10 Anime That Influenced Hollywood

Words by: Alex Jones

And if you like anime, don’t forget that the latest SFX anime special is in the shops from tomorrow (Friday, 20 July).


Year: 1965
Dir: Eichii Yamamato

What’s It About? Captive white lion Kimba learns from his mother how his father once offered a safe haven for wild animals in Africa, but was killed by a hunter after he angered villagers by stealing their cattle as food. Escaping life at a zoo, Kimba vows to return to his homeland and stand for peace just like his father had. During his journey he learns the advantages of human culture, and that animals and humanity must learn to understand each other to co-exist happily.

Who/What Has It Influenced? Similarities between Kimba and Disney’s The Lion King are far from subtle, to the point where Matthew Broderick (who voiced Simba) thought that Disney were remaking the show he watched as a child. Kimba animators Tezuka Productions opted against a lawsuit, believing they’d never win against the House of Mouse’s top lawyers.


Year: 1975
Dir: Yoshiyuki Tomino, Tadao Nagahama

What’s It About? After being asleep for millennia, the Demon Empire awakens with plans to take over the Earth. A young boy named Akira Hibiki is drawn to a golden pyramid, where he discovers he is the descendant of people of the lost continent of Mu. United with Mu’s robotic guardian Raideen, Akira takes control of the robot to battle against the Demon’s Empire’s monsters.

Who/What Has It Influenced? As the first fully transforming robot in anime (Raideen could switch between jet and robot modes), Brave Raideen was just as much an influence on future anime as it was Hollywood. Though many transforming robots would follow, without Raideen we may not have ever seen Transformers come to life.


Year: 1988
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

What’s It About? When they move to the countryside in order to be closer to their hospitalised mother, sisters Satsuki and Mei befriend a large cat-like creature who takes them on a magical journey through the forest. From tiny soot spirits to an enormous cat-bus, My Neighbour Totoro is a heart-warming story of friendship and fantasy.

Who/What Has It Influenced? It wasn’t easy picking just one Studio Ghibli film to represent the influence the studio has had on Western animation, but Disney/Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter cites this one as his favourite. Totoro’s cameo appearance in Toy Story 3 was done to let “Studio Ghibli know how much they mean to us,” says Lasseter. Elsewhere, George Lucas revealed he turned to anime and manga when coming up with ideas for Star Wars: The Clone Wars . Ahsoka Tano’s face markings are partially inspired by San from Princess Mononoke .


Year: 1997
Dir: Satoshi Kon

What’s It About? When J-Pop singer Mimi Kirigoe decides to quit music in order to become an actor, she receives a violent backlash from angry fans publishing her diary entries online, spearheaded by a crazed stalker named “Me-Mania”. When she is cast as the victim in a violent rape, the scene traumatises her to the point that she can no longer distinguish between fantasy and reality. As those involved in the scene are killed one by one, Mimi becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders that she has no recollection of.

Who/What Has It Influenced? Though he denies any direct influence, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan the very similar theme of a star blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Aronofsky is also rumoured to have bought the live-action rights to the film in order to stage a similar scene in Requiem For A Dream .


Year: 1988
Dir: Katsuhiro Otomo

What’s It About? Set 31 years after an atom bomb has destroyed Tokyo, Shotaro Kaneda is the leader of a youth motorcycle gang named the Capsules. When he and his friend Tetsuo stumble upon a secret government project to develop telekinetic humans as weapons, they also learn of Akira – an ESPer truly responsible for Tokyo’s destruction. As Tetsuo develops his own psychic powers and becomes increasingly dangerous, Kaneda is forced to take down his friend before history repeats itself.

Who/What Has It Influenced? Both the film and its original manga were an influence for director Alex Proyas’ 1998 neo-noir film Dark City . In fact, the final sequences of the film, in which buildings begin to restore themselves, are a direct homage to Akira . Josh Trank was also inspired when making Chronicle , admitting in an interview to be a “fan of all things Akira ” – telekinetic teen Andrew’s attack on police forces mirrors Tetsuo’s rampage through Neo Tokyo. Also, any time you eve r see a motorbike in a sci-fi city, you can’t help mentally shouting, “ Tetsuo !”


