Superheroes are currently the biggest and most popular force in the world of fiction, and their influence can be felt almost everywhere. Many of the biggest superheroes made in America inspired countless anime characters, with some even being made long before the superhero movie boom swept the world.
The anime’s tribute to DC Comics and Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters could be as simple as a similar costume, or it could go deeper by referring to the heroes’ and/or villain’s backstories, powers, and even their real-world legacies. Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, and these anime characters are proof of that.
10 Ruroni Kenshin — Kurogasa & Aoshi Shinomori Borrowed Gambit’s Look
One of the biggest influences on the works of the controversial and disgraced mangaka Nobuhiro Watsuki were Marvel Comics, this was made clear in the way he designed the characters. Some of Ruroni Kenshin’s supporting characters were clearly inspired by Marvel heroes and villains, with Gambit inspiring two.
Gambit’s get up inspired Kurogasa and Aoishi’s looks, specifically his headgear in the former and trench coat for the latter. Though their similarities to Gambit were surface level, it’s worth noting that Kurogasa had an inexplicable ability to paralyze opponents which wasn’t too different from a Mutant’s powers, and Aoshi shared Gambit’s loner antihero nature.
9 Fist Of The North Star — Joker’s Inspiration Is Fairly Obvious
broadly speaking, Fist Of The North Star is a 152-episode long homage to Bruce Lee movies and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. On a smaller level, Kenshiro’s post-apocalyptic trek includes homages to different and oftentimes unexpected sources of inspiration. Case in point, Joker: Shin’s lieutenant who was based on Batman’s nemesis.
The anime-only Joker kept his inspiration’s physique, color scheme, and use of deadly playing cards, but he lacked the Clown Prince of Crime’s manic unpredictability and pinchant for random violence. Fist Of The North Star’s Joker was a dangerous schemer but, Batman’s rival, he was loyal to Shin and unlike boasted a warrior’s pride.
8 Pokémon: The Series — Gligarman Paid Tribute To Batman’s Colorful Past
Over the course of the original Pokémon Ash and friends met the most eccentric Pokémon trainers during their travels. One of these one-shot personalities was the toy store owner Mr. Parker, who’s better known as the local bat-themed hero Gligarman. Unsurprisingly, Gligarman was Pokémon’s version of Batman.
Gligarman based his look on his loyal Gligar, who also served as his sidekick. Due to old age, Mr. Parker retired and let his daughter, Latoya, take up his mantle as Gligirl. Gligarman was clearly inspired by the campy Silver Age Batman, but his age and being succeeded by a female sidekick interestingly echoed the bleakly deconstructive The Dark Knight Returns.
7 Naruto: Shippuden — Mecha-Naruto Turned Naruto Uzumaki Into Iron Man
Naruto’s filler episodes are (in)famous for their left field ideas and plots that barely fit in a ninja anime’s world, and the very existence of Mecha-Naruto was one of the most egregious instances. Created by Orochimaru to capture Kurama the Nine-Tailed Beast living in Naruto, Mecha-Naruto was basically the ninja world’s answer to Iron Man.
Mecha-Naruto looked more like a robotic parody of Naruto than an anime recreation of Tony Stark’s suits, but the way Mecha-Naruto was used evoked Iron Man. This was most obvious in Mecha-Naruto’s user interface and how it attached itself to Naruto, as both of these were based on how Tony’s Iron Man suits worked in the MCU.
6 Cowboy Bebop — Mad Pierrot Combined The Joker & The Penguin
Every Cowboy Bebop episode was inspired by a different bit of Western media, and the 20th episode “Pierot Le Fou” paid homage to Batman: The Animated Series. The episode’s dark visuals and direction took notes from BTAS’ Gothic style, but the clearest homage came in Mad Pierrot, who was The Joker and The Penguin rolled into one.
To wit, Mad Pierrot’s attire and weaponized cane were based on The Penguin and his umbrella, while his manic personality and perpetual smile were taken from The Joker. What’s more, Mad Pierrot’s use of an amusement park could be read as a homage to Joker’s hideouts in the cartoon, or a shout-out to his infamous story, The Killing Joke.
5 The Big O — Roger Smith Was Bruce Wayne With A Mech
In the 90s, the studio Sunrise did some work on Batman: The Animated Series. Their time working on Batman’s critically-acclaimed cartoon obviously left a mark, since Sunrise went on to homage the series through the aforementioned Mad Pierrot before all but making their own version of BTAS through The Big O.
To wit, The Big O starred Roger, a detective who resorted to mechanized vigilantism during extreme circumstances, exactly how Bruce answered to crime as Batman. The BTAS parallels applied to everything, from Paradigm City (ie Gotham) to supporting characters like Roger’s butler Norman (ie Alfred) and the femme fatale Angel (ie Catwoman).
4 Darker Than Black — April Shared Storm’s Powers & Voice
believe it or not, Darker Than Black has some overt similarities to the X-Men. Both focus on super-powered people (Contractors and Mutants, respectively) who see their abilities as a curse, and they’re vilified by society for having said powers. The most obvious parallel is April and Storm, since they’re almost the same character.
April and Storm are some of the most powerful women in their respective settings who control the weather. Unlike their contemporaries, April and Storm see their powers as a blessing. What’s more, April was voiced by Takako Honda, who voiced Storm in the X-Men movies’ Japanese dubs, along with other prominent Halle Berry roles.
3 One Piece — Caesar Clown & Donquixote Doflamingo Took Cues From The Joker
Given how wide One Piece’s world is, it isn’t surprising to know that Eiichiro Oda was inspired by just about anything, such as comics, movies, and so forth. Case in point, the Clown Prince of Crime inspired not one, but two villains in style and name. These were Caesar (as in Cesar Romero) and Donquixote, who also used the alias “Joker.”
Additionally, the two made fake SMILE Devil Fruits that left victims perpetually smiling, just like Joker’s Laughing Gas. If the clownish Caesar hearkened back to Joker’s campy past, Donquixote aligned with Joker’s modern anarchy. Donquixote and Joker wanted to burn the world just because they could, and they sowed chaos in an already chaotic world.
2 Attack On Titan — Rorschach & Ozymandias’ Personalities Informed Levi Ackerman & Erwin Smith, Respectively
When it comes to Attack On Titan and superhero parallels, the most common comparisons put Erwin and Captain America in the same plane. What’s more surprising than Hajime Isayama actually basing some Survey Corps members on superheroes is that his inspiration was Watchmen, specifically the 2009 adaptations.
Levi’s misanthropy and fierce efficiency were taken from Rorschach, while Erwin’s look, intellect, and commitment to “the greater good” came from Ozymandias. There are key differences. Firstly, Levi regained his unlike humanity Rorscach. Next, Erwin sacrificed himself for his ideals, whereas Ozymandias felt he was too above it all to even consider dying.
1 My Hero Academia — Izuku Midoriya Followed Spider-Man’s Story & Powers
My Hero Academy is Kohei Horikoshi’s love letter to superheroes, and every hero and villain was inspired by someone from DC, Marvel, or Image Comics. For example, All Might is a mix of Superman and Captain America, and Stain is clearly a tribute to Spawn. One of the most important parallels is that of Deku and Spider-Man, but it can be easy to miss.
Like Peter Parker, Izuku was a powerless kid who was given amazing powers to use for good. Deku’s powers also resembles Spider-Man’s, strength, senses (ie Spider Senses), and Blackwhip (ie Spidey’s webs). Most importantly, both struggle to balance their normal and superhero lives. Unsurprisingly, Spider-Man is Horikoshi’s favorite superhero.
NEXT: 10 Marvel Characters Who Tried Too Hard To Be Cool