Anime’s Strong Influence On Western Culture, And How It All Started

Today, it’s hard to find someone in America or Europe who doesn’t know what anime is. In fact, at least half the time, you will find people who have watched anime at some point in their life. Others will claim to be die-hard fans and would easily provide you with a long list of anime shows they’ve watched in their lifetime. Anime has become so popular in the West, that cosplay events and festivals are held worldwide like Anime Expo in America, AmeCon in the UK, Madman Anime Festival in Australia and the World Cosplay Summit in Brazil.

 

Nowadays, anime is pretty much found everywhere you look, even if you might not know or realize it sometimes. In fact, what you might not be aware of is the extent to which anime has influenced the world of film, especially Hollywood movies. Movies like Inception and The Matrix, for instance, draw a lot of similarities to particular anime movies (which we will reveal later).

However, what’s also good to point out is that, this wasn’t always the case, and that Western Culture’s exposure to anime happened pretty recently, about 30 years ago to be precise – and it all started from one revolutionary anime movie: Akira.

Akira, Uniting The East With The West

 

In 1989, the Japanese animated post-apocalyptic science fiction Akira was released, and it caused shockwaves. Before the movie, the West was mostly unfamiliar with much of Japan’s culture, art, food, and animation.But after it hit the cinemas, everything changed overnight. Akira’s plot and theme not only resonated with the western audience but would leave such a strong impact that it would influence many filmmakers and directors to this very day.

Without giving too much of the plot away, in case some of you have not watched Akira yet (if so, trust me you will after you read this), the story is set in Neo-Tokyo after World War III, and get this, the year is 2019! (one year from now, how awesome is that?!). A gang of teenage bike rebels, two of which are main protagonists (Kaneda and Tetsuo), stumble upon a military project that is experimenting with using telekinetic humans as weapons.

Tetsuo is captured by the government, and his friends desperately try to save him, but it soon becomes apparent that Tetsuo possesses telekinetic powers that meet the project’s most powerful weapon: Akira. The rest of the story I will leave for you to find out (see, I told you, you were going to watch it after you read this).

For the very first time, a Japanese film was being shown in the UK and US without the intervention or the aid of critics, and this not only allowed for the knowledge and understanding of Japanese anime but basically anything Japanese. People became increasingly interested in Japanese culture altogether.

Akira was undoubtedly the stepping stone, but it wouldn’t be the first and last movie to influence Hollywood. In fact, there are a good number of movies that were influenced by anime. To refer back to the two movies I mentioned in the beginning, (because I think by now I have peaked your interest enough), the 2010 movie Inception was inspired by Paprika, and The Matrix was inspired by the popular Ghost in the Shell.

Stranger Things Inspired by Akira and Elfen Lied

 

According to The Daily Beast, the two brothers admit that anime played a very important role in the creation of the popular Netflix Original, “Stranger Things”.

One of the brothers Ross Duffer stated that “Akira was obviously a big one”, but his twin brother and fellow co-creator Matt Duffer explained that although Akira was definitely a point of inspiration, a more recent anime series proved to be more influential:

“But then weirdly it’s like, I haven’t seen [Akira] for a long time. More recently I had seen an anime called Elfen Lied that is clearly inspired by Akira. And that was really influential. When I watched it I thought it felt like an ultraviolent E.T. There were a lot of things in there that I really liked and that made their way into the show, particularly related to the character of Eleven.”

Games Influenced by Anime

Not only are there video games based on anime or manga, like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Steins;Gate, Digimon etc., there are also many games that borrow various elements from anime, namely its visuals. The characters in the game, for instance, would have the characteristics of anime characters, with big, wide eyes, and brightly-coloured, pointy hair.

They would also make the same facial expressions  Such games include Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Ni no Kuni and Asura’s Wrath. And this does not only apply to console games but also applies to computer games, online games and mobile games too! We all know the obsession surrounding the Pokémon Go game that swept nations since it was first released in 2016.

Moreover, by simply typing “anime games” in Google, you can find various websites with a wide selection of games, like Poki.com and AGAME.com. And speaking of online games, anime has also inspired some of the most popular online slots like Moon Princess (which is undoubtedly an homage to the beloved Sailor Moon series), Sweet Alchemy, Ghost in the Shell, Sakura Fortune, and Matsuri.

Music Influenced by Anime

Kanye West

Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’ from the 2007 album Graduation, is full of references to Akira. From the overall Cyberpunk theme to recreating specific scenes, the strong influence of the anime can be heavily seen all throughout. One such example is the hospital scene. Have a look:

This is the hospital scene in Akira:

And this is the hospital scene in Kanye’s music video:

Identical, right?

But don’t worry, it was all international, and turns out Kanye West is actually a big fan of the anime. The Director for the music video, Hype Williams, who has worked with Kanye on a number of his videos, had said at the time:

“He was always inspired by Akira. There was a point where we really dove in and wound up filming parts of that movie for the video, but we decided to back off of it and do something a little more abstract for the final version.”

Pharrell Williams

If you cannot think of any reason why I’ve listed Pharrell Williams or think this is a mistake. Check out his music video for ‘It Girl’:

Frank Ocean

Rapper and R&B soul singer Frank Ocean’s 2012 album Channel Orange contains quite a number of references to anime, particularly Dragon Ball Z. In his song ‘Pink Matter’, much to the delight of DBZ fans, Ocean makes a reference to one of the most tenacious villains in the series; “This great grey matter/ Sensei replied, what is your woman/ Is she just a container for the child/ That soft pink matter/ Cotton candy Majin Buu.”

Daft Punk

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is a Japanese-French anime musical film by Daft Punk, Cédric Hervet and Emmanuel de Buretel with Toei Animation under the supervision of Leiji Matsumoto. The film is a visual realization of Daft Punk’s second album Discovery. The story follows the rescue of an interstellar pop band rescue after it is abducted. The visuals, theme, and plot with Daft Punk’s awesome music running in the background, is a must-see! Which is why I’ve saved you the trouble by linking to the video:

(You’re welcome!)

And that, everybody, is a wrap! Let us know what you think about this in the comments below, and feel free to contact us about any topic you would like us to tackle next. In the meantime, don’t forget to watch Akira if you haven’t already!

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