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How Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga started life as an anime

Consider this another incredibly cool film that we'll never get to see

Furiosa in anime design
Image credit: Mahiro Maeda

The Mad Max franchise took a remarkably long break between 1985's Beyond Thunderdome and 2015's Fury Road, but it was always director George Miller’s intention to return to the series. Spending almost 3 decades musing on the idea means that it took multiple forms over the years; in addition to the TV show we never got, there were also plans for Furiosa to get her own anime film around the time that Mad Max: Fury Road was released.

Back in 2009, Miller worked with Mahiro Maeda, who has worked on the mind-blowing classic Neon Genesis Evangelion and directed Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, to develop the concept art for Mad Max: Fury Road. During this time, they came up with the idea for a companion film to Fury Road which would expand on Charlize Theron’s character. It would have given us her backstory, fleshing out Furiosa’s relationship with Immortan Joe.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it is basically the expected plot of this year’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Miller told IndieWire back in 2015 “We were going to do [Furiosa as] an anime before it was delayed a second time when we were rained out of Australia.” What started as an anime companion film to Fury Road eventually got shifted into the live-action interpretation of the character that’s due out in May.

Furiosa and War boys in anime
Image credit: Mahiro Maeda

The designs for the film were originally reported via a Japanese news report, showing Furiosa and Immortan Joe as imagined by Maeda. The video has since been taken down but outlets like Crunchyroll have kept the designs online for us all to wonder at. Many of the elements from the Furiosa trailer feel present, including a younger version of Joe and Furiosa’s hair before she adopted the iconic crew cut from Fury Road. The designs are clearly early drafts but you can see how Anya Taylor-Joy’s character evolved from this anime interpretation. If nothing else, it would have allowed Theron to return as Furiosa, at least in voice form.

Immortan Joe anime designs
Image credit: Mahiro Maeda

That anime never happened, but it would have been a beautiful full-circle moment in entertainment. The influence that Mad Max has had on anime is more significant than you think. Fist of the North Star, the groundbreaking shonen manga and anime, borrows significantly from Miller’s second Mad Max film, The Road Warrior. Manga like Trigun, Battle Angel Alita, and Desert Punk all borrow heavily from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. As the decades have gone, Mad Max has become engrained in the fabric of post-apocalyptic anime in an undeniable way.

Time passes and plans change for every creative person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t wish we had seen more of how Furiosa would have looked in anime form. Along with the long-abandoned TV show, it feels like a missed opportunity to grow the franchise. With its over-the-top action and Rule of Cool philosophy, Mad Max would feel right at home in the world of anime.

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Trent Cannon

Trent Cannon: Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)


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