There’s nothing wrong with hating the United States of America. In fact, that’s one of the things that make America great. And anime, being the product of a nation that lost a war to America not so long ago, sometimes hates America an awful lot. In fact, a number of anime creations hate America with such hilarious, overwrought gusto that it’s hard not to sit back and laugh.
We’ve dug up the 12 most obvious and insane cases of America-bashing in anime, and we had only one requirement: they must somehow be commercially available in America. This means we’ve disqualified a lot of infamous World War II propaganda as well as ’80s masterworks like Sakigake!! Otokojuku.
But think of it this way: In order to truly hate America, an anime production must actually be released in America. That way it can drive home its hatred by exploiting America’s market and the racist, scheming, genocidal, gun-toting, football-playing, war-declaring, country-invading, base-stealing, hamburger-gobbling, nuke-dropping, pants-pissing psychic assassins who run it.
12) Mobile Fighter G-Gundam
Considering how most of the world’s nations are shown in G-Gundam, America…sorry, Neo-America gets off easily. It’s represented by a robot that wears boxing gloves and a football helmet, but the robot’s pilot, Chibodee Crocket, is a central character with a large role in the series. Compare that to, say, the single episode given to Neo-Mexico’s mustachioed, sombrero-wearing Tequila Gundam.
Yet there’s one point where the series takes American hubris down a peg. When the Devil Gundam rears its head during the show’s climactic battle, Neo-America deploys its most powerful weapon: The Statue of Liberty Cannon.
The results shouldn’t surprise anyone who remembers that this is a Japanese show.
11) Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo is a comedy just as often as it’s a stylish, bloody, and anachronistic tale of swordsmen and hip-hop. And so its one-off episode about baseball is downright ridiculous in its vision of American players invading Japan, to the point where it’s a parody of stereotypical foreigners in Japanese pop culture.
Did we mention that the American baseball players are all ugly, murderous cheaters? These foreigners freely break the rules and put their Japanese rivals out of commission, and it’s eventually up to Mugen, the rogue of Samurai Champloo‘s main trio, to show those barbaric gaijin a thing or two. He does, of course, and the Americans are so frightened of Japanese ferocity on the diamond that they avoid the country for many years to come. And, much like baseball itself, the episode’s all good fun if you don’t take it seriously.
10) Read or Die
Countless anime series have a stereotypical American character. If it’s a guy, he’ll be a hulking, overbearing jackass like Bandit Keith from Yu-Gi-Oh. If it’s a girl, she’ll be a blonde sexpot all but bouncing around in an American-flag bikini, like… well, there are too many examples to list here. But it’s all the more amusing when an anime production features the American president. He’s usually a composite of the more popular Commanders-in-Chief, and he’s either an easygoing politician (as in Gasaraki) or a warmongering bully (just about every other show). Among these series, Read or Die deserves credit for going right for the throat. The original three-part video series opens with the White House being attacked…and the leader of the free world peeing his pants in terror.
This is a running gag throughout the Read or Die series, where the Commander-in-Chief and his armies are a belligerent and usually ineffectual force compared to the scheming villains and the agents of the British Royal Library. The poor president mixes Clinton and two flavors of Bush with a possibly unintentional jab at Reagan’s later years. It’s only one joke within Read or Die‘s strange world of paper-powering secret agents, but it stands out among anime-backed American stereotypes.
9) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Much of the political turmoil in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex focuses on the Japan of 2030 and how it affects the men and women of the government’s Section 9 bureau. Still, it’s hard not to notice that the future envisioned by Ghost in the Shell is one where World War III occurred, and the U.S.A turned into something called “The American Empire.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in the episode called “Jungle Cruise.”
There’s a serial killer on the loose in Section’s 9 neck of Japan. It turns out that he’s a former American commando who went nuts after skinning too many women and children alive during covert CIA missions. Motoko, Batou, and the other members of Section 9 put up with two oily Japanese-American CIA agents ostensibly sent to help the investigation. However, it’s soon revealed that the CIA wants Batou, who actually witnessed the killer’s handiwork during World War III, to snap and murder their target before he can spill America’s dirty jungle-war secrets. Batou nobly resists the temptation to gun down the nutjob, but he gets to rant a bit about the American Empire’s horrifying attempts at psychological warfare and its refusal to admit to them.
As criticisms of America go, Ghost in the Shell‘s take is rather mild. Plenty of American-bred TV shows and movies feature slimebag CIA operatives as well as military-trained assassins driven mad by their line of work. The only real difference is Ghost‘s use of cyber-linked cyber-agents cyber-investigating all over the place.
8) Star Blazers / Arcadia of My Youth
Leiji Matsumoto perhaps deserves some lifetime achievement award in the field of America-criticizing anime. The classic manga author inspired numerous movies and series over the years, from Galaxy Express 999 to Interstella 5555. While Matsumoto isn’t completely responsible for every anime he spawns, a lot of his creations take Japan’s side against America, particularly when it comes to the aftermath of World War II.
