6 Major Cases of Hollywood Ripping off Anime (and One Huge Counter-Example)

By Alex Eckman-Lawn in Anime, Comics, Daily Lists, Movies, Nerdery
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 6:00 am

5. Inception = Paprika


Let's not mince words... these movies are damn near identical in basic concept.

Some kind of magic science exists. It lets people get up into other people's dreams and solve their inner, psychological problems in the treacherous, shifting landscapes of the imagination. The execution does differ a bit as the films progress, but you'd have to be jammed pretty far up Christopher Nolan's butt to deny the similarities. Remember that part where the heroine reaches out... and reality smashes and falls away like a mirror? Yeah, that's in both movies. And the scene where physics/gravity stop making sense in a hotel hallway? Yeah, that's there, too. Oh, and the elevator representing layers of the subconscious? Yeah.

And so on, and so on...

Basically, Nolan must have thought, "What if I threw grumpyface DiCaprio into the middle of this cartoon I just saw?" Sorry Christopher, you've got the better haircut, but when it comes to blurring the line between dreams and reality, no one can touches the late, great Satoshi Kon.

Of course, while there's no disputing that Paprika came before Inception, some claim that the plot also bears spooky similarities to an Uncle Scrooge comic that came out in 2004. That was published two years before Paprika's release as a movie - though the novel it was based on came out in 1993 in Japan - so we're actually in a bit of brain-twisting dream-within-dream predicament of who really had the idea first, now...

6. Dark City = Akira


We've saved this one for last because it illustrates a point about this whole finger-pointing business...

When most cinephiles discover Dark City today (on Netflix or whatever), they think themselves pretty clever, going to parties and asserting that The Matrix totally ripped it off. This assertion, of course, neglects the basic Google search that'd reveal how the two movies were shot in succession, on the same studio lot, using many of the same sets - which therefore makes the whole "timetable of inspiration" rather difficult to reconcile.

Consider this, though...director Alex Proyas has admitted on several occasions that the climactic telepathic duel between John Murdoch and Mr. Book (with all the resultant property damage) was rather heavily inspired by the climatic telekinetic duel between Tetsuo and Kai (with all the resultant property damage) in the Akira manga. The pale, shriveled Strangers of Dark City also bear a striking resemblance to the pale, shriveled espers of Akira. So, surely, that anime/manga must be the creative wellspring from which all these lesser imitators flow?

Well, get this... Akira's creator, Katsuhiro Otomo, has freely admitted that his story might be a blatant retelling of an earlier manga, Tetsujin 28 (otherwise known as Gigantor). As in, major characters share the same names. And down and down the rabbit hole, we go....

Bonus. Fist of the North Star = The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)


And you know what? We're adding this one to prove another point about the rip-off game...

We can't, for a minute, pretend that anime has never borrowed from Hollywood (check out Streets of Fire - possibly the inspiration for every anime of the '80s). Mad Max may not be a Hollywood franchise, per se (close enough though, right?), but you'd have to be dumb, deaf and blind to deny the significant debt owed to it by the seminal shonen series, Fist of the North Star.

Undeniably, mangaka Tetsuo Hara based the entire look of Fist around the aesthetic of The Road Warrior, and then simply replaced Mel Gibson with Bruce Lee for the lead. Dusty old roads, roving gangs of bad dudes with mohawks and shoulder pads, torn-up leather jackets, and brutal violence at every turn. Sure, Max may not have popped as many heads as Kenshiro (who has though, really?), but the two men's dress, general distaste for lawless killers and that whole "desert messiah" attitude are pretty much one in the same.

The thick, manly eyebrows, martial arts mastery and signature "At-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!" shriek are all Bruce, though.

Keep in mind, too, that Fist was the top dog shonen series in the early '80s, sitting on a throne that only juggernauts like Dragon Ball and One Piece have claimed since. It has spawned legions of apprentices and imitators. And none of it would exist without the example set by some weird post-apocalyptic western from Oz.

Previously by Alex Eckman-Lawn:

The 10 Most Diabolical Bosses From Classic Fighting Games

Seven Other Secondary Character Comic-Book Shows That Could Be Made, but Shouldn't

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