Samuel Sattin Talks About Reimagining Unico: Awakening

Osamu Tezuka’s iconic manga, Unico, the story of a young unicorn cursed by the gods to travel between worlds and losing his memory as he does, comes back reimagined by the minds of writer Samuel Sattin and artist Gurihiro in UNICO: Awakening.

Joining Sattin and Gurihiru for the ambitious Kickstarter of UNICO: AWAKENING are eight internationally acclaimed artists who are creating rare 16″ x 24″ collectible prints: Akira Himekawa (THE LEGEND OF ZELDA), Junko Mizuno (RAVINA THE WITCH), Soo Lee (ASH & THORN), Katie Longua (ROK), Peach Momoko (DEMON DAYS), Kamome Shirahama (WITCH HAT ATELIER), tokitokoro (FOR A GOOD MAN), and Academy Award Nominated Animator Tomm Moore (WOLFWALKERS). There are a total of 3 prints by Peach Momoko.

Gabrielle Cazeaux: Let’s start with GateCrashers’ traditional question: what is your favorite sandwich?

Samuel Sattin: I’m partial to a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. 

Gabrielle Cazeaux: How does it feel to be a part of such an ambitious Kickstarter project?

Samuel Sattin: It’s been equal parts an enormous undertaking and a complete and total joy. The amount of excitement, enthusiasm, and talent that has gone into building the campaign has definitely inspired me. And it seems like backers are joining in on the celebration, which we’re so grateful for. 

UNICO: Awakening | Art by Gurihiro
UNICO: Awakening | Art by Gurihiru

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What was it about the chapter ‘’The Cat on the Broomstick’’ that made you want to take inspiration from it for this reimagining?

Samuel Sattin: All of the stories in Osamu Tezuka’s original Unico manga are worthy in their own respect. The Cat on the Broomstick contains themes and ideas that, to me, really exemplify Tezuka as a thinker. The Cat on the Broomstick is about the problems we have accepting our own identities. It also features one of the most celebrated relationships in Unico, between the main character and a black and white cat with a pink bow. The Cat on the Broomstick, like all of Unico, has moments of sweetness, but don’t be fooled…it’s a very complex and sometimes dark story. 

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What was your relationship to the character and its stories before this project?

Samuel Sattin: I really love Tezuka’s work, and in the last decade I decided to start reading as much of it as I could find. The book that left the biggest impression on me was MW; it’s an adult gekiga book, and might very well be the darkest one he put out. Conversely, it turns out that he wrote Unico at the exact same time, which might strike some as odd, but to me, makes a lot of sense. They’re very similar in certain ways, two sides of the same coin. When I first read Unico, I thought it was strange, beautiful, complex, and moody. It was unlike anything I’d ever come across, and for those who have seen the films—especially the second one—rather than read the book, similar emotions are evoked. Unico is a character that’s emblematic of kindness and perseverance. He’s also incredibly tragic, and when you mix that with the brightness and hope he embodies, the result is something incredibly unique that I’ll never stop thinking about. 

UNICO: Awakening | Mini-Comic by Steenz
UNICO: Awakening | Mini-Comic by Steenz

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What do you hope to achieve with Unico: Awakening? 

Samuel Sattin: I think that we’re trying to achieve a few things. Firstly, we’d like to bring this important, artful story to a new generation of readers. Unico truly is a character that our current world could benefit from. I think it’s also fair to say that we (and by we I mean Tezuka Productions, Gurihiru, and myself) are trying to create a project that is truly collaborative. We would like this to be read in the US, Japan, and abroad. Lastly, if it’s all possible, I hope this story will allow more modern readers to discover Osamu Tezuka, especially in the US, where we’re a little behind the curve.  

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What do you feel are the most defining traits about Unico’s setting and how did you come about implementing them for Unico: Awakening?

Samuel Sattin: That’s a really interesting question, specifically since Unico’s setting changes chapter by chapter as he moves through time. For UNICO: AWAKENING, we are actually looking to concretize some settings that previously were a little murkier. So for instance, the West Wind’s journey is expanding into a larger arc, so we’ll be able to explore new horizons alongside her. It’s quite exciting to work on. 

UNICO: Awakening | UNICO Print by Katie Longua (イラスト:ケイティ・ロングァ)
UNICO: Awakening | UNICO Print by Katie Longua (イラスト:ケイティ・ロングァ)

Gabrielle Cazaux: What new things are you bringing to the world and stories of Unico?

Samuel Sattin: More than anything, we’re expanding some of the character’s roles. The West Wind and Venus take on larger parts in UNICO: AWAKENING, and we will spend more time with the characters, digging a little deeper emotionally. We also have a larger, overarching plot in the story’s backdrop. I could mention more, but that might be a bit of a spoiler. Either, we can’t wait to show you all. 

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What does it mean for you to take on such an iconic character for new stories?

Samuel Sattin: It’s an incredible honor, and something I’m simply grateful to be doing. It’s also exciting beyond all measure, and as you might imagine, intimidating. Thankfully, working with Gurihiru and Tezuka Productions, we are able to work together step by step to make sure we do our due diligence. In short, I’m just thankful to be able to say I’ll try my best. 

UNICO: Awakening | UNICO Print #1 by Peach Momoko (イラスト:桃桃子 プリント/ポスター#1)
UNICO: Awakening | UNICO Print #1 by Peach Momoko (イラスト:桃桃子 プリント/ポスター#1)

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What has been the most exciting aspect of your collaboration with Gurihiru?

Samuel Sattin: They’re just a phenomenal team. Brilliantly talented, of course, but as I’ve said many times now, capable of doing something unique; namely, I think they are able to blend Japanese and Western comics art styles in a way no one else can. They’re smart, they draw incredible compositions, and the colors are to die for. So really, the most exciting aspect of our collaboration is that we’re collaborating at all! It’s also been incredible to see how they design the characters from Unico. I’m always blown away by their thoughtfulness and subtlety. 

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What do you think we could all learn from Unico?

Samuel Sattin: What a great question, since in part, that’s what, to me, writing UNICO: AWAKENING is about. For now, I would say that, if you look at Tezuka’s original story, there are some prominent themes that stand out. One seems to be that kindness doesn’t come with a reward, but that it belies everything that we are. Another seems to be about how love can be used as a weapon and a salve. But overall, I’d say that Unico could teach people that the only way to truly become powerful is by caring for others, and being cared for in return.

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