[Editorial Tuesday] Anime Influence In Western Media

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After doing the top ten anime that could work as a live action list and Honey’s article on the so-called decline of anime, we thought it would be nice to review the reach anime has had on western media art forms and artists the past twenty years. Not too long ago, Barack Obama did thank Shinzo Abe for anime. Anime is known for its distinct take in expanding the imagination that many thought was impossible, and it has inspired many artists around the world from music, movies, and animation.

Celebrity Anime Fans

Thanks to the old Toonami block and now the Internet, what started out as a small cult-like hobby going back to the 1980s, has been reaching more audiences. These “audiences” include a good number of mainstream celebrities in the west who have been open for their love for anime. For starters, the late great Robin Williams was a big fan of “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” and in “One Hour Photo,” one of his feature films, he presents an “Evangelion” model kit to achild.

Former “Spider-Man” star Tobey Maguire is a huge fan of the Americanized “Robotech” franchise. Former Disney child star Zac Efron happens to be a fan of “Deathnote,” and “Transformers” co-lead Megan Fox has expressed her love for “Sailor Moon” and wishes to be in an American adaptation.

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As stated in some previous articles, in the sports world, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal and presently undefeated UFC Women’s champion Ronda Rousey are very hardcore “Dragon Ball Z” fans. Rousey actually happens to have a very deep knowledge of “Pokemon” as well. When former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett competed in Japan’s mixed martial arts circuit, his entrance song was “Ai wo Torimodose” from “Hokuto no Ken,” and would always say to his opponents in Japanese “Omae wa mou shinde iru” as a means of trash talking to also excite the Japanese crowd.

Controversial pro-wrestling legend Hulk Hogan happens to be a fan of “Pokemon” and “Kinnikuman.” Fellow pro-wrestling icon and Make-A-Wish contributor John Cena is a fan of anime and says “Hokuto no Ken” is his favorite animated work as a whole. Three division boxing champion Nonito Donaire is a huge fan of “Hajime no Ippo” and when he had his honeymoon in Japan, he had the opportunity to meet Morikawa Joji, the creator, and Morikawa-sensei compared him to fellow counter specialist Miyata Ichiro, one of the characters (though many fans of boxing and “Hajime no Ippo” compare him to Randy Boy, Jr.).

Anime in Western Music

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In addition to famous movie stars and accomplished athletes being inspired by anime, many hit musicians have paid homage to anime in their work, too. In the video to Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s 1995 classic single “Scream,” clips of “Akira” and “Babel II” are featured. Next, self-proclaimed genius turned 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate Kanye West happens to openly be an anime fan. In his cover of “Stronger” by Daft Punk, the music video itself pays homage to “Akira,” his favorite anime. Speaking of Daft Punk, the legendary Leiji Matsumoto animated their musical feature, “Interstella 5555.”

Next, the music video to “Ex-Girlfriend” by No Doubt pays homage to the risqué anime film “Kite,” which recently received a live action adaptation. “One Week,” the 1998 breakout hit by The Barenaked Ladies makes reference to “Sailor Moon,” and French pop sensation Alize has a tattoo of Sailor Moon on her arm, too.

Popular Western Animation Paying Homage to Anime

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If there have been any famous American animated programs that have openly shown their love for Japanese anime showing the effect it has had internationally, it is the two long-running comedy hits, “The Simpsons” and “South Park.” One of the first times “The Simpsons” made reference anime is the 1999 episode of when the family went to Japan, and there was a scene that spoofed the “Pokemon” seizuregate incident (if there is no term for that fiasco, then Honey Anime can coin that!!!) back in 1997.

After Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, “The Simpsons” paid tribute to his respective works by including his characters in a cameo when Comic Book Guy marries a Japanese manga artist. In the 2014 edition of “Treehouse of Horror” of when The Simpsons explores alternate realities of the family itself, one reality has them as anime characters such as Bart as Naruto, Maggie as Pikachu, and Lisa as Mikasa from “Attack on Titan.” One couch scene gag had Lisa as Sailor Moon Bart as Astro Boy. Though “The Simpsons” doesn't exactly take full inspiration from anime, it has shown tremendous respect and love.

“South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have openly parodied anime in some of their most famous episodes. In fact, Trey Parker happens to be fluent in Japanese and whenever Japanese language is used, it is him speaking. One of their first homages to anime is the “Chinpokomon” episode. In the theatrical film, how Cartman defeats Saddam Hussein pays homage to “Dragon Ball Z.”

The ninja episode also takes influence from anime by having the characters re-imagined as anime characters, and the battle features a Japanese song paying homage to anime Shounen intros. In the trilogy of episodes that parodies the PS4 and X-Box One console wars and “Game of Thrones,” Princess Kenny is a reference to both “Sailor Moon” with the transformation brooch and his theme song is a spoof/homage of “Princess Lover!”

Featured Films and Cult TV Hits Inspired By Anime

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Beyond (the God awful) attempts of Hollywood adapting anime to live action, most notoriously “Dragon Ball Evolution,” many hit feature films do take inspiration from anime. The most famous example being “The Matrix” trilogy with “Ghost in the Shell.” It shares very similar themes with the relationship between humans and technology, similar use of colors and lighting, and action sequences.

