We are in an interesting time in American pop culture and geek culture. For more than a decade now, comic book superheroes have taken over our media. But do you know something? Something else has been sneaking into our pop culture as well. And that thing is: Japanese pop culture and anime. More and more I’ve been seeing Japanese and anime-like influences in our media. From Pacific Rim to Avatar the Last Airbender, to the now live-action Ghost in the Shell movie coming out, anime seems to be popping up more often now. Amidst all of this happening in our media one cannot help but think of the fandoms associated with it. The geeks and nerds largely populating anime; comic and sci-fi are not the only ones celebrating this subculture anymore. Everyone else now wants a piece of the pie.
People who were never into comic books and sci-fi attentions’ have been grabbed, and that’s because it’s not really just about the anime, comics, or movies anymore. It’s about everything that’s cool. Star Wars, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Transformers, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, The Hunger Games, and Power Rangers, are just a handful of creations with devoted fans. Many of these fans were originally into at least one of these fandoms, along with comic books and cartoons, and then got into anime and other things as well. Vice versa for anime fans who got into things like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. For many people anime has become more of a gateway into the subculture at large and the same thing could be said about comic book movies. Around 2012 and 2013, I noticed a new wave of people just getting into anime and comics who are now populating conventions. What was once a niche hobby for so long has now become mainstream. From the anime influences exuded in the one of the most landmark sci-fi movies in history, The Matrix, to the filmmaking style of Guillermo Del Toro most notably in his film Pacific Rim, anime seems to have made its landmark on American pop culture.
When it comes to anime though, there has always been some sort of Western influence in it and in return, Western film and animation are now being influenced by Japanese animation too in a continuous cycle. Back in the olden days of anime, when old school Gundam and Macross were first released, it was easy to see how much the first Star Wars trilogy had influenced them. It wasn’t until the anime movie Akira came out in the U.S. that anime struck as something to actually resonate with Western audiences and the term anime alone became relevant. Akira drew sci-fi elements from some American sci-fi films, most notably being Blade Runner. Since then, the next anime film to become as much of a giant hit as Akira was Ghost in the Shell which had a huge creative influence on The Matrix. Satoshi Kon’s debut film Perfect Blue, in 1998, also was largely influential on the visual style of the Matrix as well as other films over the years like Inception and Black Swan.
Anime series though during the 90’s and early 2000’s were what really helped anime become mainstream, not just in film but in also in television. Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, DragonBall Z, Ruroni Kenshin, Serial Experiments Lain, Elfen Lied, FLCL, and Yu Yu Hakusho were the dominant anime series to have become successful on American television through either Saturday morning cartoons, Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, or Adult Swim on Cartoon Network’s late night TV. Newer classics, such as Death Note, Attack on Titan, and Kill la Kill have put their mark on popular series in America as well. Whatever may resonate with you, it’s certainly a cool time to be into entertainment and I know although the supehero genre is probably not going to die out any time soon, this medium will be a nice filler to be adapted into the big screen.