Amid all the news drops and media coverage from anime outlets over the past several weeks, one significant announcement for a potentially major new series has gone relatively uncovered. During Labor Day weekend, at GalaxyCon’s first convention in the Austin market, the American creators of a new series were joined by three of animation’s most popular voice actors—Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Trigun), James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), and Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)—to announce their participation in a new anime, Gabriel and the Guardians.
Inspired by the Torah and Genesis 6 in particular, Gabriel and Guardians is an “anime fantasy that tells the journey of Gabriel, a Celestial being from an unseen realm, who collides with mortals and dark giants in a battle for destiny and light.” Though not yet in full production, the series has released a teaser and feature art. Both were shown at the panel, along with other materials and received a strong reaction fromt he attendees who seemed to sense that the project, which will be produced by Angel Studios (The Chosen, Sound of Freedom), could be something very special.
In the Beginning
Gabriel and the Guardians is the brainchild of Jason Moody, a former Chase Bank marketer and worship leader who imagined the idea while listening to podcasts with his wife during COVID. He became deeply interested in one about the Old Testament and began to lament about “a beauty in celebrating the Jewish festivals and in the rich history that comes with Judaism that I was robbed of up growing up in the evangelical church. I feel like I’ve rediscovered something beautiful.”
His newfound passion for the Old Testament scriptures, particularly the Torah, came during a time when public gatherings, including those he would often participate in and help lead for his church, were shut down because of the pandemic. Moody was left with an excessive amount of time and lacked an outlet for his creativity; this project began to fill those gaps. When Moody’s daughter remarked that his idea would “be an anime about the Bible I would actually watch,” the type of animation also fell into place.
Initial art released for the series has emphasizes this anime-style approach, with a Japanese studio, in fact, working currently with Moody’s team to produce the animation that’s been released. There are also strong connections to the art style of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the beloved and complex animation series that was heavily influenced by anime. Moody also mentions Dragon Ball and Trigun as inspiring his series.
“We are unapologetically fans of anime and fans of world-building in anime,” adds David Cunningham, the series’ showrunner and head writer. Cunningham also emphasized something vital to Moody and the entire team: While made by Christians and inspired by the Old Testament, this anime is not meant to invoke specific lessons from the Bible to its audiences or push an agenda. In that way, Cunningham hopes that it will resemble Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia more than Superbook, stressing that “The number one thing is to tell a great story.” Moody adds that just as truth can be conveyed in parable, satire, legend, and poetry, anime is one of the best forms to bring such storytelling to life.
From Page to Screen
There’s still a long way to go before the show makes it to screen (or stream), but the team isn’t discouraged by the lengthy process. In fact, these stages feel very much like they’re just another part of an unexpected and wonderful journey. Moody’s route to this point involved cold calling multiple individuals and studios, eventually getting connected to Cunningham and the third executive producer, Albert Moore, who after reading just a third of the draft script responded, “How do I get involved in this thing?”
If Moody is the man with the energy and vision, Moore brings artistry and know-how to the effort. He worked on 2D animation for Disney for more than a decade, with involvemeent in films like The Lion King, Mulan, and Tarzan, before later turning to Christian entertainment. It was important to him that this work to be in 2D instead of 3D, believing the former generally captures humanity better than the latter.
Another step in the journey was to start assembling a cast. One of the important partners that Moody would reach out to suggested that one of his friends might be a good fit voicing a character in the series. Little did he know that this friend who “did some voice acting” was actually one of animation’s most prolific VAs, the distinguished James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
In fact, the event at GalaxyCon, hosted by Taylor, was to announce the lead voice actors for the anime. Fans shuffled into a panel room to hear about the project, which had been teased as something that he and Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) would be working on. As the leads for one of the most popular animation series of all time from one of fandom’s most popular brands, Lanter and Taylor are major draws for conventions, and so the panel quickly filled up. But would the attendees be on board for a series with such a connection to faith and religion?
Leap of Faith
It didn’t take long for the aduience to become fully engaged. Taylor introduced his co-stars, along with Moody and Moore, and by expressing his encouraging thoughts about and personal excitement for the series, was able to convey the potential of Gabriel and the Guardians to the attendees. His belief in it, paired with the exciting trailer, had the crowd responding, “Never fall!” to the call of “Never be shaken!”, the anime’s catchphrase that we might all be saying a year or two from now. Lanter’s participation was a lot of fun, too, as he kept popping in and out to the crowd’s delight, participating in the panel but humbly keeping the spotlight focused on the producers.
Perhaps the biggest announcement related to the show for anime fans, however, is the involvement of Johnny Yong Bosch. The prolific VA streamed in live as Moody, Moore, and Taylor dropped news about his participation. He’ll be voicing the main character, Gabriel (Taylor is cast as the antagonist), but that’s not the only way he’s participating; Bosch is also contributing the opening theme for the series! The crowd got to enjoy a snippet of that rock opening during the panel.
With much of the main cast in place, the next step for the series is to make it through a crowdfunding process that Angel Studios employs. The show has generated a great deal of interest already and it looks very likely to make it to production and distribution, but that’s not yet guaranteed and the team isn’t taking anything for granted. While not yet accepting funding, Gabriel and Guardians is working on generating interest through Angel Studios’ audience-focused process.
Moody is excited about the possibilities of all this, which would not only lead to the development of the series, but also to a companion manga and an app. It could also roll into the concept of a “fan-owned anime,” in which the community can help the creators make decisions about series and even submit designs in contests that could be used in the anime. Acting as active investors, funders would literally be bought into the process and be involved as both fans and owners.
Those interested in the series are encouraged to express as much through the anime’s page on the Angel Studios website. You can also follow the series on X (Twitter) and Instagram to keep up to date as Gabriel and the Guardians moves closer and closer to being green lit. Until that time, I’m sure their producers would encourage you with the show’s mantra as they take it as their own call:
“Never be shaken!”
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