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20 Anime References In Your Favorite Cartoons You Might Have Missed

Updated September 23, 2021 16.9k votes 3.9k voters 303.5k views20 items

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You may not have ever noticed it, but a lot of your favorite Western animators are secretly huge otaku, and they're not afraid to show it. Whether they include tiny details in the backgrounds of their show, or dedicate entire episodes to all things Japanese, Western cartoonists have made sure that their creations contain a lot of anime Easter eggs. 

Every since anime first caught the attention of American audiences in the late '80s, increasingly more cartoonists have grown up obsessing over PokémonDragon Ball and Sailor Moon. As their work evidences, animators clearly take great pleasure in broadcasting their love of anime in their own original art. While Western anime series are few and far between, American animators can usually work in a subtle nod to their favorite shonen heroes, if only for a single episode.   

  • 1

    'Dragon Ball' And 'Pokémon' Characters Appear In 'Codename: Kids Next Door'

    Video: YouTube

    Codename: Kids Next Door's episode "Operation A.R.C.H.I.V.E" features a cheeky little cameo from Pokémon's Ash Ketchum. The young trainer — or at the very least, a cosplayer  — is spotted among the audience of a packed auditorium.

    The episode "Operation: R.E.P.O.R.T" goes one step further, as Number Four's school report is an unmistakable parody of Dragon Ball ZWallabee plays Goku, and squares off against and the Delightful Children From Down The Lane, who resemble Frieza. 

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  • 2

    Multiple Couch Gags From 'The Simpsons' Pay Tribute To Famous Anime Characters

    Video: YouTube

    After maintaining popularity for around three decades, it's not totally surprising that a few of the people who have worked on The Simpsons are also big anime fans. As proof, the show has featured not one, but two anime inspired couch gags. 

    The first comes during the fifth episode of Season 15, wherein Homer is seen dressed as Ultraman, Marge as Jun (of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) Lisa as Sailor Moon, Bart as Astro Boy and Maggie as Pikachu.

    In the opening of 2014's "Treehouse of Horror XXV" episode, Maggie keeps her Pikachu costume. However, Homer is now dressed as Zoro (from One Piece), Marge as Matsumoto (from Bleach) Lisa as Mikasa (from Attack on Titan) and Santa's Little Helper resembles Haku's dragon form from Spirited Away

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  • 3

    'The Fairly OddParents' Combines 'Pokemon' And 'Dragon Ball'

    The Fairly OddParents's 2004 TV movie Channel Chasers sees Timmy Turner fulfilling every kid's dream; he is transported into his TV to escape the mundanity of reality. One of the fictional shows he enters is called "Maho Mushi," which is an obvious spoof of shonen anime like Dragon Ball, and features trading cards reminiscent of Pokémon.

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  • 4

    'South Park' Dedicates Two Full Episodes To Anime Tropes

    Video: YouTube

    In 2004, South Park dedicated an entire episode to parodying anime tropes. In Season 8's "Good Times With Weapons," the boys stumble upon classic East Asian weapons, which prompts them to pretend to be ninjas. During their fantasies, they become full-on anime characters, with specific inspiration drawn from the classic series, Ninja Scroll. The theme song also gets a hilarious English-to-Japanese remake.

    2015 saw the show's creators return to their secret love of anime; the episode "Tweek x Craig" centers on the yaoi (or "Boys Love") genre and its fanatical female fandom. The episode even features yaoi-style fan art of Tweek and Craig's fabricated romance sent in by fans.  

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