Once upon a time, anime was an obscure niche in the West. Only a handful of titles were dubbed in English, a few more with subtitles. That has certainly changed over the last couple decades (even major industry players like Netflix have hopped on board).
But it can also be said that anime has influenced western animation too. In fact, western animation has gotten to the point where you’d be hard pressed to find a cartoon that doesn’t have some anime characteristic.
Here’s a short list of U.S. animated shows that look, feel, and sometimes even sound like they were made in Japan… Perfect for the anime fan.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar only ran from 2005 to 2008, but managed to grow a huge following. The show was popular enough that it earned a live-action film directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Yea, the guy who directed The Sixth Sense and The Lady in the Water (ugh).
The first time I watched Avatar, I was convinced it was straight outta Tokyo. The characters look like anime characters, they move like anime characters would move, the humor even seemed awkward enough that you’d think it was translated.
But Avatar isn’t anime, it’s an American production. Well sort of… It’s actually animated by JM Animation, a team from South Korea.
You can see the stark difference between the original Voltron, from the 1980’s, and the new Voltron, brought to you by Netflix. The original animation was choppy. The new series animation is smooth and detailed. The characters are hyper-emotive – just like anime characters.
This new Voltron is also a product of the U.S., with nearly everything about the show screaming “anime”. Seems like the U.S. artists got their influence fr… oh wait. Turns out Volton is also animated by South Koreans. This time, Studio Mir and MOI Animation, which took lead on different seasons.
Just like Voltron, Thundercats was an 80’s classic that got a modern day makeover, and by that I mean an anime makeover. The original artwork wasn’t just updated, it was replaced.
Thundercats’ creators seemed to have taken notice of anime’s rise and switched styles to capitalize on the growing popularity. Coincidentally, it was created by Studio 4°C, a animation studio out of Japan.
I threw this one is as a wildcard. The Boondocks prove that a show’s animation only accounts for half of the show’s soul. The other half is in the writing. But still, the trend continues. The show was created by a U.S. production company and outsourced to – yep – South Korea. MOI Animation and Studio Mir handled all the animation for The Boondocks.
Anime’s influence on animation in the west doesn’t stop here. There are dozens of other shows that draw heavily (if not entirely) on Japanese animation. But at least they’re not just blatantly stealing it, they’re outsourcing it!
And, sure, it’s mostly outsourced to South Korea, but hey that’s close-ish. Right?