As much as anime seems to be an aspect of popular culture that is enjoyed by only select sects, one would be surprised to learn of the extent of the influence of the medium on popular culture as a whole. From music, TV and games, anime has managed to work its way into every form of modern popular culture and as much as critics of the medium wouldn’t like to admit it, a lot of their favourite things have some anime in them. But we’re not talking about the critics or people who don’t really watch anime. We’re talking about creatives who have been inspired by anime and wished to make it known in some way, shape or form. These are moments in other media that have had anime fans drooling due to the familiar excitement, moments in which anime fans have enjoyed the widespread influence of their favourite medium. Remember when Bart Simpson watched anime in Japan? We’ve got ten moments similar to that, coming up!
10. Ling Ling from Drawn Together (Pokemon)
Drawn Together is an abrasive, wacky parody of some of our favourite heroes, videogame characters and aspects of popular culture, so it isn’t surprising that one of the most iconic anime franchises got itself a shout out. The series follows a group of cartoon and videogame characters who come from their respective universes to live together in community in a single house in Big Brother-esque fashion, often yielding insanely funny (sometimes completely disturbing) results.
Ling Ling from the Drawn Together household is one of the most obvious references in the show, y’know. He’s just an angry orange Pikachu. Ling Ling’s very existence is very abrasive, almost like he was made to make fun of anime (and on a larger scale, Asian people). On the whole, however, Ling Ling’s intense monologues and flashy moves remind any anime fan of both Pokemon, and anime as a medium. Ling Ling, we choose you!
9. Chance the Rapper on Blessings – “Dying, laughing with Krillin, Saiyan (sayin’) something ‘bout blonde hair” (Dragon Ball Z)
Fans of Chance the Rapper will know about his well-received 2016 album “Colouring Book”, a project that made use of themes commonly heard in gospel. In fact, in addition to the track How Great, Chance had two tracks named “Blessings”, one of which served as the outro.
In the other one; however, Chance managed to pull off three Dragon Ball references in a single line. “Dying, laughing with Krillin, Saiyan something ‘bout blonde hair”, what could be taken as clear quips at a) Krillin’s recurring deaths, b) the Saiyan race and c) the Super Saiyan transformation, a single line that could make any anime fan listening close enough quiver a little bit at the brilliant reference.
8. Steven Universe – Garnet’s “Super-fast Punching” (Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken from Fist of the North Star)
Ripe with cultural references across the board, Steven Universe is a cartoon not short of its fair share of anime references, from Neon Genesis Evangelion to Dragon Ball Z. Steven Universe delivers content reminiscent of anime on a regular basis. This time, we want to focus on the more silent of the gems, Garnet.
Being an expert in combat, it’s no surprise that Garnet can deal a world’s worth of damage in a short space of time and exchange blows at a rapid rate, reminiscent of a lot of anime; many older Shounen titles being guilty of having high-speed fights that can’t be followed by the eyes of the weak. Kenshiro’s trademark attack, the Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken is a flurry of punches that can trigger the violent explosion of internal organs. In a less gruesome, but in a manner enjoyable to Fist of the North Star fans, Garnet’s blindingly fast punches look like a blur. A very familiar blur.
7. Codename: Kids Next Door – Operation R.E.P.O.R.T (Dragon Ball Z)
Knowing of the several awesome adventures of the operatives of the Kids Next Door, many will remember the strange episode in which each operative told their own story about their attempted retrieval of an unknown object. None of these stories proved to be as memorable as Numbah 4’s account of his attempt at retrieving the object and his encounter with the Delightful Children From Down the Lane.
In a Super Saiyan titanic encounter, Numbah 4, in a form that could only be reference to Son Goku, faced off against the 5-headed Frost Demon that was the Delightful Children From Down the Lane. “Numbah 4-go” even executed a brilliant signature attack, using his bubblegum to fuel the Kids Next Door rendition of Goku’s Kamehameha. The episode even added the classic anime “IT CAN’T BE” trope, which normally happens after an enemy survives a lethal attack, for added effect. It was like watching the battle of Planet Namek all over again!
6. South Park Season 8, Episode 1: Fun With Weapons
From yet another parody of modern culture comes a homage to anime never before seen. After Stan, Cartman, Kyle and Kenny buy cheap weapons of the Asian variety from a festival without the knowledge of their parents, their imaginations cause them to don various ninja-themed personas and even have various anime-inspired ninja and samurai apparel.
