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5 Anime Titles Inspired by Western Culture
The Wednesday ClubThe Wednesday Club

5 Anime Titles Inspired by Western Culture

The Wednesday Club is Geek & Sundry’s weekly talk show chatting about all things comics, hosted by Taliesin Jaffe, Amy Dallen, and Matt Key. This week, they’ll be talking about manga and anime’s influence on American pop culture, with Erika Ishii. 

No art is created in a vacuum, inspiration can be a two-way street, and one fun part of charting the history of comics and cartoons throughout the world is to see how creativity cross-pollinates. Ideas can pop up in one country, get borrowed by another, mutate, and return home to inspire more ideas in turn. So, if you enjoy picking apart how Akira connects to Stranger Things‘ DNA, or how Ghost in the Shell spurred parts of the Matrix, you might get a kick out of seeing how the exchange has worked in reverse. From Dragon Ball to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, it’s clear to see many mangaka — Japanese manga artists — love American movies just as much as U.S. creators love anime.

Fist of the North Star

You have to wonder if the germ of this idea came from co-creators Buronson and Tetsuo Hara watching the Road Warrior and thinking, “Man… Bruce Lee would be a wayyyyyy better Max than Mel Gibson.” Coming out two years after the second Mad Max flick, the martial arts saga wears its fondness for George Miller’s seminal post-Apocalyptic saga on its sleeve. Leading man Kenshiro’s evidently picks his torn-up threads from the same abandoned department store as that wandering Mr. Rockatansky, and the legion of despicable desperadoes he annihilates would fit right in with Lord Humongous’ posse.


The godfather of manga, Osamu Tezuka, frequently drew inspiration from the ouvre of Disney… then promptly followed artistic muses seeming to exist in a dimension completely removed from Uncle Walt. Look no farther than his bizarre-and-yet-still-Disney-esque retelling of Prince Siddhartha’s life. And the M.O. was similar with Metropolis. Tezuka didn’t actually watch Fritz Lang’s Weimar-era expressionist classic, he merely looked at its poster and went running with his own tale of blonde, androgynous robots in utopia. Of course, he did still like the title a whole lot, and thus, the Metropolis manga had to be re-titled Robotic Angel when imported to Germany.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Hirohiko Araki’s multi-generational saga is an epic love letter to Western pop culture. From Robert E.O. Speedwagon to Devo and Vanilla Ice, nearly every character is named for an American band or performer. Further, many plots are inspired by English language horror novels and classics. “Phantom Blood,” which introduces the immortal vampire, Dio, riffs on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And a whole slew of villains the heroes battle throughout “Stardust Crusaders” are inspired by video nasties like Child’s Play, A Nightmare on Elm St., and Videodrome.

Lupin III

In the late 60s, mangaka Kazuhiko Katō (AKA “Monkey Punch”) was so struck with Maurice Leblanc’s turn-of-the-century pulp antihero, Arsene Lupin, he imagined a grandson of the gentleman thief who’d carry on the family business. The unauthorized tribute/sequel starring this character became an icon of manga and anime, of course, and it endures as a colorful demonstration of how intellectual property laws differ from country to country. By the time Leblanc’s estate pursued legal action against Katō, Lupin had entered the public domain in Japan. The character hadn’t in Europe, though, so the series had to be retitled Wolf, Rupan, or Edgar of Burglary, depending on the country.

Dragonball Z

Superman vs. Son Goku – who’d win? The question that’s launched countless battle threads (often proxy arguments for “comics vs. manga”) is actually a result of mangaka Akira Toriyama’s funny habit of turning cheeky jokes into staid lore. While Dragon Ball started as a loose spoof of Journey to the West, it quickly turned it parody to Western films, with villains resembling the Terminator and Xenomorph, among others. A Superman-esque “Sourman” even showed up, then. Thus, given the out-of-left-field surprise of Goku’s alien heritage (quite far up in the series’ installments, no less) it’s easy to see how Toriyama riffed on Superman II here. Beyond the parallels in these two E.T. refugees’ origins, the first batch of evil Saiyans clearly correspond to the Phantom Zone villains, particularly the Zod-esque Vegeta.

See? Fusion dances happen all the time! Will you charge up with the Wednesday Club crew? Join the conversation about Japan’s influence on Western comic culture on tonight’s Wednesday Club starting at 7 PM PT on Twitch and Alpha!


Featured Image Credit: Warner

Image Credits: FUNimation, Madhouse, Discotek Media, Monkey Punch, Warner

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