In turn, other movies have been inspired by the cinematography of “The Matrix,” and ultimately, there is GITS to thank for that. Plus, let's not forget “The Animatrix” collection done by numerous anime directors such as The Detective Story by Shuichi Watanabe of “Cowboy Bebop” fame.

But if there is one movie that openly admits to taking inspiration from anime, it is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” It is partially inspired by Satoshi Kon’s “Paprika,” where a machine is used to access the dreams of people. “Perfect Blue,” another hit by Kon, also served as an inspiration to the Academy Award winner, “Black Swan.” It shares very similar themes and plot points of an inspiring performer who is trying to achieve fame but at the cost of her sanity. In the popular “Kill Bill” movies, Production IG “The Origin of O-Ren Ishio”.

Another easy and obvious example is “Pacific Rim.” Is the story of giant robots fighting monsters in a post-apocalyptic world? Sound familiar to you? Look no further than “Evangelion.” In Norm Macdonald’s (former and the best ever SNL Weekend Update host) sitcom, there is a scene where him and a child do a parody session of “Pokemon.” Before Joss Whedon made it big with “The Avengers,” he created a small but dedicated fan base in his TV show, “Firefly.”

When it first debuted on TV, it was shortly after “Outlaw Star” hit Cartoon Network, and its foundation of a rag tag group of space smugglers who find a naked girl in a box that an evil intergalactic government wants could no way be a coincidence. Back in 2001/2002, fans of “Outlaw Star” quickly accused “Firefly” of being a rip off.

The best notable example of Hollywood openly portraying anime fandom is through Hiro Nakamura of “Heroes.” The character (and Masi Oka himself) are self-proclaimed otakus. Hiro’s powers of manipulating time has been confirmed to be an inspiration of Dio, the villain of “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,” having such an ability. Unfortunately, Hiro doesn't have a cool phrase such as ZA WAARUDO to activate it.

In western animation, one perfect example is “The Lion King” with “Kimba the White Lion,” but Disney for some reason denies this and some of the staff reportedly said they never heard of Kimba. Even Matthew Broderick who voices the adult Simba thought he was doing an adaption of “Kimba” when he initially read the script. Heck, “The Simpsons” made a joke about it in one episode of the mid-1990s.

Unlike Tom Brady’s fiasco with deflategate, the evidence is overwhelmingly damming so Disney should own up to it. Both share many similar plot points, characters, and cinematography. If that's a coincidence, then it's too good to be true. Another Disney animated feature that takes (or some would say rip-off) influence from anime is “Atlantis” with Gainax’s “Nadia.” Ultimately, nobody can say one ripped off or influenced the other in terms of story because they are both ultimately inspired by “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne.

Still, one cannot deny the notable similarities in definition of character design unless those were also, the designs of the original French novel.

Western Animation Taking From Anime

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If there is any way to conclude this article, it is sharing how western animated studios have used anime-style designs in their shows. Many western artists saw the distinct story telling and visuals that anime has and have successfully adapted it in their respective shows.

The most famous example of this is Nickelodeon’s Emmy awarding winning hit, “Avatar The Last Air Bender.” Considering its heavy Eastern influences, it was rather natural that an anime approach would best compliment its cultural origins. The show was so distinct from other western animated programs to the point that some viewers with little to no knowledge of anime thought it was really a Japanese show, and not American.

Another western U.S. animation shows that artistically takes influence from anime is Adult Swim’s “The Boondocks,” based on the comic strip by Aaron McGruder. McGruder is a long time anime fan, and “Akira” and “Cowboy Bebop” happen to be his favorites. “Teen Titans” from the mid-2000s took a lot from anime in a design sense and had J-pop duo Puffy Ami Yumi sing the theme song. Another hit U.S. animated classic that takes influence from anime is “Afro Samurai” paying tribute to both blaxploitation and “Ninja Scroll.”

One of the originators of bringing anime-style drawings to American mainstream animated programs is Cartoon Networks’s classic, “The Powerpuff Girls.” The design of the main trio is a spoof of Shoujo and the over-the-top action pays homage to the balls to the walls action sequences only anime can provide. A couple of more early examples of anime influenced western animated works are “Batman Beyond” and France’s “Totally Spies.” The Gotham City of 2049 takes a lot of inspirations from Neo-Tokyo classics such as “Akira” and “Bubblegum Crisis,” and “Totally Spies” is a western take on the Shoujo genre.

Closing

With anime’s influence from cult hits to ground breaking Emmy and Academy Award winning feature films, anime is not going away anytime soon and will continue to inspire artists around the world. With the rise of the Internet, we will see more works inspired by anime. As stated in the top what anime can work as a live action list, with the rise of YouTube, fans can express the creative influences anime has had on them. Please check them out.

Has anime at all influenced you artistically? Or have you seen any western movie or TV program influenced by anime we may have missed? If so, please share.

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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