The success of major anime franchises like Naruto, One Piece and Bleach in the mid and late 2000s kickstarted a wave of popularity for anime and manga outside of Japan, especially in America. This saw programming blocks like Toonami feature shows that may have otherwise skipped the States. Likewise, both Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon had several shows that, while not quite the same, were very clearly inspired by Japanese animation.
One show that would have been like this was the planned cartoon Akihabara@DEEP. This series would have been one of several different adaptations of its source material, albeit one a bit more oriented toward American youth. Perhaps because of the mature content of its source material and the company's difficulty adapting it, the Nickelodeon series never saw the light of day. Here's the story behind the Akihabara@DEEP franchise and how its first chance to hit the States fell by the wayside.
What is Akihabara@DEEP?
Akihabara@DEEP began as an action-dramedy novel written by author Ira Ishida. The series centered around a group of nerdy otaku who, as the name would suggest, live in and around the Japanese city of Akihabara. Their goal is to use artificial intelligence to create an efficient new search engine that would cater to the wants and needs of Akihabara's denizens. However, their tech makes the group a target of the malevolent Digital Capital corporation.
The novel's popularity saw it adapted across several mediums over the years. The first of these was a manga, which was fairly accurate to the original book. Next came a more light-hearted live-action TV series, which provided more backstory and development for the characters, namely antagonist Nakagomi Takeshi. Conversely, the film adaptation that released after the TV series ended took a darker look at things, making the outcast nature of its otaku protagonists more central than before.
Akihabara@DEEP's Cancelled Nickelodeon Adaptation
The series' immense success didn't stop with books or live-action, though. In the same year as the TV show and the movie released, it was announced that Nickelodeon would produce a CG animated series that gave its own take on the novel. This was interesting, given that all Japanese adaptations had been live-action. This resulted, or at least would have resulted, in a version of Akihabara@DEEP that, while still set in Japan, had a distinctly American flavor.
The character designs were courtesy of Ippei Gyoubu, who took it in a distinct, vibrant style akin to the likes of cult hit SEGA video game Jet Set Radio, as well as the art of Tank Girl creator and Gorillaz album artist Jamie Hewlett. At the time, Gyoubu stated that the series had already begun production a year before, and that it would be released in 2009 at the latest.
The biggest issue with the series' production stemmed from the material. The original novel and Japanese adaptations were targeted more toward older teens and young adults, with topics like prostitution in Akihabara being featured. As mentioned, the film version made the sometimes funny series darker and more serious than ever. Thus, turning it into a show for tweens would have taken considerable reconfiguring. Writer Robert Chang's pitch for the series was deemed too dark, and when the show eventually changed hands to Radar Cartoons, it fell into development hell. Since then, the series has yet to have so much as a proof of concept surface, though Gyoubu did release the aforementioned concept art that showcased how the series would have probably looked. It's doubtful that the series will ever see the light of day, but one can hope.