In a previous article, I noted how anime has had a major influence on cartoons made in America. This is true especially in recent years as more and more animations are taking cues from the Japanese animation, to the point that there are very few cartoons in the modern era that aren’t anime-related. In this list, I will go over the top 10 Western cartoons that are anime-influenced.
10. Castlevania (July 7, 2017 – May 13, 2021)
This Netflix show can easily be mistaken for an anime due to its incredibly dark themes and style. It was mostly animated like a Japanese cartoon because it’s based on a game from the same country that already had anime-like character designs. It’s no secret the staff that works on Castlevania loves anime and put that passion into the show. I won’t go into the show too much, owing to the fact that I haven’t seen it myself, but I could recognize the anime influence at first glance. I do, however, plan to see it sometime in the future.
9. RWBY (July 19, 2013 – present)
If you were to pick a random scene from this American-made webseries, chances are that the anime influence would be immediately obvious. At first glance, it could easily be mistaken for a Japanese RPG like “Persona” or “Xenoblade Chronicles” due to its toon-shaded art style, lore, power systems, and other tropes common to Japanese animation. This, along with its presence on Cruchyroll, has caused people in the fandom to hotly debate its status as an “American anime”. Sadly though, it has gone down in quality in recent years, and it doesn’t have the same spark that it once had during the first three volumes.
8. The Dragon Prince (September 14, 2018 – present)
You might notice that like another anime-inspired franchise that I’ll get into much later, The Dragon Prince deals with a magic system focusing on controlling the elements. These similarities are not coincidental, as both series have a few talents in common, such as writer Aaron Ehasz, director Giancarlo Volpe, and actor Jack DeSena. However, unlike that other franchise, the setting and culture lean more towards that of medieval Europe as opposed to Asia. It still doesn’t change the fact that the animation style and mature themes definitely carry an anime vibe. This high-fantasy anime is a must-binge, with a fourth season reportedly on the way.
7. Samurai Jack (August 10, 2001-May 20, 2017)
When developing this series, creator Genndy Tartakovsky was inspired by Frank Miller comic books like “Ronin” as well as his own childhood fascination with samurai and the bushido code. The Japanese influence in “Samurai Jack” obvious, seeing Tartakovsky’s Kurosawa-esque approach to action as well as the influence of anime on epidsodes like “Samurai Versus Ninja” and “Robo-Samurai versus Mondo Bot.” The Japanese influence becomes even more prominent in the final season as Jack finds his way back to the past and defeats Aku once and for all.
6. She Ra and The Princesses of Power (November 13, 2018 – May 15, 2020)
By the Honor of Grayskull! The She Ra reboot is yet another example of a modern show that derives from anime. Interviews have revealed that a lot of the animation team were inspired by Japanese creators, and it shows. The art style clearly borrows from 90’s Magical Girl anime like Sailor Moon (particularly the way the characters’s eyes are drawn, which really resembles that decade’s animes much more than the original She-Ra) as well as the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Moebius. In a future article, I will review the entire show in full and give you my two cents, owing to the considerable … reputation that it has gathered on the internet.
5. Voltron: Legendary Defender (June 10, 2016 – December 14, 2018)
This is not the first time that the Voltron franchise was connected to anime, as the original “Voltron” series borrowed animation from the mecha anime “Beast King GoLion”. Animated by Studio Mir, a Korean animation studio best known for The Legend of Korra and The Boondocks, the show gives its predecessors a CGI update that blends in perfectly well with the more traditionally animated characters and backdrops. It even has the anime trope of starting shipping wars on social media!
4. Jackie Chan Adventures (September 9, 2000 – July 8, 2005)
Considering that Jackie Chan is usually associated with cool martial arts stunts, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a cartoon based on him follows an anime formula. In this series, Jackie takes on everything from demons to dragons, performing stunts worthy of the real deal himself. What could have been a gimmick cashing in on Jackie Chan’s name and fame turned out to be an enjoyable cartoon filled with humor, adventure, culture, and a unique animation style.
3. Ben 10 (2005) (December 27, 2005 – April 15, 2008)
Is it any wonder that this is such a popular franchise? This sci-fi Cartoon Network series derives character design elements, such as wide eyes, speed lines, and hair highlights from several different anime series. Not to mention that some of Ben’s aliens wouldn’t look too out of place in Pokemon or Digimon, though the story often takes cues from Naruto as well. The later installments keep up the trend, especially Omniverse, as the character designs veer away from the American comic book superhero style. Not much to say about the reboot, though…
2. Teen Titans (July 19, 2003 -September 15, 2006)
When there’s trouble, you know who to call! The 2003 version of the Teen Titans is on the most unique DC animations of the modern era, owing to the clear anime influence. Whether the episode is lighthearted or serious in tone, the exaggerated visual style is always effective. The action is also magnificent from an aesthetic standpoint, as the combat is consistent when it comes to being vibrant, speedy, and thrilling. This reimagining is so successful that it’s hard to imagine Teen Titans without an anime aesthetic now. (Not much to say about the spin-off series, though…)
– Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts (January 14 – October 12, 2020)
– The Owl House (January 10, 2020 – present)
– My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (October 10, 2010 – October 12, 2019)
– Æon Flux (November 30, 1991 – October 10, 1995)
– The Boondocks (November 6, 2005 – June 23, 2014)
1. The Avatar franchise (Avatar The Last Airbender: February 21, 2005 – July 18, 2008, The Legend of Korra: April 14, 2012 – December 19, 2014)
Admit it, you knew that this would be the top. The Avatar franchise is currently the most popular animesque franchise in the west, and for good reason. Avatar: The Last Airbender takes cues from anime in almost everything, from the art direction to the themes to even the creative use of martial arts. The creators have cited Hayao Miyazaki’s films as a major influence, especially Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro, as well as Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and FLCL. Its sequel, The Legend Of Korra, is no slouch, either; it brought its parent show to the future while distinguishing itself by delving into topics that its predecessor didn’t show, like the origins of the Avatar. Even though its behind the scenes problems limited its full potential, at least its legacy will live on for all the right reasons. Not to mention that with the formation of Avatar Studios, there will be new projects set within the universe that will add to the lore of the franchise, with an animated theatrical film set to begin production in fall 2021.
Do you agree with this list? Did I miss anything? What is your favorite cartoon based on anime? Please, let me know in the comments!