Now that superheroes are winding down, Hollywood’s already moved onto the next craze: stealing from (read: homaging) Japan.
We’ve already had Edge of Tomorrow (aka All You Need Is Kill) and The Hunger Games (aka sanitised Battle Royale), and if the solicits are correct we’re in for adaptations of Ghost in the Shell, Yukikaze, Robotech and Akira, each one more butchered by baka gaijins than the last. Hollywood’s flirtation with anime goes way back though, and some of your favourite classics began life as Japanese cartoons.
Megazone 23 (The Matrix)
A man chased by mysterious agents discovers the modern world he’s living in is all a lie. He gets picked up by an underground rebellion fighting to free humanity from the illusion.
Most of these lists start by comparing The Matrix to Ghost in the Shell, but the plots don’t really have anything to do with each other and it’s a casual comparison at best. It’s pretty clear that Matrix takes the bulk of its plot from the 1980s OVA Megazone 23, which recreated 1980s Tokyo in painstaking realistic detail before throwing in transforming mecha and virtual reality pop idols.
A new technology allows the main character to enter the dreams of other people and influence their behaviour. Near the end, dreams and reality become indistinguishable.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception isn’t as groundbreaking or original as his fans would have you think; characters were dream hopping 4 years before in Paprika. Directed by anime master Satoshi Kon, it features a main character who uses the dream technology to dive into other people’s dreams. Things get insane when somebody else starts terrorising other people’s dreams and bring the dream world and reality crashing together.
Perfect Blue (Black Swan)
A female performer finds her identity increasingly fractured as she is subjected to the pressures of the performance industry. She is plagued by otherworldly encounters with her own alter ego.
Before Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning film about ballet and identity crisis, Perfect Blue was already examining the mindbending environment of female fame. This psychological thriller tackles the loss of control and blurring of reality that occurs in Japan’s idol industry. As protagonist Mima tries to leave singing for an acting career, she is terrorised by a violent apparition of her pop star alter ego. This film launched the career of Satoshi Kon (who Aronofsky actually does cite as an influence).
Cowboy Bebop (Firefly)
A crew of likeable screw-ups barely scrape a living on a ship that’s falling apart. Made up of a fighter trying to run from his past, they get into wacky hijinx in a human space empire that’s a mix of American and Asian culture. After the series ended, it even got a movie.
It’s impossible to have a geeky discussion on the internet without mentioning the premature cancellation of Firefly. Joss Whedon’s first foray into sci-fi is the most mourned cult show in history. Before that though, director Shinichiro Watanabe was making his own Western-style space show which stole the hearts of many. The go-to recommendation for new anime viewers anywhere, the ending will leave you emotionally drained and carrying that weight.
See You Space Cowboy.