The superhero anime "The Reflection" will premier this Saturday at 11 p.m. on NHK-G.
An original production depicting superheroes in American comic book style, the show is the brainchild of two major creators from the United States and Japan - Stan Lee and Hiroshi Nagahama.
Lee, a legendary American comic book author who created "Spider-Man," "Iron Man" and many other superhero classics, serves as the executive producer for the animation project. Nagahama, its director, has won acclaim for his anime adaptations of manga with peculiar flavors, such as "Mushi-Shi" and "Aku no Hana" (The Flowers of Evil).
A long-time fan of American comics, Nagahama met Lee through an acquaintance. The two agreed to collaborate on a production and began seriously working on the project about three years ago.
"It's been more than 10 years since I first met Stan," Nagahama said. "We don't really know who came up with what ideas. This is truly a joint project between Stan and me."
The 12-episode anime is set in a world struck by a mysterious catastrophe called the reflection, in which a black, smoky substance and veils of diffusely reflecting green light appears in the sky, killing many people while giving special powers to those who survive.
Three years later, a memorial ceremony for the victims in New York is attacked by terrorists with supernatural powers. Several superheroes - including X-On, an unidentified masked man, and I-Guy, clad in a metal suit - rise up to take them on.
The images in the anime deliberately mimic the American comic style, hence the use of matte colouring, though the colors have a distinctly Japanese hue.
"We went for economical expressions, cutting out all unnecessary detail," Nagahama said. "It's very close to ukiyo-e."
The creative staff rarely used digital technologies, instead resorting to painting and hand-drawn sketches as much as possible. Japanese anime techniques were utilized to achieve smooth movement during action sequences.
British music producer Trevor Horn, who produced a number of hit songs in the 1980s, contributed music that enhances the dynamism of action scenes. He also performed the song played in the fighting scene for I-Guy, who can convert his voice into long-range shock waves.
Nagahama was particularly committed to adding detail to the biographies of each character. I-Guy, for example, was actually a rock singer whose work was produced by Horn in the 1980s, thereby linking the anime to reality.
"I want to depict a world that we can relate to, not one that's totally foreign," the director said.
"With only 12 episodes, we can probably show only 3 per cent of what Stan and I have created. But we'll definitely provide answers to any questions and concerns people might have."
Those outside Japan can watch the anime on Crunchyroll worldwide except in Asia from Saturday, Hulu in the United States with English subtitles at the same time as the TV broadcast, or Funimation in an English-dubbed version in selected countries from August or later.