Sometimes it’s relatively subtle. For example, the revered anime series Star Blazers (or Space Battleship Yamato in Japan) has a race of pasty, occasionally blond-haired aliens dropping nu…er, radioactive meteorites on the earth. The human race’s only hope for survival rests on a World War II Japanese battleship that’s outfitted as a star cruiser and sent off toward a distant planet. Many of the pro-Japan parallels were downplayed in the dubbed, edited Star Blazers, which lost a scene of the Yamato valiantly defending itself during World War II. Later Yamato productions spike it right back up, though. The newest movie in the franchise, 2009’s Yamoto Rebirth, has courageous earthlings and their space-boats facing a violent, xenophobic empire called…the S.U.S.
Another well-known Matsumoto work is the film Arcadia of My Youth, in which the space-faring soldier Harlock, a descendent of noted German pilots (including a World War II ace), returns to Earth to find that his home planet’s been conquered and occupied by aliens. The aliens aren’t good and noble like those Germans, though. Unwilling to admit defeat, Harlock starts up a resistance movement, only to find most of the population beaten into submission by their fearsome and pale foreign overlords. This has NOTHING to do with the American occupation of Japan after World War II.
7) Black Jack
Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack isn’t the type for international politics. He’s a renegade surgeon who’s usually wrapped in smaller-scale stories about mysterious illnesses and criminal elements. But in the third episode of director Osamu Dezaki’s Black Jack video series, Black Jack takes on a much larger enemy: the United States.
Wait. Let’s correct that. He actually takes on the Federal Unites, a large democratic country that just so happens to be symbolized by a red, white, and blue flag as well as a large green statue of a woman. The forces of the obnoxious, world-policing Federal Unities invade the equally fictional Ortega Republic and capture its leader, General Cruz, all because they’re after Ortega’s oil. Black Jack is called in by a bunch of Ortegan freedom fighters, who’ve rescued the terminally ill Cruz and want him kept alive long enough for him to die in his homeland. The whole thing resembles some unused Golgo 13 script Dezaki had lying around, only a Golgo 13 adventure would have the actual United States in it, along with Golgo not giving a shit.
But Black Jack gives a shit, and so he joins up with the rebels and hooks up with a brave revolutionary named Maria. Sadly, there’s only so much a freelance doctor can do. Maria and the other rebels are killed, and Cruz is gunned down just before he can reach the country he loves. The best Black Jack can manage is punching a snotty Federal Unites agent in the mouth. Damn Federal Unites. Good thing America’s nothing like that.
6) Silent Service
Silent Service is a nuanced, critical look at Japan’s military and geopolitical position in the modern era. No, wait. That’s Patlabor 2. Silent Service has all the insight and decorum of a frothing letter to the editor. In this adaptation of an award-winning manga series, some of Japan’s finest naval officers are declared dead so they can secretly crew an experimental submarine developed by Japan and America. The sub’s captain, Shiro Kaieda, wastes no time in declaring the vessel to be the independent nation of Yamato (you know, like the traditional name for Japan), and he’s not taking any guff from the nasty ol’ American navy.
As both Japan and the U.S. try to get back their sub, Kaieda takes on the best of the American forces and sinks a number of ships (even an aircraft carrier!) with his brilliant strategies, which include playing music to mislead other subs. Yes, it’s The Hunt for Red October with a Japanese jingoistic streak a mile wide. The Americans are arrogant cocks who just can’t wait to take back what’s theirs, and the U.S. president himself even threatens to invade the entire nation of Japan if he can’t have his precious little submarine. The manga version of this tale supposedly lightens up its veiled calls for Japan to rise once again, but the anime incarnation stops just short of re-naming itself The Noble Commander Who Fights America Just Like All Japanese People Should Right Now.
5) Mad Bull 34
It’s hard to say if Mad Bull 34 is a criticism of America or a glorious celebration of its own blood-drenched misconceptions about the country. Based on a manga series by Lone Wolf and Cub‘s Kazuo Koike, the four-part Mad Bull 34 follows police officers John “Sleepy” Estes (the eponymous “Mad Bull”) and Daizaburo Eddie Ban through a New York precinct full of hookers, rapists, gunmen, and various borderline racist caricatures. Sleepy kills them all at the slightest sign of wrongdoing. Except for the hookers, who he invites into his own illegal stable of well-treated prostitutes.
It’s not a flattering vision of America, but Mad Bull 34 constantly depicts Sleepy as a hero. To be precise, he’s a corrupt, foul-mouthed hero who’s willing to dress in drag, marry a crazed serial killer, or wear a jockstrap of grenades just so long as justice is gruesomely served. And he’s always right in the end, even when uppity reporter women accuse him of being a cold-blooded killing machine. Which he pretty much is. But Mad Bull 34 loves him anyway, and so it must also love America in some sadistic way.
