Everything You Need to Know About Rooster Teeth's Sci-Fi Anime 'gen:LOCK'
The next generation of mecha is here, and it’s coming from Rooster Teeth. The creators of the long-running comedy Red vs. Blue and the fantasy action series RWBY take to the skies with their own take on the giant robot anime genre.
Executive produced by the studio’s head of animation, Gray G. Haddock, gen:LOCK, is set in a near future where Earth’s civilizations are locked in a devastating global war.
After almost a year of reporting by Inverse, including interviews with the show’s creators at RTX, New York Comic Con, and a visit to Rooster Teeth’s studio in Austin, Texas, here is the definitive guide to everything you need to know about the new series.
What Is gen:LOCK?
gen:LOCK is a new anime series produced by Rooster Teeth, the studio that earned viral fame with Red vs. Blue — a workplace comedy “filmed” using Microsoft’s Halo video games — and RWBY, the fantasy anime about teenaged monster hunters currently airing its sixth season.
Set 50 years in the future, gen:LOCK depicts a world at war fought with chunky, giant robots controlled by human pilots. When a scientific breakthrough introduces a new breed of mecha — better, faster, stronger, and more agile than a cheetah — the next generation is led by hot shot pilot Julian Chase, who commands a crack team of specialists to save the world.
Mecha 101: A Giant Genre
gen:LOCK is the studio’s take on the mecha anime genre, a popular subgenre of sci-fi that envisions towering, humanoid robots, often with a human pilot. The genre was innovated by Japanese artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, in his 1956 manga Tetsujin 28-go which was imported to the West as the animated series Gigantor.
Other examples of mecha include Mobile Suit Gundam, Voltron, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Super Sentai (and its American cousin, Power Rangers), Robotech, and Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 blockbuster Pacific Rim.
Spider-Man also had a giant robot once (in Japan, where else), and the Beastie Boys paid homage to mecha in the music video for their 1998 single, “Intergalactic.” In 2017, director Nacho Vigalondo transformed the genre into the acclaimed black comedy film Colossal, which starred Anne Hathaway.
“All of their mecha is heavily armored, short, and squat, and not that humanoid,” Haddock explained in an August 2018 interview about the mechas seen at the beginning of the show. “They’re just walking tanks, with cannons where their arms should be. The gen:LOCK team shows up, and they represent a generational jump in technology.”
He added: “They’ve got more human-shaped mecha that can move and fight similar to a human can, at a four-story-tall scale. They’re up against an enemy [who has] less of a conscious of how they’re evolving their science.”
Evan Narcisse, a columnist for io9 and co-writer of Marvel’s Rise of the Black Panther with Ta-Nehisi Coates, also serves as a writer on gen:LOCK. At RTX, Narcisse said the technology seen in gen:LOCK will evolve, and Haddock adds that it will explore the diverse sub-genres of sci-fi mecha anime.
“The first season of gen:LOCK, for me, it feels like a complete technology arc,” Narcisse said. “We see the technology in one place, and it ends in a different place when the season ends. Like Iron Man, you watch his armor evolve over the decades. We are watching this technology iterate in ‘real-time’, and the characters react to the developments and technology.”
“The show is a tribute to mecha shows,” Haddock tells Inverse. “It’s not just a military sci-fi show, even though the mecha will be hard-edged and military in function. Over time, the mecha will evolve and become super mecha. Maybe in Season 2 we’ll do quadrupeds or transforming robots. I wanted to play with all the classic ingredients you think of when someone says ‘mecha show’ but ground it in a way you understand why the team is driven to introduce technology year by year.”
In addition to being a mecha series, the show also takes cues from Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell and Uncanny X-Men by Marvel.
Looking Towards the Future
Set a few decades ahead from our current present, Haddock said in an interview at New York Comic Con that the series is imbued with futurism that’s meant to be close to our actual trajectory.
“It was pretty self-driven research,” Haddock told the press. “I’m quite the addict for any futurism or futurology. I follow a lot of headlines. I wanted to take a shot at doing some speculative sci-fi that would feel similar to anyone keeping up with the news these days.”
Haddock teased that gen:LOCK will include advanced concepts in several fields, such as medicine, material sciences, networking, communications, and even brain-computer interfaces, all of which will be grounded in factual reality but imagined with 50 years of progress.
“There’ll be some moments of Star Trek-like technobabble,” the showrunner admits. “Hopefully we’re respectful to the current trends in science just enough so people won’t roll their eyes, and we don’t have to explain why we have giant robots for this story.”
Where and When to Watch
The series premieres January 26 on Rooster Teeth’s streaming channel FIRST. Lucky fans who tuned in on December 22, 2018, to watch RWBY were treated to a surprise airing of the pilot episode.
The January 26 premiere will rerun the pilot, followed by the premiere of the second episode.
Meet the Heroes of gen:LOCK
gen:LOCK sports an all-star cast that includes talent from outside the Rooster Teeth family. If you’ve watched Black Panther, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Billions, Cowboy Bebop, the Twilight film series, and more, then you’re familiar with the show’s cast.
- Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Creed, Creed II) as Julian Chase, a hot shot pilot from Brooklyn who serves as squad leader. A lifelong fan of anime, Jordan said on Instagram that gen:LOCK “fulfilled one of my life-long dreams of voicing a character on an animated show.”
- Dakota Fanning (The Alienist, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Twilight) as Miranda Worth, another pilot who has a romantic history with Julian.
- David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) as Dr. Rufus Weller, the eccentric genius scientist who oversees a major breakthrough. In an interview with Inverse from October 2018, Tennant said: “He’s a scientific genius; he has enabled the technology that sets the story in motion. And then he might take a misstep. You’ll have to wait and see!”
- Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) as Cameron “Cammie” MacCloud, a teenaged hacker with decorative mechanical bunny ears.
- Kōichi Yamadera (Cowboy Bebop, Japanese voice actor for Donald Duck) as Kazu Iida, a transfer from the Japanese army.
- Golshifteh Farahani (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) as Yasamin “Yas” Madrani, a recruit from Iran who’s resistant to revealing her past.
- Asia Kate Dillon (Billions) as Valentina “Val” Romanyszyn, a former Ukranian covert agent. Val has been identified in official press releases with they/them pronouns.
- Monica Rial (Dragon Ball Super, SSSS.Gridman) as Col. Raquel Marin, a high-ranking military leader.
Rooster Teeth talent from original shows like Red vs. Blue, RWBY, Camp Camp, and more also join gen:LOCK in major roles.
- Lindsay Jones (RWBY) as Razzle, Julian’s squadron leader.
- Miles Luna (RWBY) as Miguel “Migas” Garza, Chase’s best friend.
- Blaine Gibson (Camp Camp) as Robert Sinclair, a seasoned ranger recruited to the gen:LOCK program.
- Chad James (DEATH BATTLE) as Jodie Brennan, a mecha pilot and close confidant of Miranda.
- Gray G. Haddock as Leon August, a mecha unit leader.
You can watch and listen the show’s principal characters interact in a preview of the pilot episode below.
gen:LOCK x DC Comics
gen:LOCK comics from DC are coming later this year. At New York Comic Con last October, Rooster Teeth announced a huge partnership with DC Comics, and the famed publisher will release comics based on Rooster Teeth properties like RWBY and gen:LOCK. You can learn more about that partnership in our report from October 2018.
gen:LOCK premieres January 26 on Rooster Teeth FIRST.