On the occasion of the broadcast of Onyx Equinox on Crunchyroll, we met its creator, Sofia Alexander.
ONYX EQUINOX IS AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY ON CRUNCHYROLL
Online since November 21, Onyx Equinox is a thrilling “Original Crunchyroll” around Aztec mythology. The story is this: The gods are on a war footing to decide the future of humanity. A young Aztec boy, Izel, finds himself caught in their dangerous game. In order to save his family, he must accomplish an impossible task: close the five gates of hell.
Izel has no choice but to accept his mission, but it is only when it is completed that he can also mend a terrible tragedy. His quest to become the champion of humanity will be fraught with hope and despair, trust and betrayal. Izel will have to face his darkest thoughts and decide whether the human species (with all its flaws and contradictions) is worth saving …
Onyx Equinox was created by Sofia Alexander, storyboarder on numerous TV productions and passionate about Japanese animation. Originally from Mexico, she wanted to highlight certain little-known aspects of the culture of her country. Meet this young designer with promising talent.
AlloCiné: How did you get the idea of Onyx Equinox?
Sofia alexander : I grew up in Cancun, Mexico, surrounded by all this beauty – there are a lot of archaeological sites there. In art school, our teachers always told us to know the story we were going to tell well and since it was part of my childhood, I wanted to write an epic fantasy story set in Mesoamerica, because i ‘ve seen that it had never been done before.
I thought to myself, “Well, no one is going there, so why don’t I give it a shot after all.” It’s an amazing culture, I want people to realize that. So Onyx is very close and dear to my heart and I hope people can relate to the characters.
I wanted to write an epic fantasy story set in Mesoamerica because it had never been done before.
Were the Aztecs an obvious choice for you because of the gods, mysticism and legend?
Yes. We are going to see two of the most prevalent cultures in the media: the Aztecs and the Mayans. However, my goal was to cross Mesoamerica, a rather large area of modern Mexico, and show other cultures because there is so much wealth. We know these two cultures well; they are the ones who survived a little longer after Spanish colonialism.
This region, victim of considerable loss and destruction throughout history, has gaps in its history that we have not been able to fill. I thought to myself, “I should take this opportunity to share with the rest of the world what I learned growing up in Mexico”. So, we will discover much more than just Aztec culture.
Can you describe some items that are a little different?
It won’t be a historical anime. There are animes based on some really amazing historical events and that’s great. However, I wanted to create an epic fantasy story and if I had to add more fantasy elements to the story, it was due to shortages created by the destruction of knowledge and artifacts during the colonial era.
I don’t want to leave a culture aside just because we don’t know more about that culture. I think we have enough detail to tell a story and create characters that people can relate to.
Onyx Equinox was a turning point in my life.
Onyx Equinox is your first creation …
Yes. It’s my first production and it was an amazing experience. I feel very lucky. Above all, you had to be well prepared and be there at the right time. I feel very … I hate to say lucky, but that’s the only word that comes to mind. It was a turning point in my life.
Is this something you’ve always wanted to do, a dream you’ve always had?
Yes. When I was a kid and watched animes, I wanted to become a comic artist. I read a lot of manga and the idea of telling a story through a graphic novel has always appealed to me a lot. However, after I went to college, I met a friend who was studying animation and he asked me, “Hey, can you help me with my thesis? – Uh well, I don’t know how to animate. But you do comics. You can make a storyboard. “
And that’s when I learned what a storyboard was and I was like, “Oh my God, I can do my own series like this”. I can work in the animation industry. I wanted the style of anime that I grew up with and developed on my own to finally turn into a cartoon. Like any animator, we all wait for this opportunity to tell our own stories. It’s surreal to see our work on screen.
You worked on The Powerpuff Girls, didn’t you?
At first as a freelance editor, so I wasn’t even in the building. And they liked my work and offered to make a storyboard for one of the episodes. And that was my first achievement as a storyboarder. Then I made a storyboard for the anime Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters produced by Hasbro.
After that, I joined the Invader Zim team and we made the storyboard for the film Enter the Florpus. And after that, Cartoon Network again, this time as a full time storyboarder. I had the pleasure of working for the Infinity Train team. And finally, here I am at Crunchyroll.
How did you convince Crunchyroll?
It was during a meeting with Marisa Balkus, one of the leaders of Crunchyroll Originals, and it was just a quick meeting. We were coming to the end of our conversation and we still had some time left, so I was like, “You know what, I’ll give it a shot.” I believed in my story.
At worst, I had some doubts, but because I have such a passion for my story, it gave me the necessary courage. The worst that could have happened is that she said to me, “Oh, not now! Or “Let’s talk about it another time!” “. Not true ? And now here I am.
If people like the characters and relate to them, I reckon it will be a success.
Are you worried about the reception fans are going to give your anime?
Yes and no. The anime industry offers enormous diversity when it comes to content and styles. So yeah, obviously, I can’t wait for people to meet the characters and identify with them. This is what will differentiate Onyx from other programs. If they like the characters and identify with them, I reckon it will be a success in itself.
I am worried because I will be sharing a part of myself in this program. Onyx talks a lot about myself, my team and our own experiences and he has captured our hearts. It’s always scary to be criticized so openly, but you know what? I am sure people will love it.
Do you think the Mexican audience will find an extra dimension that most of us will miss? Do you think this culture will appeal to a different audience, in a different way?
No, I thought about it as soon as I started writing the story. All my life I have grown up watching anime from Japan and they put a lot of their culture and history into their programs. Most of the time, it goes over my head, but because I’m there with the characters and the story. Finally the context allows me to understand and I say to myself:
“Ok, here I am”. But if there was a gap between what might have been obvious to someone who lived in Japan, knew the history and grew up there and what I knew about myself, if there was something that I didn’t didn’t understand, I would have gone online to Google to see what it was and why this character’s ideology was so important.
And I hope the Onyx fans who are not from Mexico are so excited and close to the characters that it will be the same for them. I learned most of the lyrics from the anime opening sequences [openings], even though I didn’t understand a word. It was just a cool song, cool music and it made me happy. So I hope Onyx causes that kind of feeling in people. If you can relate to a character, the story and its setting will fall into place on their own.
Can you name three series that have influenced you in your life?
The first anime I saw was Saint Seiya [Les Chevaliers du Zodique] in Spanish followed by Dragon Ball and Cardcaptor Sakura. The relationship between Piccolo and Gohan was a great inspiration to build the one between Yaotl and Izel. Again, there is such diversity in the anime. There is something for everyone. Having two brothers, of course, I watched more shônen. These are my biggest influences.
Do you often go back to Mexico?
My parents and brothers are currently in Texas, but I recently visited my aunt and uncle in Campeche. I told them Onyx was going to be produced and that I wanted to go there and do some research and visit some sites that I visited growing up.
And I went to one of my favorite sites, which is in the trailer, The Magician’s Pyramid, in Uxmal. They also took me to another site, which is not even well known to Mexicans, so I wanted to add that to the story. So visiting my family always brought me back to, “Oh let’s go to Castilla de Chapultepec or Cenote,” kind of a sinkhole.
Do you hope there is a second season, a third and a fourth?
I don’t know what’s going to happen from now on. I have a good feeling, the feeling that everything will be fine, but from the start, even before my pitch, I knew what I wanted, how many seasons, what was going to happen to the characters from start to finish and how they would evolve. Onyx is almost 13 years old, from the day I started creating the characters and writing the story, so it’s been in my head for a long time.