American cartoons inspired by anime include shows like Samurai Jack, The Boondocks, Steven Universe, and Star vs. the Forces of Evil.
The inspiration from anime pulses through many popular Western animations.
With Japan’s reputation for crafting exceptionally successful animated series, Western cartoon companies couldn’t resist adopting similar visual styles and fantastical themes.
Cartoon Network stands at the forefront of this movement. Not only did it broadcast anime, but it also introduced a flurry of anime-inspired shows.
Many anime enthusiasts owe their initial exposure to this genre to the channel’s bold programming.
Cartoons Inspired By Anime
Television audiences love American cartoons, and Japanese animation has influenced many popular series.
With anime becoming more prevalent in mainstream culture, newcomers and die-hard fans are interested in discovering which American cartoons have been influenced by anime.
19Gravity Falls: Mystery Meets Anime
While “Gravity Falls” may seem like a purely American cartoon with its setting and humor, a deeper look reveals Japanese influences. The overarching mystery, tightly woven narrative threads, and adventurous spirit bring to mind series like “Detective Conan” or “One Piece.”
Anime’s influence is also visible in the show’s character designs, particularly in the expressiveness of their eyes. Even so, the series keeps its roots firmly planted in American soil with its light-hearted humor, folkloric elements, and quintessential summer vacation setting.
18Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Magical Girl Reimagined
If you’re a fan of the “magical girl” anime genre, “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” will strike a familiar chord. The series seems to take a page from the books of magical girl anime like “Cardcaptor Sakura” and “Sailor Moon” with its quirky, wand-wielding heroine.
The visual style, though, firmly anchors the series in Western animation. Combining magical girl anime’s charm and American cartoons’ wit, “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” presents a delightful blend of Eastern and Western animation traditions.
17Big Hero 6: Superheroes in Tokyo
Big Hero 6, a Marvel comic turned Disney movie, made the leap to television and incorporated a dash of anime influence in the process. The series is set in San Fransokyo, a city hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo, visually manifesting the East meets West ethos.
The anime-style action sequences and character designs reminiscent of chibi-style art are a nod to Japan’s animation legacy. Despite these influences, “Big Hero 6” retains a distinct Disney flair, emphasizing heartwarming narratives and moral lessons.
16Adventure Time: Whimsical World with Anime Soul
With its absurdist humor and post-apocalyptic setting, Adventure Time may not seem like an obvious candidate for anime influence. However, the whimsical world of Finn and Jake borrows elements from anime, particularly in its narrative arcs and character developments.
The show’s creators have cited anime like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Akira” as influences. The blend of offbeat humor and unexpected emotional depth is reminiscent of anime series like “FLCL.” Yet, Adventure Time’s distinct art style and imaginative world-building ensure it retains a firm grip on its Western origins.
15Danny Phantom: Ghostly Adventures in Anime Style
The American anime-inspired “Danny Phantom” tells the tale of a teen ghost superhero and clearly draws inspiration from anime in its action-packed sequences and character designs.
Danny’s transformation into his ghost form mirrors the transformative sequences frequently seen in anime, especially in the “magical girl” genre.
However, at its heart, the series remains deeply Western, capturing high school atmospheres, teenage struggles, and a rich touch of American humor.
14Kim Possible: High School Heroics with a Twist
The anime-inspired “Kim Possible” blends the world of American high school dramas with anime-influenced action and adventure. With its cheerleader-turned-super spy protagonist, the series delivers exaggerated action sequences that echo many anime stories.
The character designs, especially their expressive faces, further showcase anime’s impact. Yet, at its core, “Kim Possible” stays true to its American roots, highlighting classic high school environments and teenage drama.
13The Boondocks: East Meets West in Satire
The Boondocks, with its sharp social satire and exaggerated fight scenes, shows clear influences from both anime and Western animation. The fluid action sequences and visual style scream anime, with elements borrowed from favorites like “Cowboy Bebop” and “Samurai Champloo.”
The unique blend of American social commentary and Japanese animation style turns “The Boondocks” into a remarkable example of cultural amalgamation.
The show successfully uses anime-inspired visuals and storytelling to amplify its satirical bite. This blend of Eastern aesthetics and Western sensibility proves that cartoons and anime aren’t worlds apart—they’re two sides of the same coin.
12Steven Universe: Harnessing the Power of Emotion
Steven Universe captures hearts with its endearing characters, emotional depth, and many references to popular anime. The nuanced storytelling, well-rounded characters, and beautiful exploration of themes like identity and love owe a debt to the emotional resonance often found in anime.
References to series like “Revolutionary Girl Utena” and “Sailor Moon” aren’t merely aesthetic nods, but also borrowings of narrative and thematic elements.
Yet, “Steven Universe” maintains its distinct identity with a warm, Western animation style and a focus on inclusivity and diversity, creating a beautiful blend of two cultures.
11She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Empowerment Through Anime
“She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” reimagines the classic series with a modern, anime-inspired aesthetic. Its character designs and vibrant color palettes pay homage to magical girl anime, while its serialized storytelling reflects the narrative style of many anime series.
With themes of friendship, self-discovery, and empowerment, the show mirrors the spirit of series like “Sailor Moon” and “Madoka Magica.” However, it simultaneously maintains its Western roots with its focus on diversity, inclusivity, and representation, thus creating a compelling balance of Western and Eastern influences.
10Samurai Jack: The Lone Wanderer
Samurai Jack might be an American production but filled with Japanese flavor. Its hero is a samurai, and its art style borrows heavily from minimalist anime and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints.
The show’s creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, has openly expressed his admiration for anime, citing works like “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell” as his major influences.
Yet, Samurai Jack stands apart with its incorporation of Western elements like film noir and traditional fairy tales. An American story wearing the garb of anime, “Samurai Jack” is a love letter to both cultural traditions.
