Anime explosion set to launch as Netflix introduces new series

This week sees the launch of B: The Beginning, a futuristic drama about the hunt for a serial killer, with 30 more anime series taking shape in the streaming service's pipeline

Netflix is banking on its original anime series, such as 'B: The Beginning' to attract new audiences. Courtesy Netflix
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No matter how much we profess to love the dark edge of Family Guy, the sheer silliness of Scooby-Doo or the supernatural hijinks of Gravity Falls, there's something about the style and substance of Japanese anime that goes beyond the cartoonish to touch what's real and relevant inside of us.

From Ghost in the Shell, with its action-packed meditation on a human soul living in a cybernetic shell, and Death Note, with its moral exploration of what a teen handed godlike powers of life-and-death would do, to Princess Mononoke, the environmental-friendly medieval fantasy with its struggle between the gods of the forest and the humans who recklessly consume it – anime not only entertains us but makes us more aware of what it means to be human, and what ultimately matters in our relationships with our peers and our planet.

Next up, with hopes of joining the canon of Japanese greats, is B: The Beginning – a 12-episode sci-fi series coming this Friday to Netflix – and the first anime series in history to stream all of its episodes globally into 190 countries simultaneously.There's great provenance here, with a team who have proven they know their anime stuff.

Director Kazuto Nakazawa – whose highly regarded work includes Parasite Dolls, the anime sequence in Kill Bill: Volume 1, and the Moondrive segment of Genius Party Beyond – is joined by Production IG, the famed Japanese production entity behind Psycho-Pass and Ghost in the Shell. Viewers will be transported to the archipelagic nation of Cremona, a futuristic world powered by advanced technology yet plagued by crime – with credit for its frightened citizenry going to a mysterious criminal organisation, and Killer B, a serial predator who's picking them off one by one.

As the chain of crimes unfolds in this suspense drama, we’ll hang with Koku, the protagonist, and ride along with Keith Kazama Flick, the legendary shaggy-haired investigator of the RIS, the royal police force, as they try to stem the bloodshed and race through the fortified city alongside a wide variety of vibrant characters.

Koku is voiced by American actor Kyle McCarley, known as the voice of Shigeo Kageyama from Mob Psycho 100 and Mikazuki Augus from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. The Japanese version features Yuki Kaji, well-known for his character work as Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan and Shu Ouma in Guilty Crown.

Keith is voiced by American actor Ray Chase, a veteran voice of anime, cartoons, video games and audio books and best-known for his turn as Noctis Lucis Caelum, the main character in Final Fantasy XV.

In the Japanese version, Keith is voiced by Hiroaki Hirata, an actor celebrated in his homeland for many anime roles including Vinsmoke Sanji in One Piece, Sha Gojyo in Saiyuki and as the Narrator of Digimon Adventure. He's also the official Japanese dub-over artist for Johnny Depp.

The Perfect World, the rock-infused theme song of B: The Beginning, is performed by its American composer Marty Friedman with Jean-Ken Johnny and KenKen. B: The Beginning is merely the first wave of a cresting tsunami of fresh anime coming our way.

Expect to see many more original, rebooted and adapted anime series on Netflix in the near future, according to content chief Ted Sarandos, who announced last October that the streaming giant had no less than 30 original anime projects in its global pipeline.

The reasons are simple.

The loyalty of anime fans is legendary and with today’s computer technology, the product is cheap to produce and easy to code.

“I’d say on the international originals, we enjoy a lot of production efficiencies in producing outside of the United States,” Sarandos says. “So we can produce in higher volume and bring kind of higher and higher production standards to those markets.”

“You take something like anime, which is super-efficient from a coding perspective,” adds Greg Peters, Netflix chief product officer. “We can now provide an amazing quality – a video-quality experience on mobile [devices] for anime titles at 150 kilobits per second – which was practically unheard of previously.”

Later this month, Netflix will stomp into Tokyo with its Godzilla-sized ambition to mount its first-ever exhibition at AnimeJapan 2018 – the largest anime festival in Japan – to be held March 22-25 for the fifth time.

As well as prominently featuring B: The Beginning, the Netflix booth will reportedly allow attendees "to experience the worlds of original anime titles" including the adaptation of the revered masterpiece Devilman, brought to the screen in its entirety by director Masaaki Yuasa and the Bones animation studio as Devilman Crybaby (now available on Netflix); director Kazuya Murata's sci-fi series AICO Incarnation; and Sword Gai: the Animation, based on the current manga series from the popular comic magazine Shogakukan Monthly Hero's (to stream globally on Netflix starting March 23).

A star-studded line-up of voice actors are also expected to take to the Tokyo stage for Netflix:  Hirata and Kaji from B: The Beginning; Haruka Shiraishi and Yusuke Kobayashi from AICO Incarnation; and Yuto Uemura from Sword Gai: the Animation. 

B: The Beginning is available for streaming on Netflix from Friday