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10 Hollywood Movies That May Have Been Inspired by Anime

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Disney / Mushi Production

The recent Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow looks and feels like an anime—partly because it is based on an actual Japanese manga property (albeit one that has so far not been given the animated treatment). And we can speculate that a bunch of other Hollywood movies not credited as being based on any specific anime actually were.

While hyper-real fantasy pictures like Real Steel and Sucker Punch borrow the semiotics/visual vocabulary of Japanese animation, there are some films that lift whole storylines or shots from pretty famous properties developed by our neighbors in the east. Sometimes the filmmakers cop to it, sometimes they don't—but here are ten examples of movies inspired by anime to get you thinking.

1. The Lion King (1994)

Influence: Kimba the White Lion

In the early '90s, the VHS revolution was in full swing, but the internet was in its infancy—it would be a few more years before many people would be talking smack on message boards. So unless you were trading bootlegs at a convention, you were mostly ignorant of animation from other parts of the globe—which is probably what Disney was counting on when they totally ganked elements of The Lion King from Kimba the White Lion wholesale. Created by Osamu Tezuka as a manga in the 1950s, then broadcast as an animated series in the mid-1960s (including syndication in the U.S.!), the similarities to Disney's 1994 feature-film blockbuster go as far as exact shots (Mufasa on Pride Rock, his ghost appearing to Simba in the sky) to identical characters and story elements. In fact, Lion King star Matthew Broderick thought he was initially working on a version of Kimba.

2. The Matrix (1999)

Influence: Ghost in the Shell

Unlike filmmakers who are sheepish to discuss their influences, Lana and Andy Wachowski could not have been more direct: They pitched The Matrix to producer Joel Silver by showing him 1995's cyberpunk actioner Ghost in the Shell, saying "We want to do that in live-action." And indeed they did! From the green digital typography used to descend into the virtual world to jacking-in through ports in the back of a person's neck, the Wachowskis borrowed lovingly from Mamoru Oshii's Ghost as well as the overall cinematic speed-ramping language of anime. They even wore their thievery proudly with side-by-side comparisons on the making-of features! Talk about owning it. Oshii himself became tired of discussing the comparison, stating, "It is an entertaining movie, but I prefer their debut, Bound."

But the directors weren't done with anime: The 2003 direct-to-video feature The Animatrix saw the Wachowskis utilizing some of Japan's finest directors (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Mahiro Maeda) to take The Matrix franchise back to its anime roots. Then they went on to 2008's Speed Racer, the closest anyone’s come to approximating the actual psychedelic flourish of anime in live-action… for better or worse.

3. Van Helsing (2004)

Influence: Vampire Hunter D

This one really only goes so far as an iconic costume. The movie finds Hugh Jackman playing the eponymous vampire hunter who originally appeared in Bram Stoker's Dracula—only in that story, Abraham Van Helsing was an old, half-mad doctor. Here, he's a hunky stud vigilante who turns out to be the earthly incarnation of angel Gabriel. Van Helsing's signature Johnny Cash-style black duds and wide-brimmed hat also happen to be style of choice for a certain Vampire Hunter D, the bloodsucker slayer immortalized in dozens of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi and two classic anime features that rely heavily on western motifs. Its concept of a "dhampir" (half vampire/half human vampire hunter) was also borrowed for the Blade movies.

4. Avatar (2009)

20th Century Fox / Toho

Influence: Princess Mononoke

When anything becomes successful, people tend to come out of the woodwork to claim it was stolen from this or that—especially when you're the most successful thing ever projected onto a plethora of large screens. Such was the case with James Cameron's Avatar, which was a target even before it hit theaters. There were charges of Ferngully-this and Pocahontas-that, but the spirit that the director's "Dances With Wolves-in-space" was really channeling was Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. It was the first anime feature to really gain worldwide box office traction, and featured many of Miyazaki's signature motifs, including environmental degradation, malevolent black goo, and a strong female heroine. Those are also signatures of James Cameron (well, maybe not the black goo), but both feature a human interloper entering a wilderness society, being "chosen" by the elements, falling in love with a warrior chick and ultimately fighting against the human oppressors who want to mine a metal out of the ground. 

