Nearly three years after the announcement of an upcoming Tomb Raider anime series on Netflix, the show’s voice cast is still taking shape. According to What’s on Netflix, Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa, who plays the iconic BBC show’s 15th Doctor, has joined the cast of the untitled animated series. The Rwandan-Scottish actor joins the previously announced Hayley Atwell, who will portray Lara Croft, along with Earl Baylon (returning as Lara’s sidekick Jonah Maiava) and Allen Maldonado (portraying Lara’s “man in the chair” Zip).
The series, helmed by Tasha Huo for Legendary Entertainment, is set to premiere sometime in 2023, but not much else is known about the series. Gatwa, who also stars in Netflix’s Sex Education, is an interesting addition to the cast not only for his acting prowess but also because of the character he’s set to play. According to the actor’s Spotlight page, Gatwa will voice a character named Eshu.
Who is Eshu in the Tomb Raider anime?
No character named Eshu currently exists in the Tomb Raider series, so it’s likely he will be a brand-new addition for the Tomb Raider anime. Interestingly, Eshu is the name of a deity in Yoruba mythology. This Nigerian culture portrays Eshu as a benevolent trickster god who serves the chief god, Ifa, as a messenger between Earth and Heaven. He also plays a role in divining the future and conveying sacrifices.
This is significant for several reasons, as it may hint at more supernatural elements returning to the Tomb Raider franchise after the mostly grounded events of the recent Survivor trilogy. It also suggests that Lara may return to Africa, a continent the series has largely avoided outside two trips to Egypt and one to Ghana.
Much-needed African representation in pop culture
It also suggests that the Tomb Raider anime may bring some much-needed representation of African culture and mythology to popular media. Another West African trickster god, Anansi, is prominently featured in the hit Starz series American Gods.
The Black Panther films by Marvel Studios also showcase an amalgamation of African cultures in the fictional nation of Wakanda. Marvel’s Disney+ series Moon Knight series takes some creative liberties while showcasing ancient Egyptian myths and iconography. Eshu’s addition to the Tomb Raider anime could be a substantial step forward in the representation of West African culture in popular media.
Will the Tomb Raider anime help unify the timelines?
The Tomb Raider anime is slated to take place after the events of 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider. In 2021, franchise executive director Dallas Dickinson suggested that all future Tomb Raider projects will be made with unification in mind, so the Tomb Raider anime will likely be the franchise’s first step toward its unification efforts. This endeavor, first announced in 2021, teased that video game developers Crystal Dynamics are working to unify the events of each disparate era of the series into one cohesive timeline.
That unification will continue with the next mainline Tomb Raider game, which is currently in development. Also included in the unification plans are a live-action Tomb Raider streaming series penned by Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and an upcoming untitled movie. All three projects are part of a massive deal new Tomb Raider IP owners Embracer Group made with Amazon in 2022.
“Crystal Dynamics has an extraordinary opportunity following our acquisition by Embracer to redefine what a publishing relationship is for Tomb Raider. Transformative is what we’re looking for, and with Amazon Games, we found a team that shares our creative vision, ambitions, and values for a Lara Croft universe across the spectrum of possibilities. They’re uniquely positioned to rewrite what publishing and development collaborations are, and we’re eager to forge this new path together, starting with building the biggest and best Tomb Raider game yet!”—Scot Amos, head of studio at Crystal Dynamics
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