In what could turn out to be the Japanese equivalent of the rags-to-riches trajectory of the self-publishers of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tokyo-based graphic designer Takashi 'Bob' Okazaki finds himself at the center of burgeoning multi-media property after his self-published Afro Samurai manga was chosen as the basis for an anime series and a live action movie, both of which will feature the talents of Samuel L. Jackson. According to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, Okazaki's manga was originally published in a self-financed magazine that sold fewer than 100 copies when it first appeared in 1998.
Last year the Afro Samurai manga was 'discovered' by the Tokyo-based animation house, GDH, and when Samuel L. Jackson saw the property he not only agreed to voice the lead character, he signed on as a co-producer of the anime series. Jackson's participation helped get the animated series a spot on the Spike TV network, where this fusion of hip-hop and historical drama is set to debut in November.
The Afro Samurai animation then came to the attention of Charles Roven, one of the producers of Batman Begins, who is now working on a live-action version of the manga, which will star Jackson and be produced in Japan as a co-production with a Japanese film studio.
As for the Afro Samurai anime -- that's headed back to Japan as well in a subtitled version that will debut well after the American premier on Spike TV, though as the Daily Yomiuri pointed out, the origins of this anime series may have Japanese otaku 'scratching their heads as they will have likely never heard of this manga export.'