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Cannon Busters: Diversity in the Realm of Anime

This blog is the sixth installment of UIC Radio’s Black History Month series profiling and celebrating the work of Black artists throughout the month of February. To read the previous entry in this series, click here! For more information regarding Black History Month at UIC and the many upcoming events planned over the next several weeks, visit the Black History Month Student Planning Committee’s webpage here.

What has cowboys, guns, compelling storylines, budding relationships, and robot mechs all wrapped into one while being parented by a POC creative? The answer is Cannon Busters, an anime created by LeSean Thomas which debuted globally on Netflix in August of 2019 and became one of the streaming platform’s hidden gems of that summer.

2019 Netflix anime adaptation

The streaming platform series was created by Bronx native LeSean Thomas, who is an American animation producer, character designer, animator, and director currently stationed in Tokyo, Japan. Thomas is far from a newcomer in the world of animation, having several accolades under his belt in his years in the animation industry. Thomas has helped in the creation of several animated classics such as Adult Swim’s iconic The Boondocks, for which he was a supervising character designer and co-director for the show’s first and second seasons. He also had a hand in the creation of several other nostalgic television productions like Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible, and Ben 10, to name a few.

Thomas is also a comic book artist. Titles that he has worked on include Arkanium and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His own works include Nervous Breakdowns: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol.1, Midnight Marauders: The Art of LeSean Thomas Vol. 2, and Cannon Busters, which is his own graphic novel.

Cannon Busters creator: LeSean Thomas

In 2009, Thomas relocated to Seoul, South Korea to join Studio Mir in working on The Legend of Korra. After this, he was picked up to work on Black Dynamite. A period of time passed before Thomas was able to successfully crowd-fund a pilot for Cannon Busters in 2014 through a Kickstarter campaign. The show would eventually be acquired by Netflix in 2017 and air on the streaming platform a couple years later.

Thomas has also created, directed, and produced his other anime work Children of Ether in a collaboration effort with anime streaming platform Crunchyroll, and debuted in a line up for Crunchyroll’s Anime Movie Night. The 14-minute short film was shown in 300 theaters on July 26th, 2017, after which it would move on to stream on the Crunchyroll platform.

The Anime industry is often seen as a space where people of color are underrepresented. Among the sea of colorful and creative characters within the world of anime, it’s no secret that there is lack of representation for black creators and characters that needs addressing, and even though there have been some steads in recent years (Black Lagoon, Michiko & Hatchin, Cowboy Bebop), there is still work to be done to create more representational and non-stereotypical depictions of Black people in anime shows. With the creations of Children of Ether and Cannon Busters, LeSean Thomas joins other Black anime artists and creators in pushing for diversity in the realm of entertainment and showcases the wealth of talent that Black & PoC artists can bring to the table.

Cannon Busters 2019 Trailer

Getting into the show itself, Cannon Busters has much to offer in terms of great aesthetic animation style and a gripping plotline. The show follows companion droid S.A.M (Special Associate Model) and her companions, maintenance droid Casey Turnbuckle and wanted outlaw Philly the Kid, as they search for her friend Prince Kelby after the kingdom is overthrown.

The show, which offers a space western and action vibe similar to classic Watanabe series like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, and with a fairly short viewing time of 12 action packed episodes, will leave you wishing for a second season. Cannon Busters hosts a majority PoC character lineup and a stunningly attractive soundtrack, featuring contributions from musical artists Marty Grimes, BJRNCK, and Mansa. Given that Cannon Busters is not a fairly new anime, it is still worth the watch and may very well become one of your top series.


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