Anime and Its Growing Influence in Hollywood
By Ethan Harmon
Anime has been popular in Japan for decades, and although hundreds of shows have made it stateside, very few have retained mainstream popularity.
Shows like Speed Racer, Dragonball Z, Naruto, and Attack on Titan all have received mass appeal in the U.S. – with Speed Racer and Dragonball receiving live-action adaptations (the latter being absolutely dreadful). But many shows have remained obscure to those who do not associate with the culture.
While some may see anime and the comic book version, manga, as a niche genre, it’s just as popular as American comics and cartoons with just as much influence. First, let’s take a look into the U.S. comic book and cartoon world.
When attending a convention, it’s not difficult to spot the cosplayers. For those unfamiliar, cosplay is when fans of a specific character, dress as them and walk around the convention in character. It may seem silly, but long hours and hard work are put into these costumes.
While there are tons of people dressed as storm troopers and Batman, there are an equal amount of people walking around as Sasuke and Kakashi from Naruto. And it’s not only relegated to dressing up and looking cool. Artists at the conventions sell original pieces and printed art of everyone’s favorite heroes. But if you look closely at the art being sold, a huge amount of the work entails a lot of anime and manga characters, such as Astro Boy and Goku.
Of course, anime’s influence does not just stop at the convention scene. Independent creators are creating comics that have a lot of anime flair. Just look at East of West, Tokyo Ghoul, and Rai. Although these stories have a western take on specific genres and story tropes, they all have Japanese-inspired characters and story progression, especially Rai. Even the more mainstream comics from Marvel and DC are incorporating touches of manga-like art in their comics. Hell, Marvel did a cross-over with Attack on Titan, showcasing the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy teaming up with the characters from Attack, battling the evil Female Titan.
The silver screen also has seen a lot of changes, with more and more films accepting and incorporating anime tropes. As stated before, both Speed Racer and Dragonball received adaptations, along with Astro Boy. Dragonball Z, Naruto, Madoka Magica, and Neon Genesis: Evangelion films have had limited releases nationwide, allowing fans to journey to local theaters and view their favorite characters on the big screen.
Films from Miyazaki are celebrated and adored worldwide (Spirited Away won an Oscar). Then there are live-action U.S. releases that have increasingly clear anime influence. Don’t believe it? Just take one look at Pacific Rim, which is Guillermo del Toro’s version of a Gundam movie. Or take a look at the end of The Matrix Revolutions (though you may not want to re-watch it), which is basically a fight scene from Dragonball Z. Still not convinced? How about watching The Magnificent Seven or For a Few Dollars More, or, well, any western? Most are based on samurai stories and lore.
Although it may be difficult to accept it, anime and manga are incredibly important and have a growing influence on American comics, art, and film. The genre, although seen as “nerdy” or “strange” for the longest time, is seeing a spike in popularity. And while there are a few shows which became mainstream successes, more and more series and manga are being watched by U.S. audiences.
If you are a fan, then I don’t need to be the one to tell you how amazing anime can be. If you’re not a fan yet, it’s time to join the growing fan-base, start watching, and take note of its inspiration.