4) The Cockpit
We return now to Leiji Matsumoto, whose space-opera work often casts aliens as America-like villains. But no meanings are hidden in The Cockpit, a three-part video series inspired by Matsumoto’s stories about (surprise!) World War II. Special attention must be paid to the first episode, directed by Ninja Scroll‘s Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who’s usually too busy hating women to hate America. In this tale, demoted German pilot Erhart von Leinders is charged with escorting a plane that holds the Third Reich’s most fearsome weapon: a nuclear bomb. Also aboard is our hero’s ex-girlfriend. In the subtitled version, she predicts that the device will sell mankind’s soul to the devil. In the dub, she tells Erhart that anyone who uses the bomb “will be remembered as the worst mass murderers in history.” Ain’t that the truth?
Of course, this episode of The Cockpit doesn’t dwell on the fact that Germany was systematically slaughtering millions at this point in history. In much the same way, other parts of the Cockpit ignore the fact that Japan had its own conquests and butchery aplenty during World War II. Not that this is unique to one anime. There are still many Japanese public figures whose official line on World War II atrocities is “LALALALALALA WE CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALALA.”
3) Code Geass
Code Geass is not fooling anyone. Yes, the show is set in an alternate world where the British empire just kept on going and took over half the globe. Yes, this means that it’s Britannia that conquers Japan with an army of fearsome mecha, it’s Britannia whose citizens treat the Japanese like subhuman slaves, and it’s Britannia’s emperor who isn’t having any of that crap about “equality” and niceness.
But where exactly is this Britannian Empire? Here’s a shot from early in the show.
?See, Britannia doesn’t include Great Britain in the warped new reality of Code Geass. This giant, Japan-oppressing empire is actually based in North America; you know, the location of that one country that sorta occupied Japan after a real-world war. And while Code Geass makes a perfunctory attempt at giving the Japanese resistance some gray morals, the show treats the invasion as an excuse for its dick of an antihero, Lelouch, and his fellow rebels to manipulate and murder any Britannians who get in their way. It backfires for the show. Every major character in Code Geass is either a complete douchebag or an insufferable pawn, so the no-name Britannian schlubs killed by Lelouch are the only sympathetic people around.
2) Momotaro’s Sea Eagles
American cartoons weren’t afraid of stereotypes during World War II; Popeye and Bugs Bunny battled racist visions of Japanese soldiers, and one can easily guess why the short “Tokio Jokio” wasn’t part of regular Looney Tunes TV rotation. Of course, Japan had its own school of WWII cartoon propaganda, and the most famous are Momotaro’s Sea Eagles and its sequel, the first feature-length Japanese cartoon, Momotaro’s Divine Warriors.
Unlike the slapstick of Popeye shorts, the Momotaro cartoons are relatively serious children’s films in which Prince Momotaro and his cuddly animal friends don sailor suits and bomb Pearl Harbor. Well, they don’t actually say it’s Pearl Harbor, but Momotaro’s Sea Eagles glorifies its heroes’ attack on the ogres and other vicious foreign devils of Onigashima. Momotaro’s Divine Warriors tells much the same story, but with even more scenes of cute little bears and squirrels and monkeys crowding into realistic airplanes and parachuting down to slay their racial inferiors.
Momotaro’s Divine Warriors isn’t available on DVD in North America, but Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is. Zakka Films released it as part of a “Roots of Japanese Anime” collection, along with less offensive animated works. Historical value aside, the film is both insidious and surreal, like a Funny Little Bunnies version of Triumph of the Will.
1) Angel Cop
We’ve seen anime that weaves a dislike of America into its characters and settings, but there’s a rarer breed that bottles up anti-American sentiment and then spews it across the screen at the last possible moment. One anime series does this more pointedly than any other, and that anime series is Angel Cop.
A hyperviolent tale of terrorism in near-future Japan, Angel Cop at first glorifies a band of government operatives taking down a communist cell called the Red May. Their newest member is Angel, and she proudly splatters commie brains across the wall before she’s even properly introduced to the viewer. Angel and her equally hateful asshole comrades blow away scores of thugs, spewing creative profanity all the while, but they’re interrupted when three psychic assassins arrive and start killing just about everyone. As the war whittles down to Angel fighting off the amazon esper Lucifer, Angel’s boss confronts the ringleaders of the conspiracy that’s fueled all of this.
And then Angel Cop jumps the rails. The corrupt Japanese government officials explain that the whole thing was planned by America, and just not a run-of-the-mill evil America. No, the Big Bad here is an America controlled by the International Jewish Conspiracy. Angel Cop‘s alleged good guy (who’s shown earlier as a loathsome, suspect-torturing scumbag) spews a bizarre anti-Semitic rant worthy of a street lunatic. Among the revelations: the Jewish-American Empire ran the Vietnam War to test weapons, Iraq was set up as a fall guy in the first Gulf War, and Jews just bought the isle of Hokkaido as the first step in turning Japan into another United State. Most of this was edited out of the official Manga Video release of Angel Cop, but the original Japanese dialogue (translated in white at the top of the video) is still right there in all of its Jew-hating, America-bashing insanity.
This tirade was partly the work of Sho Aikawa, who’d later script respectable anime series like Martian Successor Nadesico, The Twelve Kingdoms, and Fullmetal Alchemist. In fact, Fullmetal Alchemist takes a dim view of American policy in the Middle East. But it’s small stuff compared to Angel Cop, and so is just about every other anime series that hates America.