9Avatar: The Last Airbender: An Exceptional Fusion
One can’t discuss American cartoons influenced by anime without giving “Avatar: The Last Airbender” its well-deserved spotlight. With a narrative as intricate as a Japanese “manga” and visuals mirroring anime’s detailed environment art, Avatar gracefully straddles the line between Eastern and Western animation.
The series doesn’t shy away from tackling complex themes – a signature move of many anime series – and the intricate character development is reminiscent of Japanese classics like Fullmetal Alchemist.
8Voltron: Legendary Defender: A Japanese Classic Reimagined
A list like this wouldn’t be complete without “Voltron: Legendary Defender,” a reboot of the 1984 series “Voltron: Defender of the Universe,” which itself was an adaptation of the Japanese anime “Beast King GoLion.”
The latest iteration of Voltron draws heavily from anime, both visually and thematically, embracing the intense drama, character relationships, and epic battles common in mecha anime. Despite this, the series retains a certain Western animation charm, keeping the storytelling more direct and less convoluted than some of its anime counterparts.
Once the reigning champion of Disney XD’s longest-running shows, Ultimate Spider-Man struck a chord distinctly different from its forerunners. The show wore a lighter spirit thanks to Spidey’s unique brand of humor.
Spider-Man’s fourth wall breaks, his peeks into the future through dream balloons, and his dramatic, wide-eyed reactions all hearken back to anime traditions. The unmistakable screech of a monkey accompanying each unexpected or unfortunate event further enhances this connection.
6The Powerpuff Girls: Super-Cute Superheroes
At first glance, the bubbly, colorful world of “The Powerpuff Girls” might not seem particularly anime-esque. But if you look closely, you’ll see Japanese animation’s fingerprints all over the city of Townsville.
The over-the-top reactions, speed-lines during action sequences, and even the large, expressive eyes of our tiny heroines all borrow from anime.
Creator Craig McCracken acknowledges the influence of shows like “Speed Racer” and “Astro Boy,” yet the Powerpuff Girls hold onto their American roots with their quick, slapstick humor and whimsical storytelling.
Imagine tuning into the premiere of the syndicated cartoon ThunderCats in 1985. You might easily mistake it for a top-notch anime import, but wait till the credits roll. Surprise – it’s distributed by Rankin-Bass, the masterminds behind some of the most cherished holiday programs!
Though animated in Japan, ThunderCats was produced and voiced in America. Consequently, it sidestepped the need for editing to remove violent content or foul language. As Lion-O and his allies fought for survival, America sat back and relished in the unadulterated action of this unique cartoon.
4Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi; a show that graced screens from 2004 to 2006 warrants a trip down memory lane. It brings to life the exaggerated personalities and styles of the real Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi.
The visual style of the cartoon oozes anime influence. Large eyes, wide mouths, vibrant hair colors, and outsized expressions are the norm. With its roots in a Japanese pop duo and its anime-inspired style, you could easily mistake “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” for a bona fide Japanese anime.
3RWBY: An Anime-Inspired Original
RWBY is an interesting example of an American production so heavily influenced by anime that it often sparks debates about the line between anime and cartoons.
With its anime-esque art style, intense battles, and complex narratives, it’s no wonder the anime community has widely accepted the series.
But RWBY also carries Western influences with its direct storytelling and pacing. This fusion creates a unique identity that pays homage to anime and Western animation traditions.
The westernized anime “Winx Club” presents a delightful fusion of European and Japanese artistry. The character designs draw inspiration from early 21st-century pop icons like Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, while its thematic elements distinctly echo magical anime girl shows.
Like many anime, “Winx Club” unfolds within a vast universe, taking characters across multiple dimensions, even for a children’s series.
This enchanting series has long captivated the cosplay community and remains a staple at fan conventions. In 2021, Netflix introduced a fresh chapter to this magical tale, premiering the live-action series “Fate: The Winx Saga,” rooted in the original Nickelodeon cartoon.
1Teen Titans: Anime Inspired
The anime-inspired “Teen Titans” not only serves up American superhero conventions but also prominently displays its anime influences. Its vibrant, action-filled scenes and emotive character expressions remind viewers of anime favorites like “Naruto” or “One Piece.”
The Titans’ character designs and dramatically exaggerated emotions pay tribute to anime aesthetics. Additionally, the quick style changes during comedic or tense moments reflect anime’s dynamic storytelling.
However, amidst these anime inspirations, “Teen Titans” preserves its distinctiveness with an unmistakably American superhero story and a sprinkle of self-aware humor.
Western Cartoons Have Found Inspiration In Anime
Unique Art Style: Anime is well-known for its distinct visual style, often featuring colorful art, vibrant characters, and fantastical settings. This level of detail and creativity can inspire Western animators to experiment with similar aesthetic choices, allowing for more dynamic and visually appealing designs.
Complex Narratives: Unlike traditional Western cartoons that follow an episodic format with self-contained stories, anime often involves long-running, complex narratives. This storytelling style allows for deeper character development and plot progression, which can lead to a more engaged and invested audience.
Mature Themes: While Western animation is typically associated with children’s content, anime encompasses various themes and genres, including those targeted toward adults. This allows Western animators to explore more mature and serious topics, expanding the audience base.
Emotional Depth: Anime is recognized for its ability to convey intense emotions and tackle heavy themes, leading to powerful, poignant moments that resonate with viewers. By incorporating this aspect, Western cartoons can also evoke strong emotional responses from their audience.
Cultural Fusion: Anime provides a window into Japanese culture, traditions, and societal norms. Incorporating anime influences allows Western animators to introduce their audience to different cultural perspectives, promoting diversity and global understanding.