The Attack on Titan Anthology book hits stores on October 18th, but fans who attended New York Comic Con got to buy it early. It's fitting, as the project was announced at last year's New York Comic Con, marking an unprecedented level of collaboration between Western comics talent and original Attack on Titan creator Hajime Iseyama. The collection of short comic stories is all over the place stylistically but all awesome.
About half the stories are comedic takes on the Titans (a Roald Dahl-inspired school comedy bit by Sam Humfries and Damion Scott and perhaps the world's best "cosplay is not consent" PSA by Brendan Fletcher, are stand-outs), while others are dead serious ("Skies Above" by Rhianna Pratchett, Jorge Corona, Jen Hickman, and Ben Applegate is notably beautiful and sad). Many are set in Alternate Universes (not just the comedy stories but some of the serious ones as well, like Scott Snyder's dystopian San Francisco-set opener), but there's a good deal of canon world-building throughout the pages of the volume (Genevive Valentine and David Lopez do heavy lifting with a tourist's guide to the Walled Cities). There's even a Titan version of Donald Trump!
You thought I was kidding?
At New York Comic Con, four of the writers and artists involved in the Anthology (Genevive Valentine, Jeanine Schaefer, Brendan Fletcher, and Paolo Rivera) spoke about their love for the original series. Schaefer was first exposed to Attack on Titan from the Avengers crossover that was written when she was working at Marvel. When she eventually started plowing through the Colossal Editions of the manga she said that she'd "never felt the feelings that I'm feeling reading this book," and talked about the anthology committing to the manga's sense that "people need to feel unsafe" when reading its dramatic and violent twists. Fletcher, meanwhile, was first introduced by the anime and talked about how stunned he was by the action choreography ("I'm a sucker for that"). All praised the series' original iconography, and all really enjoyed all the Titan gore.
While Attack on Titan Anthology was the highest profile Western comic based on an anime/manga franchise, sneaking under the radar was a panel on a Vampire Hunter D comic by artist Michael Broussard and writer Brandon Easton, based on original writer Hideyuki Kikuchi's unpublished Message to Celine short story.
The comic was successfully Kickstarted and the first issue comes out November 16th. Why did they go for Kickstarter? Here's where it gets extra exciting: the comic is being made as a proof of concept for a full animated series! The Celine story was picked for the comic specifically because it wouldn't be a natural fit for the TV series, being set on Mars, while the other stories are set on Earth. The TV series is planned as an hour-long prime time animated drama done with the best possible animation for TV, and is currently being pitched to all the major networks. It honestly sounds too awesome to actually get made, but here's hoping.
Even if the American VHD series never comes through, we have at least one successful American cartoon adaptation of an anime series going strong: Voltron: Legendary Defender, which was popular enough to fill out the Javits Center's Main Stage for an early screening of the second episode of season 2 (presumably the first episode has too many things they don't want spoiled). Fans waiting for the second season have three more months to wait. It's set to premiere on January 20th.
Voltron's a bit of an odd case as the original Go-Lion was already pretty heavily butchered into the Voltron series Americans remember from the '80s and the license had since been made into other American cartoons, but it wasn't until this year's Dreamworks/Netflix series that any of those adaptations were... well, good. Being good seems to be what separates the newest batch of American anime/manga adaptations from the vast majority of those done in the past; at all three adaptation panels, it was clear how much the creatives involved cared for what they were doing, and it shows in the work.
While with AoT, VHD, and Voltron we're seeing Japanese properties being Westernized, there is movement in the other direction as well of American productions reaching out to Japanese talent. Fans of Steven Universe, of whom there were something like a gazillion at Comic Con, were treated in August to a unique episode, "Mindful Education", animated by Takafumi Hori of Studio Trigger.
When asked at the Steven Universe panel how the collaboration came about, Rebecca Sugar answered "He had been chatting with Jeff Liu, my storyboarder, on Twitter a little bit... [the] first time I got a vacation, maybe two years into the show, I went to Japan for the first time and we stopped by to meet him... I asked everyone at Trigger if they'd be interested in collaborating on something, and I'd love to do it again. His animation is incredible!"
Perhaps the biggest news for the future of East-West collaborations at New York Comic Con was the announcement that Crunchyroll is producing its own original anime series from a mix of American and Japanese talent. LeSean Thomas, best known for designing and co-directing The Boondocks, and Shingo Natsume, of Space Dandy/One Punch Man fame, are teaming up for the streaming series Children of Ether. No new updates on Cannon Busters, Thomas's other project with Studio Satellite released recently as a pilot to Kickstarter backers, but that can't be far behind.