Vampire Weekend’s music has always straddled a line between squeaky-clean yacht rock and the broader influences of the band members’ multiethnic backgrounds. In that regard, it comes as little surprise that frontman Ezra Koenig’s new foray into television would offer a similar sort of sociocultural pastiche: “Neo Yokio,” a six part animated series for Netflix whose trailer premiered Thursday, evidently draws upon classic anime, English literature and contemporary New York culture.
Featuring a spectacular voice cast that includes Jaden Smith, Susan Sarandon, Jude Law, Rookie Magazine editor Tavi Gevinson, Jason Schwartzman, Richard Ayoade, Ike Barinholtz, Steve Buscemi, Alexa Chung, Stephen Fry, Katy Mixon, Annet Mahendru, Kiernan Shipka, Willow Smith and Amandla Stenberg, the show’s most conspicuous influence is “Akira,” and looks like it takes place in an upscale borough just a few blocks from the explosive squalor of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Neo-Tokyo. Set in the near future in the “greatest city in the world,” the eponymous, prospering melting pot Neo Yokio, the serial focuses on pink-haired Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith), a demon slayer nursing a broken heart, and the circle of family members, friends, fans and hangers-on who complicate his cosmopolitan lifestyle.
All six episodes of “Neo Yokio” will launch on Friday, September 22, exclusively on Netflix. Koenig and his co-creator Nick Weidenfeld collaborated with two Japanese animation studios and a Korean third for good measure, but suffice it to say that animation fans and cultural watchdogs will almost certainly have much to say about the show’s multicultural influences. (In other words, get ready for an onslaught of thinkpieces the following Monday.)