By Jonah Morgan
During my perusal of the Wedge Holdings exhibition area at The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007 I happened across an edgy looking anime poster (high-res enlargement) that stuck out to me. With big English text it read “Velvet Underworld” and reminded me of music for some reason…. Besides the obvious mainstream classic American rock allusion overtones, this was the title to the opening theme of 1998’s Weiss Kruez (Knight Hunters) TV series. As it turns out, both are the creative effort of Takehito Koyasu, best known as a highly prolific anime seiyuu (ie: Mosquiton, Zechs Marquise in Gundam Wing, Ilpalazzo in Excel Saga). He’s always competed with Akio Ohtsuka and Hikaru Midorikawa for my favorite male Japanese voice talent ranking. Having gone through my “must watch every anime produced” phase in the 1990’s, I saw Koyasu’s work quite a bit. His official title is “editor” and credited with conceiving the original story on the VU project, which at this point remains unformatted (ie: TV, Movie etc..), being referred to simply as “animation” and “multimedia”. Character designs come courtesy Kuya Sakaki, production via RADIX mobanimation, Wedge Holdings. The producer is listed as Koichi Kikuchi, Planning and production are being carried out by Velvet Kingdom. An image song titled “ALTERNATIVE” has already been created, Shiu Kagaya, composed by Kazuya Nishioka and performed by The Man himself. The target audience at this point for the anime are women in their late 20’s.
The story occurs in Tokyo, Uruyu Tomoe is a new fresh detective who was seriously injured after becoming involved in a messy affair. The mysterious girl named Velvet rescued him and he survived, miraculously recovering. In an operation his left hand was replaced with an artificial one. His past memory before the time of his incident remains hazy. He was robbed of everything and the names of thirteen murderers who attacked him were engraved in his skin at that time. Tomoe is recruited as an underworld executioner by Velvet and inherited the legendary assassin’s code name, Aya. He swears vengeance, seeking out the thirteen murderers one by one in an effort to bring out the ringleader. Velvet, alias V, who is the granddaughter of the superintendant general of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police recruits criminals (who have excellent abilities) to the underworld in order to have them execute outrageous villains cut loose by the court system and who are beyond the realm of arrest. Now there are 13 troops who have been retrained as underworld executioners including Aya. He organizes his the team depending on the situation, sometimes taking one person and sometimes all 13. The sides lock in battle, each utilizing their own secret martial arts fighting techniques.
It’s still the early production days for Velvet Underworld but Koyasu mentioned the response to the project at TAF was pretty strong, cast auditions are going forward now.