5. Inception (2010)

Influence: Paprika

Christopher Nolan acknowledged that Satoshi Kon's colorful 2006 fantasia Paprika was a source of inspiration for him, in that both stories involve an electronic device that allows an outsider to access and affect a person's dreams. Of course, like The Matrix, Inception’s influences are myriad—from Total Recall to James Bond to Philip K. Dick's Ubik—though the most striking thing you can say when you put the two films side-by-side is how vastly better Paprika is, in the sense that it truly revels in dreams as a mental plane where anything the subconscious can muster will happen. Wolfgang Peterson (The Perfect Storm) announced he was working on a live-action version of Paprika just before Inception came out, and it's not hard to believe that Nolan's movie might have stolen his thunder considering we haven't heard a peep in four years.

6. Black Swan (2010)

Influence: Perfect Blue

Another masterpiece by Satoshi Kon was given the (informal) Hollywood treatment in 2010 in the form of Academy Award-winning psychodrama Black Swan, which took both specific shots and story details from Perfect Blue. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky had previously used several frames from this 1997 animated film for scenes with Jennifer Connelly in Requiem For a Dream, going so far as to buy the rights from Kon. When touting his ballet drama Swan during awards season, he acknowledged similarities—a talented young woman with a tenuous grasp on reality alienates her friends and overbearing mother in order to achieve fame, all while being tormented by a doppelganger who appears in reflections—but insisted he did not draw any inspiration from it.

7. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)

Universal Pictures / Shueisha

Influence: 'Naruto'

Yes, director Edgar Wright was looking to the world of video games and martial arts movies as the primary ingredients in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, being that the original comic book's creator Bryan Lee O'Malley was deliberately aping the style and formatting of Japanese manga, the whole thing has anime in its DNA. The film pulls liberally from the old 8-bit Street Fighter and Mario Bros. games, but during the final boss confrontation with Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman) the baddie uses hand signs straight from popular manga/anime Naruto to summon his deadly digitized sword.

8. Looper (2012)

TriStar Pictures / Toho

Influence: Akira

Arguably the most revered anime feature of all-time, Katsuhiro Otomo's 1988 breakthrough Akira was a cyberpunk landmark that took sensory overload to new heights. Rian Johnson's Looper is a clever pastiche of sci-fi tropes—particularly The Terminator—and tells the tale of a young buck (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who murders people sent back in time by the mob, and what happens when he fails to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). Besides the time travel element, you also have a kid named Cid whose psychokinetic abilities will eventually turn him into a monster, something that also plays heavily into the Tetsuo character in Akira. The futuristic setting is much less Blade Runner and more Detroit ten years from now, but Johnson freely admits to cribbing from not only Akira but also Otomo's other manga work in the uncontrolled-id genre, Domu.

9. Pacific Rim (2013)

Influence: Neon Genesis Evangelion/Mobile Suit Gundam/Patlabor/etc

If Japan were to have a pop culture ambassador to the United Nations, it would be a giant robot. Since the dawn of Astro Boy and Gigantor, their culture has literally been stupid with big mechanical marvels, whether they're duking it out with Godzilla or transforming into a boombox. It's fair to say Japanimation has ripped itself off so many times it would be impossible to pinpoint one influence on Guillermo del Toro's mech-vs.-monster epic Pacific Rim. Besides the obvious "nations banding together to defeat giant creatures with big robot defenders" angle, popular anime series Evangelion has the drivers of said robots given a neural link to their rigs. Rim doubled up on this concept by having two drivers telepathically connected and sharing memories, but the influence is there. Both del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham have denied watching Evangelion, but do cite Gigantor (originally Tetsujin 28-go) or Mobile Police Patlabor.

10. Her (2013)

Influence: Chobits

Spike Jonze's Her and the anime Chobits (created by Japanese manga collective Clamp) are both about average, antisocial dudes who fall in love with an artificial being. Although they both boast this central idea—and despite impassioned cries by anime fans—it really is hard to get past a fundamental difference, which is that Chobits' female A.I. named Chi has a body in which to "interact" with her man Hideki, whereas Samantha in Her is a disembodied voice (Scarlett Johansson) with which Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) can impart all of his innermost desires in order to simulate true intimacy. Eventually, both Chi and Samantha become transcendent beings, but Her is so different both aesthetically and emotionally that it's hard to say there's more than the kernel of the idea in Jonze's work.

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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images
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Pop Culture
5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0
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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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