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Terminator: The Anime Series Plot, Director, Showrunner And More Details

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The breakthrough feature of decorated filmmaker James Cameron, 1984's "The Terminator" put the future Oscar winner on the Hollywood map. It was also the beginning of a franchise that has made over $2 billion in the years since, and that's just from the six movie installments. There's also been a television series, a web series, a novel series, a bevy of video games, and over a hundred comic books. Soon, there will be another entry into the franchise, and it's one that has fans very excited: Netflix is teaming with some big players to make a "Terminator" anime series.

While the existence of the upcoming "Terminator" anime series has been known to the Hollywood trades for a few years now, the streamer didn't officially confirm the project — officially titled "Terminator: The Anime Series" — until its Geeked Week 2023 event, which ran from November 6 to November 12. The official announcement video, which evokes the score of the original movie, reveals that the project is a collaboration between Netflix and Skydance, the producer of the last two "Terminator" movies. What else is known about the upcoming "Terminator" anime series? Read on for all the available info.

When will Terminator: The Anime Series be released?

When Variety revealed that Netflix had ordered a "Terminator" anime series in February 2021, all the outlet had to say about a potential release date was that "the project is still in the early stages." There's been little concrete info on the planned release date since then, though we do know that it isn't all that far away — the official announcement video that Netflix released during Geeked Week 2023 states that the anime is "coming soon" (and that it will be available to watch "only on Netflix").

Seeing as Netflix didn't have any actual footage to show during Geeked Week, it seems highly unlikely that "Terminator: The Anime Series" will come out in what remains of 2023. The chances are it will see the light of day in 2024, which makes sense from a legacy standpoint — this will mark 40 years since the first "Terminator" movie hit cineplexes and became an unexpected hit. Everyone from Orion Pictures executives to James Cameron's agent expressed doubt over the film's potential for success, but it earned $38 million domestically, a big win for a sci-fi flick that was "done for peanuts," as Forbes put it.

What is the plot of Terminator: The Anime Series?

The official announcement video doesn't give much away in terms of plot, only offering a few cryptic lines: "On August 30th, 1997... two days from now... everything changes." Of course, as "Terminator" fans will know, that's the date that Skynet became self-aware. This artificial intelligence is the villainous force behind the war that breaks out between humans and machines. The anime will be set in 1997, but, thanks to the show's official synopsis, we know that at least some of it will take place in 2022.

"2022: A future war has raged for decades between the few human survivors and an endless army of machines," the synopsis reads. "1997: The AI known as Skynet gained self-awareness and began its war against humanity. Caught between the future and this past is a soldier sent back in time to change the fate of humanity. She arrives in 1997 to protect a scientist named Malcolm Lee who works to launch a new AI system designed to compete with Skynet's impending attack on humanity."

The show will have some timely themes: Malcolm Lee will be forced to confront the "moral complexities" of his AI work, per the synopsis. But it will also be classic "Terminator," because Lee (who is based in Tokyo) has to do his soul searching while being chased by one of the titular killers. "An unrelenting assassin is sent back in time to murder Malcolm and his three children in order to ensure its future dominance over humanity," Netflix's Terri Schwartz told IGN. In a nutshell, it's "Terminator" in Tokyo.

Who is starring in Terminator: The Anime Series?

The first question that fans of the "Terminator" films no doubt asked upon hearing that an anime series is in the works relates to the star of the franchise: Will Arnold Schwarzenegger be reprising his role? The anime appears to be focusing entirely on new characters, so that seems unlikely. A scientist is the target of a Terminator this time out, not Sarah Connor, and the soldier sent back to protect him is a woman (this duty was performed by Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese in the original). We can therefore assume that it will be a different Terminator, too. Even if they wanted to bring Schwarzenegger's T-800 back for the anime, they would have had a hard time convincing him.

Speaking in May 2023, Schwarzenegger said that he had moved on from the character. "The franchise is not done. I'm done," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I got the message loud and clear that the world wants to move on with a different theme when it comes to 'The Terminator.' Someone has to come up with a great idea." He was talking about new live-action movies, but could the "Terminator" anime series actually be the thing that gives the franchise a much-needed shot in the arm? Elsewhere, there's been no confirmation of who will be voicing scientist Malcolm Lee or the soldier sent back in time to save him. The voice cast will be announced in due course.

Who is the showrunner on Terminator: The Anime Series?

