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 Pokémon, Dragon 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.
'Dragon Ball' And 'Pokémon' Characters Appear In 'Codename: Kids Next Door'
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 Z. Wallabee plays Goku, and squares off against and the Delightful Children From Down The Lane, who resemble Frieza.
'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.
'Regular Show: Brilliant Century Duck Crisis Special' Is A Love Letter To Mecha Anime
The most blatant mecha reference comes in the opening credits of Regular Show: Brilliant Century Crisis Special. The intro mimics the opening of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and goes so far as to parody the anime's theme song. Additionally, the special's title pokes fun at anime naming conventions; the word Crisis is likely an homage to Bubblegum Crisis.
The plot of the episode is packed with giant robot battles fought around the moon, and references landmark mecha anime like the Gundam franchise and Gurren Lagann. To round off the Japanese pop culture-fest, the episode ends with a shot-for-shot remake of Cowboy Bebop's closing credits.
'South Park' Dedicates Two Full Episodes To Anime Tropes
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.