The 10 Worst American "Anime" Ripoffs

By Brian Hanson in Anime, Cartoons, Comics, Daily Lists
Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

5) Nickelodeon's Failed Pilot Constant Payne

But at least RWBY isn't the work of so-called "professionals." In 2001, Nickelodeon began their usual round of pilots and tapped Micah Wright - a writer for several previous Nicktoons like The Angry Beavers - to give 'em something action-oriented, in order to compete with the likes of Dragon Ball Z and other anime-ish shows that were routinely beating them in the ratings.

The resulting product was the aptly-named Constant Payne, which goes far above and beyond the usual anime ripoffs by quite literally borrowing as many elements from Cowboy Bebop as humanly possible in a 10-minute pilot. That's the pilot above, in case you're curious.

4) Kappa Mikey

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Unhindered by Constant Payne's painful failure, Nickelodeon then teamed with beloved arbiters of Japanese imports 4Kids Entertainment to launch, quote, "The first anime to be produced entirely within the United States." Gulp.

The concept was quirky enough - a milquetoast American teen becomes a fish-out-of-water in Japan, alongside a band of stereotypical Japanese anime crimefighters and superheroes - but the execution was utterly bizarre. In order to highlight, perhaps, the differences in animation styles between East and West, I suppose, Mikey and the other Western characters are rendered in your typical superflat Nickelodeon house style, while the Japanese characters resembled what usually passes for "anime fanart" by teenagers on DeviantArt.

A cute idea, but in practice, it made the show look like - uh, like this.

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In other words, profoundly confusing and ugly. It's one thing to take cues and styles from Gainax's groundbreaking FLCL, but it's another thing to adapt them well. Teen Titans did it, but Kappa Mikey looks like a messy paint smear of disparate ideas.

3) Monsuno

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I'll give Kappa Mikey some credit though - at least it was trying to have some fun with it's central concept.

None of that fun is prevalent with Monsuno. Instead of trying to have some dumb fun with anime and its characteristics, Monsuno is a vile, cynical, and downright evil attempt by middle-aged toy and licensing executives to launch their own, Americanized version of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon.

Produced by the highly creative and storytelling-focused minds at the toy companies Jakks Pacific and The Topps Company, Monsuno is, in case it weren't obvious, as blatant a cash-grabbing amalgamation of every hit anime property before it. You got your monsters, your card battles, your spiky-haired protagonists - everything it takes to make a hit, right?

These things are absolutely gross. At least Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon had their roots in something somewhat creative before they became synonymous with soulless merchandising tie-ins; Yu-Gi-Oh! was originally a batshit insane shonen manga, and Pokemon, of course, was a terrific Game Boy game we all played as kids. Stuff like Monsuno attempts to leap-frog the entire organic process of becoming a hit franchise and goes straight for the throat, plastering merchandise and crappy cartoons like a shotgun blast of ripoff mediocrity.

2) Marvel's "Mangaverse"

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But it's not as though we expect Nickelodeon or Jakks Pacific to necessarily know any better than to succumb to their worst impulses in an attempt to cash in on a "fad." But Marvel Comics, we... actually, we expect Marvel to cash in on fads too. Nevermind.

That still doesn't explain Marvel Mangaverse, a two volume Alternate Universe version of various Marvel characters with a purported "manga" twist. In Mangaverse, the Avengers Voltron themselves together to form Mazinger Z - I mean, Iron Man. Hulk isn't Bruce Banner, he's a Godzilla-like monster summoned by Banner.

It is, in other words, kind of embarrassing, not very interesting, and serves no purpose other than to provide a few too many winking nods to Gundam and Evangelion while drawing familiar Marvel characters in a style that's far too close to both American comics and manga to really fit as either.

1) Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

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Though Marvel's Mangaverse was just a one-off experiment by Marvel, one they obviously didn't expect to last beyond being just a strange curio, one title they obviously banked a bit too hard on was Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

Looking at the huge sales numbers for various shojo manga, and the huge influx of girls that the manga market was bringing in, it only made sense to create their own shojo manga, right? And why not feature everybody's favorite webslinger and his beau?

Instead of really stepping up to the plate and delivering a really knockout piece of original, girl-oriented stories, like, say, Fruits Basket, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is as toothless and sanitized as an Archie comic from the 80's. Mary Jane crushes on boys, gets invited to the homecoming dance, and worries about homework; ho-hum. It's toothless and, even worse, pandering.

What gave manga such an immense amount of love from young girls was that finally they were given comics that were not only written by girls, for girls, but they were getting stories and characters that were in some way sophisticated, and somewhat scandalous, and far from the wholesale, easily-forgettable folderol of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg for anime ripoffs - American pop-culture is full of 'em. I'm sure I missed a good one, so let me hear 'em in the comments!

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