Albuquerque's “Indigo Ignited” bridges worlds with Japanese production
“When a door closes in front of you,” David Pinter said matter-of-factly, “you have to be willing to kick it down.” And that's exactly what Pinter, along with his partner in both art and business, Samuel Dalton did. You see, Pinter and Dalton are doing something unprecedented—
Indigo Ignited's unlikely origins are in small-town Texas, where Pinter grew up. The product of a troubled household, Pinter began to journal as a means of processing. Yet, he didn't want anyone to uncover his most personal musings, so he began to fold his private experiences into works of fiction in the pages of his journal. After an auspicious dream, it is in these pages where Indigo Ignited began to take clear shape. Billed as a “dark fantasy anime,” it is the story of Kieran, an Indigo, that is, a race of people once thought to be extinct. In the story, Kieran faces off against the powers that be—an evil ruler who forces his constituents to wear masks that change to reflect his mood. Pinter knew it was a story that carried weight, and in 2014, when he met Dalton for the first time, he knew that Dalton—who was already making comics—was the artist who could breathe life into the world he saw in his mind and unpacked on the page. After their first meeting, which lasted eight hours, Indigo Ignited was already out of the gates and running.
Both Dalton and Pinter grew up with anime—each citing classics like “Dragon Ball Z” and “Cowboy Bebop” as some of their first education in the genre. Both also avidly consumed manga. Dalton described soaking up the art in the pages of Shonen Jump when he was 11: “One of the evil androids grabs the character Yamcha and kills him by putting his arm through him in a full-page spread,” he said with tangible enthusiasm. “I was amazed by how much I connected with the art and the emotions of the characters.” And so, he was hooked. “I would stay up all night with my friends watching anime and drawing characters in hopes of one day becoming a manga artist.” Flipping through a print copy of Indigo Ignited, the realization of Dalton's dreams is palpable. With a style all his own, he brings to life the obscure world the characters inhabit and animates the character of Kieran with heart and complexity. What attracted both Dalton and Pinter to manga and anime were the possibilities that these styles offer. While in the US animation largely still inhabits the realm of childhood, anime is popular among vast demographics and has the opportunity to explore sophisticated topics through an accessible medium. Dalton added that to boot, “anime is a medium where you can literally make anything for a smaller budget. … There is no limit to style and creativity. As an artist, I absolutely love that.”
In the creation of the story and the pages of Indigo Ignited, yes, their were no limitations, but when it came down to the business of producing an anime, the duo ran into lots of false starts and snags. The truth is, there is no guidebook for what they're doing and there are few resources. They taught themselves the business of negotiation, of finding investors and collaborating across cultures—and they're not just collaborating with strangers over phone and email: They traveled to Japan to develop the series with some of their literal heroes like Henry Thurlow (“Naruto,” “Tokyo Ghoul”) and Yoshiharu Ashino (“Dragon Ball Z”). While Indigo Ignited is the first indie comic book to be adapted into a full-fledged Japanese anime, Dalton and Pinter don't necessarily want to be the only series occupying that territory forever. In fact, they are making a concerted effort to share what they've learned about art and process, as well as what they've learned about business with the local community. “Albuquerque will benefit from the show's success hugely,” Dalton said. In fact, as they move forward with production, it is important to note that much is being done locally, like the voice acting—and they're trying out methods never before seen in Japanese anime. In “Indigo Ignited” Dalton and Pinter are trying out new things—and it is this kind of boundless freedom, coupled with, as Dalton describes it, “a very human story,” that will make the show resonate with veteran anime fans and newcomers to the genre, and with audiences from Japan to New Mexico. As the team shops “Indigo Ignited” to internet hubs like Netflix and Crunchyroll, they're trying to never limit themselves and what's possible—because with effort and conviction, they've already surprised themselves. “We could not be more excited for the future and to give this everything we've got,” Dalton said, before sweetly adding at the close, “More anime, more manga, more everything.”