Over the past few weeks, among all the news releases and media attention from anime publications, one big announcement for a potentially huge new series has gone mostly unnoticed. Three of the most well-known voice actors in animation, Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Trigun), James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), and Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), joined the American creators of a new series to announce their involvement in a new anime, Gabriel and the Guardians, over Labor Day weekend at GalaxyCon’s first convention in the Austin market.
Gabriel and Guardians is a “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.” It was inspired by the Torah, specifically Genesis 6. The series has a teaser and feature art available, despite not yet being in full production. Both were shown at the panel together with other materials, and the audience responded strongly. They appeared to believe that the project, which would be created by Angel Studios (The Chosen, Sound of Freedom), could be something truly unique.
In the Beginning
Jason Moody, a former Chase Bank marketer and worship leader, came up with the concept for Gabriel and the Guardians while listening to podcasts with his wife during COVID. He developed a strong interest in a book on the Old Testament and started to bemoan the fact that “I was robbed of a beauty in celebrating the Jewish festivals and in the rich history that comes with Judaism while growing up in the evangelical church. I feel as though I’ve rediscover something lovely.
At a time when the pandemic had shut down public gatherings, including those he would frequently take part in and help lead for his church, his newfound interest for the Old Testament scriptures, notably the Torah, had emerged. This endeavor started to fill the voids created by Moody’s excessive free time and lack of creative outlets. The kind of animation also made sense when Moody’s daughter said that her father’s concept would “be an anime about the Bible I would actually watch.”
This anime-style approach is highlighted in the series’ early artwork. In fact, a Japanese studio is presently collaborating with Moody’s team to make the animation that has already been shown. There are also many similarities to the popular and intricate anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was greatly influenced by manga. Moody also cites Trigun and Dragon Ball as sources of inspiration for his series.
David Cunningham, the show’s creator and lead writer, continues, “We are unabashedly fans of anime and fans of the world-building of anime. Additionally, Cunningham underlined a crucial point for Moody and the entire team: Although produced by Christians and drawn from the Old Testament, this anime does not have any explicit religious overtones or a political goal. In this regard, Cunningham thinks it will be more like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia than Superbook, emphasizing that “The number one thing is to tell a great story.” According to Moody, one of the best mediums for bringing such stories to life is anime, just as truth can be expressed through allegory, satire, folklore, and poetry.
From Page to Screen
The team isn’t deterred by the drawn-out process, even if there is still a long way to go before the show is ready for the screen (or stream). These phases actually feel like simply another stop on a beautiful and unexpected adventure. Through a series of cold calls to various people and studios, Moody eventually connected with Cunningham and the third executive producer, Albert Moore, who asked, “How do I get involved in this thing?” after reading just a third of the draft script.
Moore adds creativity and expertise to the project if Moody is the one with the drive and the vision. He spent more than ten years working on 2D animation for Disney, contributing to movies including Tarzan, Mulan, and The Lion King. Later, he began producing Christian entertainment. He felt strongly that this piece should be in 2D rather than 3D because the former generally represents humans better.
Starting to put together a cast was another stage in the quest. One of Moody’s key contacts indicated that one of his pals may be a suitable fit for the role of a character in the show. Little did he realize that this acquaintance who “did some voice acting” was actually the illustrious James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: The Clone Wars), one of animation’s most prolific VAs.
In actuality, Taylor’s appearance at GalaxyCon was to reveal the anime’s main voice cast. A panel room was packed with fans eager to learn more about the project that he and Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) would be working on. Lanter and Taylor are significant convention attractions because they are the stars of one of the most well-known animated shows of all time from one of the most well-known brands in the fandom. As a result, the panel soon filled up. But would the audience support a show with such a strong connection to religion and faith?
Leap of Faith
The audience quickly showed signs of being totally absorbed. Along with Moody and Moore, Taylor introduced his co-stars. By sharing his positive opinions of his personal enthusiasm for the show, Taylor was able to show the audience the potential of Gabriel and the Guardians. The crowd reacted to the demand of “Never fall!”—the anime’s motto that we might all be chanting a year or two from now—with the resounding, “Never be shaken!” thanks to his faith in it and the thrilling teaser. Lanter’s participation was also a lot of fun because he kept vanishing and reappearing to the amusement of the audience, taking part in the panel while graciously keeping the producers in the spotlight.
But for anime enthusiasts, the involvement of Johnny Yong Bosch is maybe the biggest news regarding the program. As Moody, Moore, and Taylor broke the news about his participation, the prodigious VA streamed in live. He’ll be lending his voice to Gabriel, the series’ protagonist (Taylor is the enemy), but that’s not the only way he’s involved—Bosch also wrote the theme song! During the panel, a portion of that rock intro was played for the audience.
The next step for the series is to make it through a crowdfunding procedure used by Angel Studios, with the majority of the key actors already in place. Even though the program has already attracted a lot of attention and appears quite likely to go into production and distribution, nothing is yet certain, and the production team isn’t taking anything for granted. Gabriel and Guardians is attempting to generate interest through Angel Studios’ audience-focused process even though it is not currently accepting funds.
Moody is enthusiastic about the potential outcomes of everything, which might result in the creation of the series as well as a manga and an app to go along with it. It might also be included into the idea of “fan-owned anime,” in which the audience can participate in series decision-making and even submit designs for potential inclusion in the anime through competitions. Funders would literally be brought into the process and involved as both fans and owners by acting as active investors.
The anime’s page on the Angel Studios website encourages fans to express their interest in the project. To stay informed as Gabriel and the Guardians gets closer to getting approved, you can also follow the series on X (Twitter) and Instagram. I’m confident their producers will support you with the show’s motto until then because they will make the decision on their own call:
“Never be shaken!”