It’s National Anime Day, and what’s a more perfect way to celebrate than going over our beloved anime’s influence over Western media?
I’m not talking about when The Simpsons referenced Death Note. I’m talking about the big stuff, like how Satoshi Kon’s Paprika inspired Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Both are mind-bending movies with dream-hacking and hard-to-navigate hallways. Nolan’s never said anything about Paprika’s possible influence, so it’s just a fan theory, but it’s hard to deny when comparing the two.
Anime has gotten so big that major brands have done anime-inspired collaborations, from fashion to gaming; you name it, anime is there. In 2011 Gucci collaborated with Hirohiko Akari, the creator of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Spur, a women’s fashion magazine, to create an exhibit showcasing Akari’s stunning visual work. Fortnite has a ton of anime-inspired skins, including some from Attack on Titan. The Battle Royale game also pulled in the ODM (Omnidirectional mobility) gear and Eren’s family’s infamous basement from the franchise as well.
Big brands are realizing anime’s potential, so it’s about time you do too. It’s tough not to fall in love with anime. I love its bizarre storylines, its crazy character designs and most of all, and I love seeing it influencing media outside its genre. It’s like a fun little flag screaming, ‘HEY, I LIKE THIS THING TOO.’
If you ask anyone born between 1990 and the 2000s, anime was a significant part of thier childhood. Even if they didn’t watch it, chances are they could name off a few just because of how popular it was. With the launch of Toonami, anime became wildly accessible in 1997. Over the years, many notable animes were added to the broadcast.
“Big brands are realizing anime’s potential, so it’s about time you do too.”
There were iconic magical girl shoujo animes like Card Captor Sakura and Sailor Moon, mecha animes like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and the notorious big three, One Piece, Naruto and Bleach. I’m part of the latter side of that generation, so most of my anime was instead watched on YouTube in low-definition 30-part videos.
Recently, I watched Akira for the first time and way more recently—two days ago—I watched Kanye West’s music video for Stronger. It’s so clearly anime-inspired, from the bulky red text in Japanese flashing throughout the video to the shots of motorcycles racing through Tokyo with neon trails. There are also direct references to scenes in Akira, in one Kanye is seen lying on a futuristic metal table floating through two large body scanner-like instruments. That scene is a reference to Tetsuo Shima’s kidnapping and experimentation to awaken psychic powers on a very similar-looking setup. Later on in the music video, the iconic hospital scene is referenced, just with way less gore.
Anime’s actually a pretty common influence for rappers. Like Kanye, Doja Cat has an anime-inspired music video for the track Like That, referencing Sailor Moon and transforming into a magical girl. Isaiah Rashad references Dragon Ball Z in his 2016 track Wat’s Wrong, with the lyrics “and we alright / the Kaio Ken and big old rims’. Fist of the North Star was referenced in Viktor Vaughan’s (MF DOOM) track Vaudeville Villan, “Or between Hokuto Shinken and Nanto Suichō Ken.”
In an interview, Konietzko said, “I’ve always described Avatar as an homage, a love letter to Japanese anime.”
Enough about rap, though, let’s talk about Avatar: The Last Airbender, which to lots of people’s surprise, isn’t even an anime. The Nickelodeon show is so anime-inspired it sparked a conversation on whether there should be a new category for ‘anime’ produced outside of Japan.
Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Brian Konietzko and Micheal DiMartino have confirmed the anime influence before. In an interview, Konietzko said, “I’ve always described Avatar as an homage, a love letter to Japanese anime.” The pair also said it was a chance to introduce long-form, arc-based storytelling to a Western audience that was more used to episodic shows.
Anime and manga fans have been long acquainted with this kind of storytelling. Avatar: The Last Airbender just opened the doors for lots of popular animated shows today that follow anime-inspired storytelling. Adventure Time was somewhat episodic, but it had a massive story unfolding in the background that eventually took front and centre. Gravity Falls had a creature of the week format with an intriguing mystery in the background that had people of all ages tuning in. Both shows followed a similar problem/monster of the week format that would slowly introduce more significant problems and plot points as the show aired.
“National Anime Day is an excellent time to remember our roots and how we’re not so alone in our obsessions.”
The 2022 movie Turning Red was directly inspired by the deep female bonds and people turning into animals found in the shoujo genre, according to an Indie Wire Interview with Director Domee Shi. Shi grew up watching shoujo, so its tropes and style naturally slid into her creative work. It’s exciting to think about what kinds of shows and movies will come out in the next few years now that we’re grown up and entering the creative industries. National Anime Day is an excellent time to remember our roots and how we’re not so alone in our obsessions.
If you’re new to anime, I’m here to help you find a good place to start. There are the classics like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Gintama, but if a serious psychological thriller is more your style, there is Monster. For romance fans, we have Fruit’s Basket and Kaguya-sama: Love is War. If you’re interested in jumping into this current spring season, we’ve got Hell’s Paradise and Skip to Loafer.
Take National Anime Day to check them out, and if you’re not already obsessed, these shows are guaranteed to make you fall in love with anime.