What do get when you throw Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and Gurren Lagann in a cast-iron skillet with a sprinkle- naw, a whole barrel of blackety black blackness?
You get Cannon Busters, an all-new Netflix original anime based on the comic of the same name from the mind of LeSean Thomas. Thomas is an OG in the animation game, having worked on The Boondocks, The Legend of Korra and Black Dynamite. After years of promotional artwork and online crowdfunding, we have finally been blessed with a Sci-Fi western action-comedy starring a predominantly black cast.
While black nerds all over the world have been inspired by the beauty that is Japanese animation, to this day there’s still a scarcity of multidimensional black anime characters. Afro Samurai only had five episodes and a movie, and the very first black character to show up in Naruto only speaks in raps, so it goes without saying that the blerds have been waiting for a show made for them, by them. Cannon Busters is a show that’s making history by merely existing, and it’s got the chops to back it up.
Enter Philly The Kid, a wanted criminal who travels the land of Gearbolt in a bright pink Cadillac-style car named Bessie that can transform into a giant bull on command. Philly’s your quintessential anime hero; he’s silver-tongued roughneck with big, spiky hair who’ll put a hole in anything or anyone who gets in his way (think Spike Spiegel with some extra seasoning). Part of Philly’s cockiness comes from his immortality. He can rapidly heal from nearly any attack. In the very first episode, a high-tech shotgun punches through his midsection, and he walks it off like a stubbed toe.
Joining him on his run from capture is S.A.M, a highly advanced robot who shows more compassion than most of the humans she comes into contact with. She’s programmed to make friends easily, saving them in her memory banks with a snapshot. S.A.M links with Philly to help her find her owner, Prince Toji. Philly and Sam, along with a robot mechanic named Casey travel from town to town scavenging for parts, fuel and supplies for their journey. Along the way, they run into bounty hunters, tortured spirits and evil sorcerers. They’ve (or just Philly) gotta learn the definition of friendship to make it through the next day. These characters do a great job of playing off each other. S.A.M. and Casey’s warm kindness offsets Philly’s bold and brash attitude, and his years of travelling on the road protects them from making naive decisions based on their willingness to trust anyone. They’re a great group of misfits, and it’s a joy seeing them strengthening their bond each episode.
Cannon Busters will punch you in the mouth from the very first minute. The action scenes flow like water, and the dialogue keeps you smiling until the next Netflix countdown. It truly feels like this show was made for black anime fans. From the hairstyles to the humour (Philly makes a toilet joke pulled straight from Friday), this show is a love letter to every black anime fan yearning for representation in the shows that they love. If it wasn’t a Netflix exclusive, TOM would surely be talking this show up on Toonami’s late-night block.
And can we talk about the theme song? “Showdown” by Bradley Denniston and Kevin Beggs combines piping hot bars and a gospel choir to bring you a banger that sets the tone for the adventure with our colourful heroes, as well as your morning commute to work. It’s catchy.
Cannon Busters put black people in the spotlight and gives them their long-awaited shine. Along with anime, western films and TV shows featured very few black people, even though they very much existed in that same time period. As an anime set in a futuristic old western setting, Cannon Busters shows that black people can occupy both spaces.
And this is just the beginning.
By: Lorenzo Simpson
Edited by: Keshav Kant
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.