Year: 2006
Dir: Satoshi Kon

What’s It About? Another entry from the late great Satoshi Kon, Paprika is set in a world where a child-like genius has invented a machine named the DC-Mini, which allows the user to view people’s dreams. Doctor Atsuko Chiba illegally uses the machine to aid psychiatric patients under the guise of a dream avatar known as Paprika. While aiding a police detective with a recurring dream, three prototype DC-Minis are stolen. The two take it upon themselves to not only catch the culprits before they can carry out any crimes, but prevent the greater threat of the collision between dreams and reality.

Who/What Has It Influenced? Though a more sombre approach than Paprika’s psychedelic dream world, her dive into the human subconscious was one of the primary influences for Christopher Nolan’s Inception .


Year: 1993
Dir: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

What’s It About? Ninja-for-hire Jubei Kibagami becomes entangled in a battle against demonic forces after a chance encounter when he saves female ninja Kagero from being raped. Jubei makes himself an enemy of the Eight Demons of Kimon: ninjas with superhuman powers with plans to overthrow the Japanese government.

Who/What Has It Influenced? Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films played with the Western perception of Japanese over the top action sequences, so it’s not hard to see a little bit of Ninja Scroll in the finished product… without counting the anime-style segment in the first film!


Year: 1984
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

What’s It About? 1,000 years after humanity has been mostly destroyed by an apocalyptic war, small settlements still survive in areas that haven’t been over run by a toxic jungle swarming with giant insects. Nausicaä, the peaceful princess of a settlement in the Valley of the Wind, has been able to befriend the jungle – often exploring it and communicating with its inhabitants. When she rescues a man from a crashed cargo aircraft, it sets a prophecy in motion that “a man clad in blue and surrounded by fields of gold” will one day reunite man and nature.

Who/What Has It Influenced? James Cameron has made no secret of being a huge anime fan, and plenty of similarities can be seen in his record-breaking Avatar. The Pandora landscape looks like the Valley of the Wind brought to life, and the Na’vi’s Ikran riding seems to take a few visual cues from Nausicaä’s windriding. The floating landforms of Pandora also take influence from later Ghibli release Laputa: Castle of the Sky .


Year: 1995
Dir: Mamoru Oshii

What’s It About? In a futuristic dystopia where man is slowly being replaced by machine, cyborg detectives Major Motoko Kusanagi and her partner Batou investigate an elusive hacker known only as the “Puppet Master”. After a string of hacked identities and the emergence of a “Project 2501”, the two chase the Puppet Master down to an abandoned warehouse where the Major learns about an illegal operation to hack the ‘ghosts’ of citizens.

Who/What Has It Influenced? The Wachowski brothers have both said that the cyberpunk aesthetic of Ghost In The Shell is exactly what they wanted when making The Matrix (even the opening credits for The Matrix mirror the opening credits for Ghost In The Shell ) but sometimes you wonder where homage ends and rip-off begins. James Cameron has also called the film “a stunning piece of speculative fiction”.



Year: 1986-1997
Dir: Minoru Okazaki, Daisuke Nishio

What’s It About? Akira Toriyama’s original Dragonball manga saw the simian-tailed boy Goku and his friends’ journey to gather the seven dragon balls in order to have any wish they desired granted. Its more popular sequel series Dragonball Z was more action-orientated, with Goku growing up to defend the planet against alien threats in over the top fist fights.

Who/What Has It Influenced? A key player in reviving the interest in anime in the West during the ’90s, Dragonball ’s popularity led to a live-action Hollywood adaptation called Dragonball: Evolution in 2009. But that was terrible and best forgotten, unlike some of the anime’s less obvious influences on Hollywood. When Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World ’s Todd Ingram activates his vegan powers, his spiky blond hair and energy based attacks are very similar to the Super Saiyans seen in later episodes of Dragonball Z . The show’s distinct blend of high speed fight fights and slow-motion reaction shots can be seen all over action sequences since – from Heroes to The Matrix Revolutions . The way the fights are “shot” and edited in Dragonball has admittedly been more of an influence on games than films, but that visual aesthetic has increasingly been seeping from games to films, to Dragonball is indirectly influencing directors who haven’t even watched anime.

Even superhero films with characters who “power-up” – like Havoc in X-Men: First Class – feel like they have a genealogy that stretches back to Dragonball . Sure Havoc had the same powers in the X-Men comics, but the way he wields them in the film… that feels it has strands of Dragonball fights DNA in it.