Amber Noizumi and Michael Green (A Haunting in Venice) aren’t just wife and husband, but also the co-creator duo behind the upcoming animated action series Blue Eye Samurai streaming on Netflix starting November 3, 2023. Leading up to the release of the series, Dorkaholics was invited to be a part of a roundtable interview with the series creators along with John Nguyen of Nerd Reactor and Kevin Fenix of The Illuminerdi.
Kevin Fenix: You have such a stacked cast: Maya Erskine, Masi Oka, Ming-Na Wen. Did any of the characters change based on the casting?
Amber Noizumi: I think all of the characters were enriched by these amazing actors. I don’t know if any of them took a left turn from the casting, but every single one just brought something – a sense of themselves, a sense of whether it be their pride for Asian representation or their humor or their wit or something that just made each character special on their own.
Neil Bui: Where did the inspiration come from for Blue Eye Samurai?
Amber Noizumi: Well, the inspiration came from having a blue-eyed child together and just calling her a blue-eyed samurai. That was like the first little kernel or first little seedling of the idea. And then realizing as a mixed-race person how I’ve always been caught between two worlds like that, and that actually having blue eyes would have been seen as freakish in Edo-era Japan, and just what that journey would have looked like and how that rage of being marginalized would have metastasized, and who that character would be is. It was an interesting journey.
John Nguyen: Watching this show, I was on a deep dive of just more Japanese Edo culture, just studying stuff like female warriors. You have Nakano Takeko and more. So, I’m wondering if any real-life warriors in the past have influenced you with this.
Michael Green: When you do the reading we did and the research we did, there was so much we wanted to include and so much you’re influenced by. It’s actually hard to answer the question because we put so much into the soup of our brains and then just started writing and then would check to make sure we give the scripts to experts to make sure we got things right as we could. It’s hard to point to any one particular thing. There are definitely folktales, stories we read that seep through and probably chime through most loudly.
Kevin Fenix: How did you come up with the bunraku story or was that something that existed and you built off of it or how that came about?
Amber Noizumi: The idea for the onryō is a classic folk character in a lot of Japanese Bunraku as well as Noh theater as well as kabuki and just in the written arts. So, the whole idea is about a revenge demon, somebody who’s been wronged and then comes back to basically lay waste to the world. And so, the story itself in our show is a version of that character. So, we used a real folk character from Japanese tradition. It’s an original interpretation of it, but there’s a lot of influences from other Japanese folk tales.
Neil Bui: What was the collaborative process like for the two of you as well as any major people involved, that helped carve out what Blue Eye Samurai would end up looking like?
Michael Green: I’ll spend more time on the second part because we were writing partners on this. We were stuck together during COVID quarantine, needing to write a bunch of episodes together. And it allowed us to focus on something that wasn’t just the drudgery, misery, and high-level parenting that that was. But more importantly, once we had scripts and the show was picked up, we were introduced to creative partners on the show on every level who just took these stories and characters and made them real. And it started with meeting Jane Wu, our supervising producer, who was, we say she’s made in the lab to make this show, because no one else had the background she did in animation and live-action in lensing, in wardrobe, in martial arts. Our production designer Toby Wilson, who brought in teams of experts of artists. Brian Kesinger, character designer lead, who literally cast Mizu by creating her and bringing versions with his team just iterating characters, models over and over until we all said “ohh that’s Fowler”, “ohh that’s Taigen.” And then of course finding the right Mizu. So at every level our composer, who really Amie Doherty who brought so much emotion and emotional reality to the space and made the show feel the way it does. The worst thing is that people don’t watch the credits every time when you make television, because you realize that all those names that blow by are people who truly touched the show and made it real. And when you see brushstrokes, literal and figurative in this show, they came from some very talented person’s hand, working uncountable numbers of hours to make this show real.
John Nguyen: Just working on this project with the character of Mizu, it’s a bad time for her, in the past, trying to be a warrior, having blue eyes, being mixed race. What was that like for you trying to craft this story and incorporating these elements into the show?
Amber Noizumi: Well, I guess the struggles that she faces due to her mixed-race heritage and being a woman, those struggles are ultimately what make her who she is. Those are what turned her into this warrior, this unstoppable warrior, and she’s so laser-focused on the pursuit of her revenge. Throwing the obstacles in her way, one after the other and watching her overcome it, that’s her journey. I think that’s what makes a lot of us who we are, or at least partially.
Kevin Fenix: I was reading the production notes that this is kind of a 10-year journey of a conception to getting it on screen. And I know you said it’s not anime, it’s the 3D hybrid style. How did you feel when you first kind of got the first fully rendered vision of the series?
Michael Green: The first time we saw Mizu and went “yes!” It’s the most joyful thing as a screenwriter when something in your head suddenly becomes real, even if it’s digitally real. But it’s kind of unthinkable to imagine that we talked about this person, we made her real in our minds. But then all these artists came together and gave her a soul.
Amber Noizumi: It was kind of like seeing our actual blue-eyed baby but that only took nine months.
Michael Green: It would have been a lot harder to animate a child.
Neil Bui: You briefly touched upon some of the themes of the show, such as being marginalized in Edo period Japan, as well as revenge. What were some of the themes that you really wanted to convey to the audiences watching the series?
Amber Noizumi: One of the main themes for Mizu is that even though she’ll only be satisfied when she has her revenge. We know she’s not going to be satisfied, we know that there’s way more to it. It’s not a simple revenge tale like ‘this is my goal, I’m gonna accomplish my goal and then I’m good.’ We know that there’s definitely more to that. It is what she believes herself to be, that it has metastasized into this like cancer of self-loathing, and ultimately whether she achieves this arc or not, that remains to be seen. But we know that her journey is greater than the one she believes it to be.
Michael Green: And just for fun, it’s not a theme, but we wanted people to be really hungry after watching episodes. We wanted them to see the food and be like we have to go get Japanese food right now. We want, like the shawarma bump, we want the soba bump.
Neil Bui: No, I appreciate the soba scene at the beginning of episode one. Minus the finger chopping.
Michael Green: Yes, yes. Well, you pay extra for the topping.
John Nguyen: And speaking of finger chopping, there’s a lot of violence, and this show is not afraid to just go to the deep end and what was that like? Do you have any limits on the action scenes, or you just went all out and it’s like let’s just keep going?
Michael Green: We want to have fun with it, but also it all had to come from a place. So like two fingers are chopped off, but those are the two fingers that touched a girl rudely. Mizu cuts off someone’s hand after he grabs her. So as long as it came from a visceral emotional place or gave us joy, we went for it.
Amber Noizumi: We didn’t pull any punches or slices as you will, but we definitely tried to be judicious and not have blood dripping down the screen every moment.
Kevin Fenix: OK, so with this season we get a lot of kind of like the Japanese aspect of a mixed breed and without giving too much away. Are you excited to explore more of the documented treating of half breed from the other side of that coin?
Amber Noizumi: We definitely are excited too, but we’re open to exploring all sides of all coins and just kind of going deep into that history and Mizu’s character.
Michael Green: Yeah, here’s hoping we get to keep telling the story.
Catch all 8 episodes of Blue Eye Samurai on Netflix starting November 3, 2023
Where to watch Blue Eye Samurai
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