Ask John: What is Children of Ether?

Could you provide a context for this animation, just to know its significance among anime titles?

To address the initial question first, Children of Ether is a 15-minute-long pilot animation created & directed by American animator LeSean Thomas and animated by Japanese animation house Yapiko Animation. The very limited narrative revolves around Rhonda, a young woman who carries the weight of her father’s death on her shoulders, but it’s unclear whether she was literally responsible for his death or if she’s simply carrying misplaced grief. She seeks a person or place that can explain to her the supernatural empowerment that seems to be possessing her. She’s pursued through a dystopian city by “people” for an unexplained reason, and it’s unclear whether these hunters want her captured or dead.

The short production boasts talented artists behind the scenes, including animation character design by Hiroshi Shimizu (Michiko & Hatchin), storyboards by Shingo Natsume (One-Punch Man), animation by Mitsuo Iso (Dennoh Coil), and animation direction by Yuichi Takahashi (Gatchaman Crowds, Comet Lucifer). However, some budget limitations and potentially some inexperience on the part of Mr. Thomas hamper the short film. Clearly the bulk of the animation’s budget was spent on its opening action scene (one of two in the short), which boasts some fluid, stylistic swordplay. However, in the following scene little girl Pint distinctly reveals a limited frame rate in her hyperactive motions. To its credit, the short film attempts to create a visual atmosphere with detailed background designs heavily saturated with blue, earth tone, and orange hues in respective scenes. However, with its limited length and concern with packing as many characters into the short as possible, the storytelling feels choppy and incomplete, failing to establish any palpable sense of tone or atmosphere.

Credit for the development and completion of the Children of Ether short deservedly goes to producer/director LeSean Thomas, who has previously proven his professional ability by co-directing the Adult Swim animated series The Boondocks, working as an artist & animator on shows including Kim Possible, Ben 10: Alien Force, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and the Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated movies. Thomas previously worked with Japanese animation house Satelight to develop an anime adaptation of his Cannon Busters comic book.

If the Children of Ether pilot film screened in American limited theatrical release on July 26 eventually gets expanded into a more substantial anime production, the pilot may be regarded as the beginning of something potentially great. If not, the short will simply be yet another footnote in the anime sub-history of American co-production pilots that include Warrior Nun Areala, Satanika, The Five Killers, Project: 13, and Indigo Ignited. While American financed and directed anime projects are relatively rare, Japanese collaborations with foreign artists aren’t new. Madhouse’s 1999 television series Alexander Senki featured character designs by Korean animator Peter Chung. French animator Thomas Romain has worked with studio Satelight on anime series including Basquash, Kissdum -Engage Planet-, and Senki Zessho Symphogear, and with studio Bones on Space Dandy. French comic book artist Guillaume Renard co-directed Studio 4°C’s 2017 adaptation of his comic book Mutafukaz. American “futurist” concept designer Syd Mead worked behind the scenes on Yamato 2520 and Turn A Gundam. American comic book creator Stan Lee partnered with studio Bones to produce the 2010 Heroman anime television series, and in 2017 with studio Deen to produce the current television series The Reflection. In 2004 British comic artist, comedian, and video-game industry commentator Larry Bundy Jr. announced that Madhouse had tentatively agreed to produce an anime TV series adaptation of his comic series Natural Born Kittens, although that production never happened.

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