A pastiche of Japanese anime and video game influences filtered through talented Canadian designers with Hollywood films like X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Godzilla reboot on their resume, Urbance is wild kinetic fun that has the potential for cult status if it ever gets the chance.
In a future ruled by an invasive corporation where sex means death, the action centers around an underground nightclub where lost teenagers organize electrifying dance battles and drink illegal N-DORFIN. Organizers try to keep the parties secret from 24-7 surveillance, but the threat of violent intervention from “Mediators”, high-tech corporate police, is a constant threat.
Urbance is far from perfect, its futuristic application of contemporary slang is sometimes cringe-worthy, and is not helped out by the sub-par voice acting, but the breadth of the vision and the visual flair with which it is executed demands your attention. Designed as a pilot, the project is one we’ve been tracking for a while, ever since the initial concept trailer blew up on Vimeo in 2013. It was a bold vision at the time, a gorgeously slick anime-inspired 2D animation that was also joyously Western and urban, with its multi-racial cast and edgy fusion of gangs, drugs, and sex. We see a lot of these cool trailers though, often realized as tests or portfolio pieces, so it wasn’t clear at the time that studio behind the piece had serious intentions—then a successful Kickstarter began and raised over $200,000 Canadian dollars.
For an independent production without any stars of note, that’s a significant amount. The vision sketched out was equally ambitious, the pilot would be part one of a transmedia package with comics book and game tie-ins. Interesting French-Japanese animation startup, Yapiko, was tabbed for production, and with a team of anime-industry veterans, the quality is unusually high.
Completed in the Fall of 2015, the pilot was briefly available on Vimeo On Demand, but was made free to view last month. One hopes that there is a market for this kind of project, but while digital outlets throwing money around abound, animation of this caliber is expensive, restricting the range of partners. The majority of greenlit projects opt for simpler, less action-heavy designs, but two video games based on theUrbance universe are now in development, so fingers are crossed for the Steambot team—this is gaudy, sexy entertainment that we’d be fascinated to see continued.