In addition to looking and speaking like stereotypical anime samurai, the four boys also displayed flashy moves in their imaginary combat, yelling out their attacks in true anime fashion. It turns out that their anime personas were contagious as their friend Craig Tucker thought their weapons were so cool that he and his friends bought their own weapons and formed a rival ninja faction! Come on down to South Park to watch some anime!
5. The Big Bang Theory Season 3, Episode 3 – “It’s not a cartoon, it’s anime.”
Seated in his favourite spot on the couch alongside his friends, Leonard and Penny, Dr Sheldon Cooper enjoyed a session of anime greatness in the third season of The Big Bang Theory. Transfixed by the events occurring in their favourite show titled Oshikuru: Demon Samurai, Leonard and Sheldon didn’t even notice the confused expression growing on Penny’s face.
At the height of her confusion, Penny asks “What’s this cartoon called again?”, to which Sheldon quickly replies, “It’s not a cartoon, it’s anime”, a recurring statement among anime fans trying their best to make a clear distinction between the two. Maybe one day we can all correct the common masses alongside Sheldon while watching an episode of Oshikuru.
4. Lupe Fiasco on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” – “Guess who on 3rd, Lupe steal like Lupin the 3rd”
Featured on Touch the Sky, one of the standout tracks on Kanye’s critically acclaimed album, Late Registration, Lupe Fiasco makes a clear reference to an anime that is not very well known to fans of mainstream anime. Lupe Fiasco is no stranger to anime and has made quite a few references in his time, but none show his appreciation for anime much like this one.
In the song, Lupe enters with the line “Guess who’s on third, Lupe steal like Lupin the 3rd”, a clear reference to the popular 1970s anime, Lupin III, which follows the adventures of Arsene Lupin III, the grandson of the gentleman thief, Arsene Lupin. With that one line, Lupe Fiasco manages to reference both the anime and the profession of the anime’s protagonist.
3. Inception – Paprika
Known for being incredibly confusing with characters entering what seems like a concentric circle of dreams, caught up in dreams within dreams, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is actually greatly inspired by Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. Paprika was, in turn, based on Tsutsui Yasutaka’s novel of the same name.
Anime fans who have watched both films will quickly note the similarities in plot and in execution, from the presentation of technology which allows people to enter dreams to the hostile nature of the subconscious upon discovering foreign elements within dreams. The kind of stuff anime fans’ dreams are made of, huh?
2. Kanye West – Stronger MV (Akira)
From yet another critically acclaimed Kanye West album, one titled Graduation, the music video to the song Stronger shows Kanye West’s enjoyment of anime.In fact, he enjoyed the movie Akira so much he based his entire music video on the legendary film; having a music video complete with a similar opening bike scene, flashing Tokyo lights and of course, a hospital scene that greatly resembles that of Tetsuo in Akira.
The highly futuristic setting of the music video incorporates various sci-fi elements present in the 1988 film and apart from the music video, Kanye West himself has once tweeted his thoughts on Akira, stating that it is one of his favourite movies of all time. This further cements the use of Akira-esque tropes in the Stronger music video. Maybe Kanye is an anime fan just like us!
1. The Simpsons Season 25, Episode 10: Married to the Blob
Finally, we have the long-running, test-of-time standing yellow party that is the Simpsons. In the 10th episode of the 25th season of the show, we see Jeffrey Albertson, also known as Comic Book Guy experiencing a form of midlife crisis. With some of his peers finding love and getting married, he wonders if he’d devoted too much time to being a comic book nerd. In a fated encounter, however, a young Japanese mangaka named Nakamura Kumiko enters Jeffrey’s store with the intent of buying a copy of New Radioactive Man #1.
She later moves into Comic Book Guy’s basement, and not long after, her father flies down from Osaka to take her home (after Homer Simpson runs his mouth). Kumiko’s father and Homer enjoy a sort of middle-aged bromance and after getting drunk off various forms of rice wine, they find themselves in a part of town in which almost every prominent Studio Ghibli movie makes an appearance, including characters like the No-Face, Yubaba and Haku from Spirited Away and references from Kiki’s Delivery Service and many other Ghibli films.
A lot of the time as anime fans, we have our work cut out for us trying to defend what we love and enjoy from the often unnecessary critique of non-anime fans. Which is why it is always very satisfying to see the true extent of the influence anime has over other forms of popular culture. It’s always great to see your favourite shows, or even anime as a monolith reflected and referenced in other media and due to that fact, we saw it appropriate to list our favourite homages to anime. But as you’d know, it isn’t possible to list them all (and best believe we’d love to), and so, we need just a little help from you – tell us about your favourite homage to anime because, as we said before, it’s always great to see anime in everything else!