Five Anime Techniques Hollywood Has Taken to Heart
From subjective style to mysterious mastery.
When Hollywood tries to adapt anime directly, the results can be chaotic – Akira remains in development hell presumably to ensure a premature version doesn’t end up like Dragonball Evolution. But when Hollywood takes subtle pointers from the animation to the east, it often ends in success. Here are some of the best examples:
#1 with a Bullet Time – Arguably the oldest cliche in anime is the scene where a character leaps into the air to fight, then holds a static mid-air pose as the background turns into nothing but moving lines. It took the Wachowski siblings and the Matrix trilogy to interpret this into our live-action variant, in which the static mid-air pose is held while the camera swoops around them. Many have argued that wasn’t the only thing they borrowed, either, and we agree – Lana Wachowski’s hair looks familiar, for one thing…
Style Counsel – For years, American animation’s imitation of reality generally had a direct relationship with the amount of money spent. Hanna-Barbera cartoons were more simply styled and less representative than Disney because they wanted to make shows faster and cheaper, for example. It wasn’t until recent decades – and a generation raised on seeing Japanese imports – that shows like Batman: The Animated Series proved to U.S. audiences that a deliberately expressive appearance could work and still look good. Nowadays, if a cartoon doesn’t feature odd angles and exaggerated features, it is assumed kids will reject it faster than the dust under the Mach 5’s wheels.
Giant F’in Robots – From Gigantor to Gundams, the massive metal humanoid is something we can all get behind, and certainly have in Japanese pop culture, yet for years the only major movie we had on the topic in the West was Robot Jox. With the likes of The Iron Giant, Transformers and Pacific Rim, however, we’ve been pretty good at making up for lost time. Now both America and Japan can focus on what’s important – building these things for real.
A Fine Re-Past – Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and The Sky Crawlers are among many, many anime tales that envision history having played out in alternate ways, without spoonfeeding the audience. Here, we’ve tended to get confused even when aided by devices like Watchmen‘s clever opening montage. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter gets the concept across in less than four score and seven seconds.
Power Players – If you’re watching a Japanese cartoon and someone spontaneously decides to bust out a fireball and hurl it at a monster which promptly splits into two things that then grow eight alternate heads, we don’t ask why. It just makes sense, somehow. Here, we have tended to err on the side of the theatrical cut of Dark City, in which Kiefer Sutherland’s narration tells us upfront what the plot is going to be, and his character gets to explain it all yet again later in the story. These days, however, not only have we been so oversaturated with origins and explanations that they’re needed less, but we also have developed a large audience of people who accept the fact that every character in a story might have completely random powers which don’t necessarily make sense. We call them Twi-hards.