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7 Anime References in American Cartoons

by Lynzee Loveridge,

American cartoon characters, politicians, and even celebrities have appeared as cameo roles in anime series. The same couldn't be said in reverse, with few American cartoons paying tribute to their Japanese brethren. That started changing recently, with seemingly more anime fans working in the industry and prominent Japanese staff doing guest episodes on American shows.


Ninja Battle (South Park) South Park is one of the first shows in recent memory to do an all-out anime-inspired tribute episode. In Episode 112, "Good Times With Weapons," the boys go to the fair and buy "ninja weapons." This develops into a game of make-believe where the episode switched to an anime art style whenever the boys are playing out their quest. TThe episode even includes a Japanese-English mash-up theme song, obviously taking a shot at the randomly inserted English words in Japanese rock and pop music.


End of Evangelion (Steven Universe) Steven Universe's creators have repeatedly shown their respect for anime series ranging from Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena to Cowboy Bebop and Dragon Ball. The show's references to Evangelion are numerous as well, with one sequence recreating the TV series' final "congratulations" sequence. In the show's third season titled "Kiki's Pizza Delivery Service" (itself a reference to the Ghibli film) Steven helps Kiki resolve a recurring stress dream. After doing so, both characters sit on a beach with two large pizza slices standing out of the water, a direct visual reference to Shinji and Asuka in the last scene of End of Evangelion.


Ash Ketchum (Code Name Kids Next Door) The Cartoon Network television series about a group of spy kids in a high-tech tree house ran for six seasons and frequently included pop culture callbacks. Most of these were to popular Hollywood films and franchises like X-Men and Jaws, but characters from Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon were slipped in too. In episode 32a, "Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E.", a certain Pokémon Master can be seen sitting in the audience during a film screening.


Regular Show (Neon Genesis Evangelion) Last year, Cartoon Network's Regular Show went full otaku by recreating the opening sequence of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Unit-01 was replaced with a duck-inspired mecha, and Shinji's silhouette was replaced with Rigby. The sequence opened the series' Brilliant Century Duck Crisis special, which itself was full of Gundam, Transformers, and Cowboy Bebop references. The ending sequence recreates Cowboy Bebop's "The Real Folk Blues" ending in the same way that the OP recreated "Cruel Angel's Thesis."


Bob's Burgers (My Neighbor Totoro) Fox's animated sitcom has gained traction online thanks to the Belchers' teenage daughter Tina, lover of butts and writing zombie erotic fiction. Anime references aren't the norm for this show, but in episode five of season three, Bob falls asleep while cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. He dreams that the turkey (who he has named Lance) grows to a giant size, and with umbrella in hand, takes the role of Totoro by causing giant vegetables and other Thanksgiving foods to grow higher and higher.


Boondocks (Samurai Champloo) Both The Boondocks and Samurai Champloo aired on Adult Swim, and it looks like Boondocks' creator Aaron McGruder is a fan of the anime given how often it shows up in episodes of the show. The first season's opening sequence contains visual likenesses to Samurai Champloo's opening. In episode 4, Huey dreams of fighting a blind swordsman in a bamboo forest, through a fight sequence that's incredibly similar to Champloo's Jin's battle against Inuyaka.


Anime Director Special Episodes Two cartoons have recently invited Japanese staff to animate or direct guest episodes. These don't always mean a stylistic change, but the results are nonetheless impressive. Ping Pong and The Tatami Galaxy director Masaaki Yuasa came aboard Frederator Studios to direct the Adventure Time episode "Food Chain" in 2014, earning him an Annecy nomination. Studio 4°C also joined up with The Amazing World of Gumball to animate a fight sequence in an episode last year, although the characters got anime-style makeovers for the bit.






The new poll: What Winter 2017 shows are you still watching? We're about five weeks into the season, simuldub premieres are out and the Preview Guide gave its initial takes. So what are you still watching?

The old poll: Which 2016 animated picture should win the Oscar?

  1. “Kubo and the Two Strings” – (Laika) 30.8%
  2. “Zootopia” – (Walt Disney Pictures) 29.8%
  3. “The Red Turtle” – (Sony Pictures Classics) 14.5%
  4. “Moana” – (Walt Disney Pictures) 8.9%
  5. “My Life as a Zucchini” - (GKIDS) 1.0%
  6. None of the above - 15.0%

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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