Koichi Yamadera of ‘Cowboy Bebop’ fame is also part of what looks to be the studio’s best cast.
Things always seem to be getting bigger and better for the Rooster Teeth family. They’ve come a long way from their debut web series Red vs. Blue, which still happens to be so popular that it remains in production over a decade later. The company has since branched out to produce all kinds of online content for either YouTube or their in-house subscription service, FIRST. Anything from live-action shorts to feature-length films, and from podcasts to gaming videos, is totally fair game for this experimental studio.
In recent years, Rooster Teeth has also been successful at drawing in talents that cross over from more traditional media platforms such as film and television. Over the years, they have courted the likes of Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black), Rahul Kohli (iZombie), and Zachary Levi (Shazam!) in a variety of web series, Let’s Plays, and podcasts.
But a real coup for Rooster Teeth happened when they began a partnership with Michael B. Jordan for one of their newer anime-inspired shows — a mecha series titled gen:LOCK that will land on their subscription service in late 2018. Not only is Jordan set to voice the show’s main character, but his involvement on the project extends to a producorial capacity as well via his company, Outlier Productions. Variety has since reported – from Anime Expo 2018 – that Dakota Fanning and veteran voice actor Koichi Yamadera have also joined the cast of gen:LOCK.
The plot of gen:LOCK centers on Julian Chase (Jordan), an ex-fighter pilot who is recruited together with a diverse group of individuals to fight for Earth’s remaining free society. Chase is the first candidate to join the program, which trains its recruits to operate weaponized robots of gargantuan scale. Once there, he meets expert mecha pilot Miranda Worth (Fanning), who eventually becomes his love interest. Meanwhile, Kazu Iida (Yamadera) is another new pilot who transfers from the Japanese military to fight alongside the rest.
This won’t mark the first time that Rooster Teeth has dove into the world of anime-influenced media. In fact, their premiere anime-style CGI web series RWBY (pronounced ‘Ruby’) directly inspires the creative direction of gen:LOCK. According to producer and director Gray Haddock, “the look and feel of [gen:LOCK] will be kind of in the ballpark of RWBY.”
And RWBY is a rad blueprint to draw from. Despite its short episode length, the viral hit doesn’t scrimp on character development or memorable set pieces. The show’s storylines manage to deal with difficult topics maturely too. The fact that RWBY is more of a fairy tale and gen:LOCK a classic mecha series also works in both productions’ favor. Rooster Teeth is clearly branching out to do something different with their established animation styles, and that’s exciting in and of itself.
And then there’s that cast! Honestly, there seems to be nothing that Jordan can’t do in his meteoric, well-deserved rise to fame. Time and time again, 2018 proves to be his best year yet, but he’s never had particularly awful ones to begin with. Well, maybe 2014 when That Awkward Moment came out (and that movie still grossed $40.5 million from an $8 million budget). Even Fantastic Four was balanced out by his stellar debut in the Rocky franchise with Creed in 2015. We now know Jordan as one of the MCU’s best villains thanks to Black Panther. As he continues to feature prominently as an actor and a producer in all sorts of fascinating projects, gen:LOCK is yet another title to add to his eclectic list.
Fanning, an erstwhile child actress, has spent her recent years honing her talents in a variety of dramas. Of her best ones, Very Good Girls, Please Stand By, and TNT’s The Alienist give her space as a leading lady to explore complex characters and interpersonal relationships. Fanning most recently shot into the spotlight for two reasons as well. She may have had what essentially amounted to a cameo in Ocean’s 8, but her turn in the film is definitely memorable. Fanning is currently filming Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, in which she plays a member of Charles Manson’s cult. A Rooster Teeth anime-style series is about the furthest thing from either of those projects. Nonetheless, that fact combined with the collective fandom of both the studio and Jordan makes gen:LOCK a great next step for Fanning.
Finally, you can’t go wrong with casting a classic voice, especially one that practically ties the tradition of formative modern anime with another generation of inspired, influential work. Yamadera is famous for voicing protagonist Spike Spiegel in a number of Cowboy Bebop properties spanning films, television, and video games. He also voiced Togusa in the animated adaptations of Ghost in the Shell. Other noteworthy credits in Yamadera’s lengthy career include a number of characters in multiple Pokémon films and the Kingdom Hearts video games. He’s also dubbed for the likes of Jim Carrey and Brad Pitt in Japanese versions of western films. Clearly, as “the man of 1000 voices,” Yamadera is definitely an asset to the gen:LOCK team.
As innovative mecha series like Gundam have proven, a good dystopian narrative, some iconic compelling characters, and awesome giant creatures can leave lasting impressions. The added benefit of having a noteworthy cast coupled with Rooster Teeth’s great track record for years signal that gen:LOCK could very well follow in the footsteps of some of the studio’s best hits.