Netflix’s director of anime, Taito Okiura, tells me he feels like a local baseball player who got drafted into the U.S. Major Leagues. Except, he doesn’t play the sport.
A producer and entrepreneur with over a decade of experience in the industry, Okiura was offered the job twice by Netflix before joining last October. He was unavailable three years ago when first tapped by the company to help open its Japan branch. In 2016, he took a conference call with the talent acquisitions department from corporate headquarters in Los Angeles.
“I told them I wasn’t sure how serious Netflix really is about anime. Then I hung up the phone,” he says.
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But Netflix knew how passionate Okiura was about anime. In 2007, he was a key producer on the then-groundbreaking transcultural project, “Afro Samurai,” written and illustrated by Takashi Okazaki, animated by Japanese artists, voiced by American actor Samuel L. Jackson and scored by rapper RZA. Later that year he co-founded David Production Inc. (“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”), which he sold to Fuji Television in 2014.
Last summer, when Okiura learned that Netflix was again seeking a director for its anime operations, he took the initiative. “This time it was up to me,” he says in his airy Omotesando office. “I really applied myself. The timing was right, and I didn’t want anyone else to have this job.”