South Bronx, New York, native LeSean Thomas is making anime in Tokyo partly owing to a mistake. In the early '90s, he bought a video cassette of what he thought was "Akira" but turned out to be a behind-the-scenes "production report" chronicling the film's creation. Instead of returning it, Thomas watched it every day. When he saw director Katsuhiro Otomo and his team working through the night at their cramped desks, he thought: "That's what I want to do."

More than 20 years later, Thomas, now 43, is about to debut as an anime showrunner with "Cannon Busters," a 12-episode series based on his 2005 comic book of the same name and rendered by Tokyo animation studio Satelight Inc. It premieres Aug. 15 on Netflix.

"Cannon Busters" is a multinational project, created by an American, co-financed by Britain's Manga Entertainment Ltd. and Taiwan's Nada Holdings Inc., produced by a Japanese studio and released on a U.S.-based streaming portal.