What do you think of when someone mentions Japan? Anime certainly may be one of the things that comes to mind with all the Japanese animations being seen around the world in recent years. In fact, those of us here in Japan are often amazed by how passionate and knowledgeable some foreign fans are about Japanese anime.
So, we guess it’s not a complete surprise if some Hollywood movies seem to have been influenced by Japanese anime. Movie creators would have watched anime too, and I think we all know to a certain extent how some anime or TV programs, especially ones that we saw as a child, can grab our imagination and never really completely go away.
Well, we happened to find a post on information-compilation site Naver Matome that listed some Hollywood blockbusters containing what seem to be subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) tributes and references to Japanese anime, which we thought would be fun to share with you. Let’s take a look below at the movies that were mentioned in the article.
1. Clash of the Titans
This visually stunning action adventure film is a remake of the 1981 classic based on the famous Greek myth of Perseus’s battle with the sea monster Kraken. In the 2010 remake directed by Louis Leterrier, the Olympian gods don’t wear traditional Greek robes but are instead clad in costumes that resemble medieval armor. Leterrier has said in an interview with the Japanese media that the armor-like costume was inspired by the anime Saint Seiya, which also borrows heavily from Greek legend and in which the characters battle with each other wearing special armor called “Cloths”. Leterrier says he is a huge of the anime which he saw in his native France and had thought the Cloths looked so cool that he wanted to pay homage to the anime in his movie. (Personally, this bit of information made me smile because it just so happens that I actually saw Saint Seiya on TV in France — although it was called by the fancier sounding French title Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque— when I home stayed in the country for about a month a long, long time ago when I was still in high school.)
▼Characters from Saint Seiya wearing their Cloths
It’s hard to believe the popular anime, based on a manga of the same title, is now more than 20 years old! Back then, at least to me, the graphics seemed to be of very high quality by the standards of the time; okay, so the guys looked hot/cute/beautiful in their armor-style suits.
▼Zeus in his armor-like costume in Clash of the Titans — do you see a strong resemblance?
2. The Matrix
Many of you have probably seen this hit sci-fi movie, which caused a sensation in many parts of the world with its innovative story and stunning visual effects when it was released in 1999. It’s considered a classic cyberpunk movie, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the creators were inspired by anime of the same genre in making the film.
As those of you familiar with Japanese anime may expect, Akira and Ghost in the Shell are anime that are often cited as having influenced The Matrix.
▼Akira and Ghost in the Shell, both cyberpunk anime that likely had an influence on The Matrix
The super-human powers exhibited by some of the characters in the Matrix are certainly evocative of parts of Akira, and Ghost in the Shell seems to have been even more of a strong influence, including the visual concept of a cable being connected into the neck, as well as the cinematography in some of the chase scenes. In fact, the directors of The Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers, have said that they were so impressed with Ghost in the Shell that they wanted to make a live-action movie like it and even gave a video of the anime to the creative staff when making The Matrix as an example of the kind of world they wanted to create. Oh, and speaking of Japanese influence, did you know that the falling green digital code that appears in the movie contains mirror images of Japanese katakana letters?
Well, I certainly think the Wachowski Brothers succeeded here in making a film that leaves a strong and lasting impression. The Matrix is a movie that kind of gets to you, isn’t it,when you start to wonder about whether the world you live in is … well, really real?
This is another mega-blockbuster many of you will have seen. Although the plot, which involves greedy business and military oppressing and attacking an indigenous tribe for materialistic gain, is not particularly original, the movie does create a whole new world visually unlike any we had seen before. And that’s definitely something Hayao Miyazaki, anime producer and cofounder of Studio Ghibli, also excels at. James Cameron, who directed Avatar, admits that he is a big fan of Miyazaki’s films.
As such, it is no wonder if there seem to be parallels between Avatar and some of Miyazaki’s works, be it the industry/technology vs. nature theme, the uniquely vibrant colors or the amazing, speed-filled flight scenes. Movie fans have also been quick to point out that the presence of a strong, attractive female lead character is another element Avatar shares with many of Miyazaki’s works, particularly bringing to mind San in Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind — both young women who battle fiercely against armies possessing sophisticated technology to protect the precious natural environment around them.
▼Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, both films featuring young, strong heroines fighting to save the world they live in
There are also many visual details in Avatar that are reminiscent of images from Miyazaki’s anime, like the floating islands of rock that bear a noticeable resemblance to the floating castle Laputa in Castle in the Sky, or the supernaturally powerful tree with healing tendrils, which is a concept that also appears in Princess Mononoke. I’m sure it’s a testament to the creative genius of James Cameron and his team that they succeeded in making such a beautifully unique and thoroughly engaging movie while at the same time incorporating elements that we have seen before in some very well-known anime films.
4. Real Steel
Perhaps befitting a movie set in a world where robots programmed to engage in boxing matches in place of human boxers, Real Steel is another film that contains images and references evocative of Japanese anime, which is after all, famous for its robot/mecha genre, among which some hugely popular anime such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion can be counted.
What could be more symbolic than the fact that the robot the main character comes into possession of is named Atom? Although the name may not necessarily ring a bell with those of you outside of Japan, Atom is actually the name by which Astro Boy , the iconic anime robot character, is known in Japan. I’m sure a lot of Japanese movie viewers smiled at that, since we all love Astro Boy here in Japan — in fact, I think most people over a certain age can sing the anime theme song completely by heart.
▼Astro Boy, or Atom as he is known in Japan
Another anime that viewers of Real Steel may be reminded of is the classic Tetsujin 28-go, which was released in the United States as Gigantor. The design of some of the robots in Real Steel seem to bear a certain resemblance to those in the anime, and what’s more, the robot in Tetsujin 28-go is controlled by a young boy, which is also the case in Real Steel.
▼Tetsujin 28-go, the original Japanese version of Gigantor
Of course, for those of us in Japan, it was also good fun to see some other references to Japan as well in the movie, albeit not necessarily anime-related, such as one of the robots being initially set to be controlled in Japanese, and the young boy managing to give some commands in Japanese, saying that he learned the words playing Japanese video games. Well, you have to admit it is kind of nice when your country receives a positive nod of recognition in a big Hollywood movie.
I guess this sci-fi action film can be considered as receiving a kind of honorable mention here, as the movie is not exactly a work containing Japanese influences but rather based on a franchise that started as a line of transforming robot toys that was produced jointly by a Japanese and American toy company, so the series does have a good part of its origins in Japan.
▼Transformer toys from Takara Tomy
Since then, it seems that the whole franchise, including the animated series, has been a combined effort between American and Japanese companies with South Korea involved as well in the animation.
▼One of the earlier animated versions
Some fans also seem to think that the basic concept and some of the designs of the original Transformer toys were likely influenced by the anime series Macross.
▼The Macross anime series — the robotics certainly look sophisticated
The Transformers anime was certainly a hit in Japan, but the question of whether it is technically an American or Japanese series still appears to be a subject up for debate even today. Well, either way, it’s certainly been a good source of entertainment for us, and we can’t complain about that.
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