To say that the "Terminator" anime series is the brainchild of Mattson Tomlin would be an understatement. The Bucharest-born writer is still a relative newcomer, though he's quickly made a name for himself: Tomlin penned the 2020 Netflix film "Project Power" and 2021's "Mother/Android," released on Hulu. He's currently working on "The Batman Part II" as a writer, though his real passion project is "Terminator: The Anime Series" — not only is he writing it, he's serving as showrunner and is also an executive producer.

It's a dream come true for Tomlin, who has been a "Terminator" fan since childhood. When he was writing the anime series, he kept a doll of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" on his desk. He got the doll at Universal Studios when he was 10 years old after riding the theme park attraction Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time. Tomlin shared some snaps of the doll with fans via Twitter, but the reaction was somewhat guarded. "Sadly, due to the distrust garnered by previous productions, and the waffle fed to fans by previous directors and studios, Mattson Tomlin is just going to have to prove it with his 'Terminator Anime' pudding," said the fan site The Terminator Fans.

For his part, Tomlin seems to be genuinely thrilled about spearheading the next big installment in the "Terminator" franchise. "Anyone who knows my writing knows I believe in taking big swings and going for the heart," he said in a statement (per Variety). "I'm honored that Netflix and Skydance have given me the opportunity to approach 'Terminator' in a way that breaks conventions, subverts expectations and has real guts."

Who is directing Terminator: The Anime Series?

One of the few roles not being performed by Mattson Tomlin is that of the director. The man chosen to helm the anime series is Masashi Kudo, who is best known for his work as a character designer. It's a name that will be well-known to fans of "Bleach" — on top of the main anime, Kudo has worked on a number of movies and the recent sequel series "Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War," which has been a big hit with viewers. Animation is his bread and butter, but he is no stranger to directing, either. Where might you have seen his work before?

Kudo helmed the third and fourth seasons of the rom-com anime "Hayate the Combat Butler" in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and, more recently, he directed the slice of life show "Sanrio Boys." The "Terminator" anime is on the other side of the anime spectrum, but the higher-ups at Netflix believe they have the right people and that the show is going to blow viewers away. "The new animated series will explore this universe in a way that has never been done before," John Derderian, Netflix's vice president of Japan and anime, told Variety. "We can't wait for fans to experience this amazing new chapter in the epic battle between machines and humans."

Which studio is making Terminator: The Anime Series?

Netflix has forged relationships with a number of anime studios in recent years, an essential part of its plan to produce top quality anime shows for its subscribers worldwide. "We've built a dedicated team based in Tokyo that serves to entertain the global anime community through new and aspirational storytelling," Taiki Sakurai, Netflix's Anime Chief Producer, told Deadline. "With these additional partnerships with industry trailblazers who do amazing work, often marrying the latest technologies and traditional hand-drawn animation, we're excited to bring fans a greater variety of even more amazing stories." One of the studios that Netflix works with is Production I.G., and that's who will be animating "Terminator: The Anime Series."

Production I.G. is a well-known studio with several top titles under its belt, most notably the franchise-spawning cyberpunk classic "Ghost in the Shell," released back in 1995. Based on Masamune Shirow's manga of the same name, it's widely considered to be one of the best anime movies of all time. It's directed by Mamoru Oshii, who has given his two cents on the idea of a "Terminator" anime. "I asked my long-time friend and colleague Mamoru Oshii what he thought about the idea of turning the 'Terminator' into an animated series," Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, president and CEO of Production I.G., told Variety. "His response was 'Ishikawa, are you out of your mind?' At that instant, I was confident we should get onboard. As huge fans, our team at Production I.G is putting their heart and souls into creating this series."

Where to watch the Terminator movies and TV shows

If you've never seen 1984's "The Terminator," or you just want to watch it again in anticipation of the upcoming anime series, you've got several options. If you're a Max subscriber, then you're in luck — the original film is streaming there right now. If you're not, then you can always rent or buy it on Amazon, Google Play, or Vudu. 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (considered by many to be the best "Terminator" movie) is available in more places, with subscribers to Netflix, Paramount+, Hulu, and fuboTV all currently having access.

2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is available to rent or purchase on Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon. It's the same story for 2009's "Terminator Salvation," with Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon all carrying the fourth film. 2015's "Terminator Genisys" is available to Paramount+ subscribers at the time of this writing, and is also free to watch on Pluto. The latest installment, 2019's "Terminator: Dark Fate," is only available to rent or buy, with Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon all being options.

Both seasons of the Fox spin-off show "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," which stars Lena Headey as the titular character, can be streamed on Hulu. The show went down well with both fans and critics and is generally regarded as one of the few bright sparks in the post "T2" period. If you also want to take in the GCI-animated web series "Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series," you can rent or buy it via Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.