Epithet Erased – First Look and Interview With Brendan Blaber

Welcome to Sweet Jazz City, where a heist is in the works at the local museum courtesy of the Banzai Blasters. What they weren’t expecting was protagonist Molly, who has woken up to find herself locked in the museum! Armed with only her epithet, the power of the word “Dumb.” Can Molly escape unharmed? Get ready to meet a diverse ensemble cast, with a power set ranging from Barrier to Soup. The unique animation style brings a table top-esque feel to this quirky tale, and it’s sure to be a fun ride through to the end.

The show is the creation of Brendan Blaber, also known as JelloApocalypse. Nerd News Social had the opportunity to see the announcement panel for the show at San Japan in San Antonio, Texas this August, and we’re excited to get to follow up with Brendan for a more in-depth look at his project.

Episode 1 is out on VRV now, be sure to check it out for some eccentric shenanigans.

Sarah Somerville: When did you start conceptualizing the story for Epithet Erased?

    Brendan Blaber: Epithet Erased is based off of an old tabletop campaign I streamed with my friends starting about 3-4 years ago! (I won’t say the title because the entire thing is massive spoilers in case we get more episodes in the future). It was a series of episodic adventures that were all very loosely-based on different genres. There was a Western episode, a Whodunnit, a Magical Girl adventure, you get the idea! There was an enormous rotating cast of characters who would swap out each adventure. I’ve always been a big fan of perspective shifts, so I wanted to see if I could tell a story where even I didn’t really know who the “real protagonist” was until the ending.
    That series of games was basically an idea dumping grounds for a bunch of other projects I did that never quite made it off the ground, so some of the characters in Epithet Erased are, very technically, almost a decade old. If you keep recycling the ideas you like over and over again, eventually you’ll finally get to use them!

Sarah: Many of your characters from Pizza Game were inspired by some of your real life friends. Is the same true for any of the cast in Epithet?

    Brendan: Not exactly, though many of the same friends played the characters in the original campaign that inspired Epithet! A few of them (Zack Maher as Sylvie and William T. Sopp as Ramsey) still play their original characters! But they weren’t necessarily based on any of them. That being said, there were plenty of one-off characters based on stupid jokes with my friends. We might see some of them pop up in later seasons, if we get the chance!

Sarah: If you had an Epithet, what would it be vs. what would you want it to be? How would you use it?

    Brendan: Originally the way characters received their epithets was from a random word generator. We actually rolled the power first and developed the character afterwards! That’s how Molly, Giovanni, Sylvie, Indus, and Mera were made, as well as several other characters appearing later in the season.
    In the spirit of that randomness, I just rolled my own epithet. Apparently it’s “Overlap”! I think I’d use that to be able to overlap my tasks and do them at the same time. I’m constantly trying to multitask and failing at it, so it’d be nice to be able to do two things at once without frying my own brain for a change!

Sarah: There are many settings and story-lines that can be explored with this concept of a universe with Epithets giving people powers. Why did you choose a museum robbery to showcase this universe?

    Brendan: I mentioned before that each story arc of Epithet‘s “beta version” was inspired by a different genre. The first story arc for this series was a shonen anime-style Tournament Arc, but that doesn’t really work for a character-driven show like Epithet. I looked over the entire plot and I found that the biggest “theme” of the show was crime. Over half the characters are criminals, most of the adventures featured at least one prison, and things were constantly being stolen, including the necklace everyone is after in this season.
    The museum works as a toybox to introduce the series to new viewers. It has a relatively small character count (with only 5 lead characters for the first four episodes), locks them in a single location, and forces them to engage with each other. Epithet‘s visual style is really experimental. We already need to ease viewers into the unique style of the show, so I wanted to start somewhere that was relatively small and easy to digest while still being an interesting setting.

Sarah: Can we expect a Season 2, and if so will it step outside the museum of Sweet Jazz City?

    Brendan: We actually step outside of the Sweet Jazz Museum in the first season! The first four episodes are the “Museum Arc”, while episodes 5-7 change gears and follow a “Western” theme in a small town up in a redwood forest.
    As for Season 2, I certainly have plans for one if we’re lucky enough to get renewed and if people like the show! There are actually a lot of nods towards S2 plot threads hidden in the background of the museum and we have a handful of Season 2 character cameos where we could sneak them in. Hopefully we’ll get to meet them one day!

Sarah: How did you choose the unique animation style?

    Brendan: I’m a YouTuber for a living (which is a hilarious sentence to me) so I have to keep an eye on current trends. In the last few years there has been a huge surge of “Draw My Life” style vloggers (I like to call them “drawgers”). These artists will essentially storyboard anecdotes from their life, kind of like a fast-paced slideshow. It’s not fully animated, but there’s enough movement and charm that it’s still very engaging. You also have channels like Extra Credits and Overly Sarcastic Productions who use a similar style of static drawings to educate, and I’ve listened to literally hundreds of hours of their work. I love it, and millions of other subscribers seem to agree.
    So that raises an interesting question: How animated does something need to be for people to engage with it? Does it need to be animated at all? I wanted to find out what the natural extreme of this medium looked like. What happens if you take professional, fully produced VA work, and animate… portraits? Is that enough? Will people like it? What really makes a story? Is it the acting? The visuals? The charm? What about the top-down stuff on the overworld map? Will people be able to extrapolate entire character movements from little boxes wiggling back and forth? I genuinely don’t know!
    Epithet is a mixture between normal animation, a visual novel, a TTRPG game, and an audiobook, and seeing the reaction to it has been really interesting so far! Some people seem to really like it, some people absolutely hate it, and some people say it’s best to just close the tab and listen to it like a podcast!
    For the format I was specifically inspired by some other TTRPG shows, such as Thrilling Intent, which merge top-down map visuals with simplified, visual novel-style character portraits on top for more expressive moments. It’s a good way to tell the kind of story we want to! You get the expressiveness of the portraits, plus the clarity of the top-down map for action sequences.

