One of the most acclaimed Japanese anime directors, Shinichiro Watanabe, just announced a brand-new series that’s currently in development at Adult Swim and features an exciting collaboration between Watanabe himself, the director of the John Wick franchise Chad Stahelski, and MAPPA—the animation studio credited with Attack on Titan: The Final Season. The fans of the sci-fi and anime genres were first treated to the announcement, followed by a trailer for the upcoming Lazarus anime at this year’s Comic-Con International.
Watanabe is widely acclaimed for his prior revolutionary series, such as 1998’s Cowboy Bebop and 2004’s Samurai Champloo, both of which feature his innate sense of style and narrative brilliance. Sure, Samurai Champloo might not be one of Watanabe’s most recognized works, but Cowboy Bebop is undeniably one of the greatest and most influential anime of all time, which only underscores the undeniable mark Watanabe’s work has on pop culture. So, hearing that another animated series from the pen of such a genius is in the works surely sounds exciting.
As stated above, Lazarus was first announced in July 2023 during Comic-Con International, with Adult Swim disclosing the anime’s synopsis and giving fans a taste of the action to come by revealing a teaser trailer. The official synopsis, as revealed by Adult Swim, places Lazarus in the year 2052, an era of unprecedented prosperity and peace enjoyed by humanity worldwide following the introduction of a miracle, cure-all drug called Hapuna, developed by Dr. Skinner.
Though it was initially thought that Hapuna had no side effects, the covertly villainous Doctor revealed that the drug actually has a very short half-life and basically acts as a slow-acting poison. Thus, anyone who took it will die some three years later. As a response to this newly emerged threat in an otherwise peaceful and prosperous world, the powers that be form a special task force of five agents gathered across the world to counter Skinner’s plan and develop a vaccine, naming the task force Lazarus.
The trailer, less than two minutes long, doesn’t contain any dialogue but has a care-free protagonist, a world richly defined, and music that buoys us through the story as if we’re living and breathing in the world itself — something that has become a hallmark of Watanabe’s anime. But there’s more than music to this trailer. The rather short animated preview is brimming with incredibly fluid action scenes that showcase the true extent of Stahelski and MAPPA’s talent for capturing action and animation as characters glide effortlessly from combat to parkour.
So, despite its brevity, the reveal trailer actually does a pretty good job of captivating the attention of not just anime fans but even of those who simply love a good action story in a sci-fi setting. The fluid and captivating action paired with fantastic music is the very essence of Watanabe’s style, and the same can be said about the protagonist — a young man with wavy black hair, a stylish outfit, and piercing eyes. If we didn’t know any better, we’d say we just described Spike Spiegel, the protagonist of the original Cowboy Bebop — not the blasphemous Netflix adaptation.
But trailers have been known to lie, as they’re intentionally made to highlight all the details that would captivate the viewers’ attention and hype the audiences up for the release of what could turn out to be a sub-par dud. However, that most likely won’t be the case with Lazarus, considering the involvement of John Wick’s Chad Stahelski and 87 Ronin, Stahelski’s stunt company. So far, the action sequences, at least those shown in the trailer, are a particular standout.
It’s safe to say that Stahelski’s John Wick franchise redefined the cinematic action genre in recent years with its meticulously choreographed combat. The action-packed sequences produced by those who know them best — we’re referring to the stunt professionals of the movie industry — resonated well with audiences that had already grown bored with typical Hollywood action. The reception of John Wick was so positive that the original movie warranted three sequels and two spin-offs — The Continental and Ballerina.
Stahelski’s involvement is more than likely to elevate Watanabe’s own feel for action-packed fighting sequences, and together these two giants have the potential to redefine the anime medium, much like Cowboy Bebop did some 25 years ago. That particular anime is also renowned for its fantastic jazz score, so we can expect nothing less from the upcoming Lazarus, which is already shaping up into a promising project by Watanabe, Stahelski, and MAPPA.
Unfortunately, all other details associated with the project, such as the voice cast and release date, remain unknown at the time. Those familiar with Watanabe’s work know that he’s famous for collaborations with immense vocal talents that breathe life into his complex characters. As for the release date, considering that we already received a well-structured trailer complemented by a flowy soundtrack, we’re likely to receive the whole release sometime in 2024. However, without an official confirmation from Adult Swim and those involved, this remains mere speculation.
Whatever the case may be, judging from what we’ve seen, Lazarus is definitely worth the wait.