Takashi Okazaki always liked the idea of being a DJ. In fact, he apparently has a pretty hefty collection of hip-hop, funk and soul on vinyl that needs to upload to his computer. But, as Okazaki said through a translator during our interview at Anime Expo, he thought that all DJs "were really cool," and maybe he wasn't. Instead, Okazaki created Afro Samurai and became the coolest manga-ka on the scene.
As if RZA's soundtrack to the anime version of Afro Samurai, which stars (and was co-produced by) Samuel L. Jackson and was, in an unusual move, released in the US before Japan, weren't enough of a clue, Okazaki's a huge hip-hop fan. Get him talking about his favorite artists and chances are you won't need the translator. Some things transcend language barriers.
Below are a few of the artists that inspired Okazaki's futuristic, feudalist vengeance saga. The artist will host a Q/A panel at Anime Expo today at 4 p.m.
Hip-hop turned Okazaki onto '70s funk, which lead him vintage episodes of Soul Train. He was taken by the music and the style, so much so that host Don Cornelius and the Soul Train dancers served as a major inspiration for his character designs. The clip above features a live performance from the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson being one of Okazaki's favorite singers.
J. Dilla "Nothing Like This"
While writing and drawing Afro Samurai, Okazaki listened to piles of music from the late producer J. Dilla. "Nothing Like This" was taken from the prolific artist's album Chrome Children.
Public Enemy "Fight the Power"
Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing had a profound impact on Okazaki, not just because of the movie, but because it served as his introduction to hip-hop. The manga-ka says that "Fight the Power" is the first track from the genre he remembers hearing, thus sparking an obsession.
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A Tribe Called Quest "Scenario"
De La Soul "Three is the Magic Number"
Okazaki says that he is partial to hip-hop dating back to the 1990s, with groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul ranking fairly high on the list of favorites.