Sarah: How long was the show in development?

    Brendan: I was writing it on and off for about a year, and it’s been formally “in development” since about early June! So five months? It feels like it’s a been a lot longer! Probably because I work every single day, haha.

Sarah: Was it a concept waiting for the right format, or did the format dictate the story?

    Brendan: I think I’d say that I happened to have an idea for a weird format and also the idea for a weird story. They got developed together, so… both?

Sarah: Without giving too much away, what do you want fans to take away from this story?

    Brendan: From a storytelling standpoint I think I’d like Epithet to make people think about the idea of “morality” vs. “law”. Epithet takes after one of my all-time favorite series, Baccano!, in that no single character is objectively “a good guy”. Even Molly, the “innocent” as of the first episode ends up doing things that are technically illegal by the end of her story arc. The first police officer you meet is an antagonist, and then later the protagonist.
    I would say Giovanni is the nicest person in the cast (Molly included), and his self-proclaimed dream is to be “the baddest bad guy of all time”.
    I think Human Decency vs. Societal Rules is a really interesting concept and also a really dangerous one when people don’t understand it. So I guess what I’m saying is that the moral is “Lawful Neutral is actually Just Evil”!

Sarah: What part of making the show have you enjoyed the most?

    Brendan: There really is no feeling quite like explaining a stupid joke character to a professional actor, and then seeing them actually bring them to life. For a real show. That you are making. It’s wild.
    I also really like directing voice actors, which is something I’ve done before but never quite to this level!

Sarah: Why did you choose VRV as the platform for the show?

    Brendan: I’d done some ad spots for VRV in the past and they’d always been very friendly and nice to work with. They’re also the only product or service I’ve ever advertised for that I’ve actually use regularly, because they’re good!
    To be honest I was working on Epithet independently and I pitched it to VRV, kind of as a joke, like “Hey, I’m making a show! Maybe you guys would like to fund it and have it as an exclusive? Wink wink nudge nudge haha that’d be crazy am I right”. Except then my contact was like”Yeah sure let me talk to the higher ups” and it somehow snowballed into this! Which is honestly unbelievable. VRV has been very good to me, and I hope to keep working with them in the future!

Sarah: Can you walk us through your creative process for the show, and how it differs from your process for your YouTube series “So This is Basically?”

    Brendan: Well StiB is just me making fun of existing properties, so it’s much less interesting honestly! I just binge a show or play a bunch of games, then write down a bunch of complaints I have and slowly file it down into a script. So This is Basically is also a primarily negative series, while I’d say Epithet is a very positive one.
    I already had the skeleton of Epithet‘s plot structure from the beginning, as well as most of the cast set up. It was a strange scenario because I had about 72 hours of story already made from the original TTRPG streams. My job wasn’t building the show up, it was trimming it down and polishing what was left. In the first draft Mera originally had another assistant named Dan Gansley who was cursed with chronic bad luck, and he was the one who Molly teamed up with while fighting the Banzai Blasters. I really liked the character, but he felt extraneous in the story I was trying to tell, so I gave his story beats to Indus. (He’s currently set to appear in Season 2 in a slightly different role, so we’ll get to meet him if we’re lucky)
    From there it was mostly just coming up with jokes and story beats that I liked, finding excuses to set them up, and chaining the entire thing together so it flowed well! We also got to add some extra gags and change a few things both in the VA booth, at the editor’s desk, and while animating. I’m always up for throwing in a stupid idea if one of the crew members comes up with something funny.

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  1. T̞̰R͝U̼̯̰Ḷ̰̤̺Y ͖͖̤T̮̜͇̟̩͉͔H̷͎̜̺͈E̸̼̺͎͉͍̩̟ ̷̜͔F̞IN̸͔͖͍̠ͅE̬̙̥S̰̦̠͕̝͖͘T̷͚̼̻̹ T͏̞̩O̶̖̻̻ ̵̦̮̭̩̱̣P̷̞̝̫̟̙̻L͚̜͖̪̪̦̠͜Ą̬̬͎͎̳̣Y̥͇̰̩̪ ̣̻͚̣̬̭͝ͅT͇̣͎̙̥͞ͅH̞͇E̳̩̣̟̤ ̦͕̗S̲̗͚̝P͇̫͖̠̩Ò̻͇̹͎Ṟ̩͈̳̬̞̳͠T̮̯̙̘̦͈̕

  2. This is a great interview guys, thanks for taking the time to set it up, and of course, thanks to Brendan Blaber for all his hard work! I’ve been a long time fan of the original TTRPG sessions and cast, so seeing so many of the jokes from that come to life is like a literal dream. The previewed joke coming up in the western about *Canadian Dollar* especially had me rolling on the floor with anticipation.
    I really hope season 2 becomes a thing so we can keep this train running!

  3. We can’t just have Dan Gansley on the show unless you want all the episodes to disappear into the void. That’s just what happens when he’s in things. EE made me go rewatch all the old campaigns (which… I am still trying to get through… so many hours of good content), and I distinctly remember watching something that no longer exists because of his curse.

    Maaaan I hope there’s a season 2. Or 6. I need me some Rick Shades. Please make it to season 6. For Rick Shades.

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