ATS Dojo is a satirical take on samurai and ninja lifestyles combined with corporate culture.” ATS Dojo is a popular manga with an animated short film in the works. Although the whole idea of combining samurai culture with black American culture is not new (see, for example, Afro Samurai, a very successful series), Kelvin Lee has done a great job of finding his niche in this complicated world of producing anime content.
To honor the project’s legacy, we have had the pleasure of sitting down and talking to its creator, Kelvin Lee, who discussed several interesting topics with us including his upcoming short film and creative aspirations. We have received some exclusive information about the movie’s plot, the production team behind it, and when we might see it released.
The talk was exceptionally interesting and quite informative, which is why it was a great pleasure for us to conduct this interview. Now, we’ll let you find out what we’ve talked about for yourselves. Enjoy!
- Tell us about your digital anime series ATS DOJO
ATS Dojo is a satirical take on samurai and ninja lifestyles combined with corporate culture. We wanted to combine Japanese anime elements with black American cultural norms. Imagine The Office combined with Samurai Champloo. We have a manga on IG, visuals on Tiktok, and a TV series in development.
- How did you come up with the project?
Honestly? I’m annoyed with the lack of quality animated content out there right now. I kept seeing terrible animated content being produced and it put a competitive chip on my shoulder. On top of that, I rarely see any animated content created by minorities. I felt like POC (People of Color) are underrepresented in the animation space and wanted to be part of the solution instead of complaining about the problem. I started with the manga to get my feet wet while doing research on all things animation. I went down an anime rabbit hole to gather some ideas and started writing spec scripts. I found a manga illustrator and once I saw my ideas visualized, the creative juices started overflowing.
- Can you tell us how ATS DOJO ties into your career?
I am a lifelong creative. I started in corporate America before transitioning to the music industry. After working in the music industry off and on for the last 7 years, I decided to finally put my degree (History) to use and started using my resources to put together this manga. I am also attending a film/TV course to get a better understanding of this business so it’s a continuous educational process.
- Looks like ATS DOJO is getting a movie adaptation, can you tell us how you managed to pull it?
We have an amazing team of people who have contributed to this endeavor. I started out asking friends and social media followers if they wanted to be in an anime. I would create characters based on their suggestions. I started writing like a madman and put an entire universe together with those same people. We wanted to establish credibility in the film industry, and that’s how the movie idea came about.
- Will ATS DOJO movie be a live-action or animated?
We are sticking to animation. I feel like animation has a much longer shelf life and is much easier to reintroduce and market to people. We’re not big enough to upset our fans with a live-action movie yet haha!!
- Can we know more about the movie? Who will produce it, maybe director, cast, plot and more?
The film is about a blind warrior from a distant land who changes the entire outcome of Japan with a koto. It’s a historical take on the life and legacy of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Along with my writing partners Brandon Hampton and Wendy Cruz, we put together an amazing script with visuals. The film will be produced by my production company, Kuthaus Productions. It’s been a very fun and tedious process so far.
- In case you still don’t know about the cast and director, who would you like to see taking over the movie and characters?
This film is an art film so casting will be limited. I will be directing it alongside creative director, Tyrain Purple and lead animator Devante Givens. I have a few amazing voice actors on standby in case we decide to add narration or voiceovers to the movie.
- When can we expect the release date for the movie?
We are targeting a Q1 2022 release date. We plan on getting this film in the film festival circuit to generate a legitimate buzz.
- Will you still continue working on manga?
Absolutely!! The manga is our most popular form of content we provide. This entire universe started with the manga and will live on as we try to navigate this crazy world of film.
- When can we expect Season 4, and will there be more?
After we’re done with our Kickstarter campaign we will launch Season 4 of our manga series. We have a ton of surprises for this season and I can’t wait to show the world what we have been working on.
- What can you tell us about your professional plans for the future?
The short-term goal is to complete this film and get distribution rights, establishing our brand in the film industry. The long-term goal is to pitch the TV series to a network and obtain syndication. I would love for this to be my career for the rest of my life. My main personal goal is to put women, LGTBQ, and people of color in positions to create their own content freely and without the pressures of adhering to mainstream media standards.