creator for a third season, originally consisting of 12 episodes. Currently, Black Mirror is set for its Season Three of six episodes. Perhaps a fourth will follow with the same amount will follow.

Thoughts for Season Three:

Based on the trailer alone, I do have high hopes for this season, wishing that it will fit those shoes season one and two had filled. The presence of technology in everyday relations seems to flow over, but the sci-fi aspects and societal changes appear to be one of the ultimate differences. Whereas the original allowed the world and its holdings to remain unchanged, the snip-it suggests that everything has changed following the advances of technology. The tone and drama are still there, themes appearing to highlight smaller aspects of a larger problem.

Initially, I was very excited for a third season. The two previous captured me, holding my attention tightly and not letting go until it was over and there was no more. In short, I wanted more. According to my personal bias, I am always against sequels, feeling that the original fit the picture the best; but in this instance, that bias was completely thrown away. Following the brevity of the past two seasons, I felt that a third one would fit along perfectly. To now hear that this third season’s creation is through a separate vendor, I find myself uneasy.

While Netflix has done a wondrous job with titles in the past, I fear that it will not have the same tone and success as the original did at captivating an audience. I fear that while it will hold the same name, the emotion and message will be lacking now that the episodes are not so far, far, and artfully crafted. It is a commissioned work, however, so it can be assumed that the same themes and aspects that we all know and love about the original will carry over.

At the end of the day, I hope for the best. Just like all other fans, I await anxiously for another installment.

 

-Katherine A