Preview: “Under the Dog,” the latest anime to appear on Kickstarter

“Our enemy is the light of humanity”

The latest animation production to hit Kickstarter is “Under the Dog.” It needs $580,000 to reach its goals and they currently have $181,303 pledged. This goal trumps previous Kickstarters such as Masaaki Yuasa’s “Kick-Heart” goal of $150,000. On the “pledged” side, both “Kick-Heart” and the already-produced series “Time of EVE” had made over $200,000.

Set in the year 2025, the International School for Boys and Girls operates as a cover for recruiting minors into its “elite death squad,” as the “Under the Dog” Kickstarter page puts it.

The catalyst for the International School for Boys and Girls was a deadly terrorist attack on the 2020 Summer Olympics. Created by the United Nations, its intended purpose is to hunt down anyone with “special abilities.”

The Kickstarter page makes no mention of it, but my impression of it is that this story has some sort of “super powers” thing going on. They use terms such as “specially enhanced groups of terrorists” and “gifted high school students, each with their own special abilities.” The one that stands out, however, is “These troops are tasked with ferreting out and exterminating all individuals with powers like their own.” I read that, and I can only imagine something similar to X-Men. Except in this instance, we are given the perspective of the hunters. However, nothing about super powers was stated explicitly.

On the other hand, I am reminded of series such as “From the New World.” Here we have a society that heavily tries to trample out these “new humans.” In “From the New World,” we saw humans trying to control a specific group through mythology, folklore, culture, and illusion. Here, we are given murder. Further, “Under the Dog” establishes the hunters as not being ruthless killers, but reluctant heroes. The Kickstarter page offers us this definition for the phrase “under the dog”:

when one is in a situation so disagreeable that they would wish to rather be “under the dog,” a place of dishonor, misery, and filth, in order to escape their current state of affairs

While they are hunters, their situation is not rosy. Last, the recruits of the International School of Boys and Girls are forced into service by threat of their and their family’s lives. Failure means the death of the recruit and his/her family.

Is the fact that “Under the Dog” feature minors operating in a military combat capacity an oversight or social commentary about reactionary tendencies? They are high school students, after all. Let’s look at the official definitions for “child soldiers.” The United Nations (the creators of the International School for Boys and Girls in the setting) has stated that anyone over the age of 15 may enter military service. As stated on the UNICEF website,

The Convention also set 15 years as the minimum age at which an individual can be voluntarily recruited into or enlist in the armed forces

It goes further on to state,

States must also raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces from 15 years but does not require a minimum age of 18. The Protocol does, however, remind States that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards. It further bans compulsory recruitment below the age of 18.

“bans compulsory recruitment below the age of 18”? Of course, the UN does not pay attention to that part in this setting – possible social commentary? The catalyst was a terrorist attack, so the very fact that the UN is forcefully recruiting soldiers into its “elite death squads” could be a comment that organizations will change their attitudes because “terrorism.” Whether it’s a simple oversight or social commentary, one thing is for sure: we have another story about terrorists.

Let’s start with the production staff. Under the Dog actually features an international staff so far. On the Japanese side, we have Masahiro Ando as director, Yusuke Kozaki providing character and mechanical design, Hiroaki Yura as producer, the story provided by Jiro Ishii, Kinema Citrus as the main animation studio, and Orange Co. providing the 3d CGI. On the international side, we have Kevin Penkin providing the original score and John Kurlander as Mixing and Recording Engineer. Keiichi Momose, a Japanese, works with those two as Audio Director.

Masahiro Ando started as a key animator and has worked on series such as “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Jin-roh: The Wolf Brigade.” Pinpointing down exactly what he has animated in those works is a bit tricky, but fortunately for us he has been credited for animating the first “opening” for the series “Monster Rancher.”

As you might notice, his style has highly detailed body movements. Taking that, crediting Masahiro Ando at Sakugabooru for this scene in “Jin-roh: the Wolf Brigade” seems more believable to me:

 

Yusuke Kozaki is perhaps best known for providing the character designs for “No More Heroes” and “Fire Emblem: Awakening.” Here are the character designs that they have posted so far on the Kickstarter page:

underthedog1 underthedog2 underthedog3

He has also completed designs for the “Trike.” These are pretty cool.

trikeunderthedog1

There are a lot more images of the “Trike” design on the Kickstarter page.

Perhaps the strangest of the bunch is Hiroaki Yura. He brings with him very little animation production experience. He does, however, have a successful career as a musician. According to an interview of Hiroaki Yura by the Anime News Network, he was awarded a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at the age of twelve, and he is one of the youngest recipients of an Associate Diploma from the Australian Music Examination Board. Nowadays, he is the founder and Artistic Director of the Eminence Symphony Orchestra in Sydney, Australia, and he is also the founder of Central Intelligence Arts, Inc. who created the Kickstarter page and most likely acts as the production company.

As producer, he is most likely responsible for bringing all of this talent together. Websites are unfortunately quite scarce on his professional history, however, the Kickstarter page claims that Hiroaki Yura has worked on anime such as “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” and “Steins;Gate Fuka Ryōiki no Déjà vu (movie)” (which Anime News Network confirmed as “Orchestra Conductor”). For Disappearance, no one has listed his contribution, however, he has stated on an AMA on reddit that he was “Music Director.” Here is what he had to say about that:

I worked on the two films as Music Director / Supervisor.

What I did was to direct music recordings to make sure it suited the story and the picture at specific times so I knew the story back to front and knew what we had to convey through the music.

I had great fun working on Haruhi as we spent a long time trying to hone in on the details of the emotion that the picture and the VAs were trying to convey.

Very interesting.

The story was originally produced by Jiro Ishii, director of the critically acclaimed video game 428: In a Blockaded Shibuya. He created the story back in 1997. That video game was also semi-adapted into the animated series CANAAN, which was incidentally directed by Masahiro Ando, director of this animated production. He has also worked for Chunsoft and currently works for LEVEL 5. Not much more information is available on Jiro Ishii, unfortunately.

Now, onto the sound crew. We have a very interesting team here so far – two foreigners, John Kurlander and Kevin Penkin.

John Kurlander is the more famous of the two, having worked on films such as Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. He is a “Balance Engineer / Remixer,” according to his website. Working on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned him three Grammy Awards.

Kevin Penkin is the younger of the two, but he is impressive in his own way. His first professional gig was at the age of 18 when he collaborated on a Japanese video game with Nobuo Uematsu (best known as the composer for the Final Fantasy series). He has worked with Jiro Ishii before on the video game “Phoenix Project.” He actually tweeted about “Under the Dog”  on August 8th:

He seems to be quite excited about this project.

Last but not least, we have the Audio Director, Keiichi Momose. He is primarily a sound director and has worked on series such as Mitsuo Iso’s “Dennou Coil,” Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Steamboy,” and Masaaki Yuasa’s “Kaiba.”

Now that we’ve gotten to this point – will you fund the project? I have not decided. I do think it could turn out to be a pretty decent anime. If they get enough money, they will produce movies as well, which I would watch as well. On the other hand, I am not too keen on being an “amateur investor.”

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