Japanese anime has become one of the most influential forms of entertainment in the United States, even more so than its younger counterpart in the form of manga comics. With new anime shows released on streaming services like Crunchyroll and Netflix, American audiences have been exposed to more anime content than ever before, which means that Japan’s influence on US culture will only continue to grow.
However, many people are unaware that the most influential Japanese anime didn’t come from Japan at all – instead, they came from US companies who worked closely with Japanese animators to create English versions that would be more accessible and appealing to Western audiences.
Here are our picks for the top 25 most influential Japanese anime in the US.
Yu Yu Hakusho
A Japanese manga series that was adapted into an animated series in 1990; Yu Yu Hakusho revolved around the story of a teenage delinquent named Yusuke Urameshi who got struck and killed by a car as he sought to save the life of a child. After he was revived, he was appointed as an Underworld Detective to investigate the cases of demons and apparitions on Earth.
Berserk aired in 1997 and centered on the life of an orphaned mercenary warrior named Guts, who called himself the Black Swordsman, as he served the Band of the Hawk. This is an intense anime filled with great action and some colorful scenes which may not be appropriate for children.
An anime television series that was released in 1982, Super Dimension Fortress Macross featured a love triangle among its major characters, plastered against the backdrop of battles that existed between aliens and humans. When shown in the US, it was re-titled Robotech. It rose to fame because of Linn Minmay, the pop star idol in the show, along with transforming air fighter units called Valkyries.
This show is a giant hit not just in Japan but also worldwide. Code Geass is set in a time when the Holy Britannian Empire (the British) has taken over most of Earth, leaving only Japan as an independent country. In this world, power means everything and without it, you’re nothing.
Lelouch Lamperouge has been living as a powerless student until he’s granted access to power by a mysterious girl then uses his newfound power to lead an uprising that will bring justice to those who deserve it and reignite the hope of freedom for all those who live under oppression.
Elfen Lied was a Japanese manga series created by Lynn Okamoto. Its story revolved around the interactions, emotions, similarities, and differences between human beings and the Diclonii. The Diclonii are a mutant species that resemble humans in build but have two horns and vectors. The anime series centered on the protagonist named Lucy, who sought revenge after being rejected by humans.
A Nintendo game adapted into an anime series in 1989, Dragon Quest had a total of 43 episodes, supervised by Horii, with characters similar to the original Dragon Quest game. The first 13 episodes of this anime series was translated into English and released in North America.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
An anime television series based on the manga series, Ghost in the Shell, Stand Alone Complex revolved around the story of the members of a team called Public Security Section 9. Written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, it first aired in Japan in 2002 and released in other parts of the world a year after. Its lead character, Agent Motoko Kusanagi, turned heads because of her beauty and fighting skills which was crucial to the appeal of the series.
A manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi was adapted into an anime television series in 2005 and featured some ubiquitous creatures called Mushi. These characters had supernatural powers and had a purity beyond normal living things. The main character in the story, Ginko, was among the few who possessed the ability to interact with the divine Mushis.
Future Boy Conan
Future Boy Conan first aired in Japan and China in 1978 with the official title Conan, The Boy in the Future. The story was set in 2008, the time when human kind was already in the face of extinction. Its story revolved around a devastating war fought by two nations armed with ultra-magnetic weapons. This war resulted in a series of earthquakes and other massive movements that eventually devastated the Earth until everyone else died except for three survivors, including Conan.
A Japanese manga series created by Katsura Hoshino, D Gray-Man followed Allen Walker, a member of the Exorcists—an organization that made use of an ancient substance called Innocence to fight the Millennium Earl and Akuma, its demonic army.
Serial Experiments Lain
This show is about Lain, a girl who has just been introduced to Wired (the internet world). In this world, not only can you have your brain wired up to an interface that connects you to other people and computers around the world, but people are also able to access their memories and even create completely new ones. It’s a pretty intense series and one that really forces you to think about your own reality and how you perceive it.
Lain’s struggle with her own identity is incredibly important because it’s something that everyone can relate to – all of us at some point have questioned who we are or what we want out of life. What makes Lain so interesting is that she has this incredible ability to basically be anyone she wants, but chooses not to.
A Japanese hard science fiction manga created by Makoto Yukimura, Planetes was adapted from a television series broadcasted between 2003 and 2004. The story was about a team of space debris collectors that boarded the Toy Box debris ship in the year 2075 to prevent the destruction of Earth’s satellites.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
An animated series based on the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime and created by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, it’s about a war between planet Earth and its colonies in space. The pilots in this series were more closely allied in compared to those in Gundam. This had a total of 49 episodes and borrowed its storyline from another series entitled War and Peace.
Naruto is one of Japan’s most popular anime series, with more than 220 episodes and 700 manga chapters following its story. It tells the story of a young ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, who wants to be recognized as a great ninja like his father. But this is much easier said than done! With his high energy level and constant talking, it’s hard for anyone to take him seriously.
Luckily he has friends who believe in him and help him out whenever he needs it. But that doesn’t mean things will always go smoothly because when there are evil forces at work trying to bring chaos and destruction into the world, they need someone strong enough to stop them. And that person is Naruto!
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Space Battleship Yamato
A science fiction anime series that featured an eponymous space craft, Space Battleship Yamato is an English-dubbed series that was broadcast on North American and Australian televisions as Star Blazers. It tells the story of a multinational teenage crew that journeyed through space to look for the planet Iscandar. The antagonists were aliens called Rajendora, who prevented the crew from catching a glimpse of the planet that they were searching for.
The series is set in a fictional world that resembles the European Industrial Revolution era with its technological advancements. In this world, people can perform alchemy to manipulate objects and transform one object into another by using an elixir known as The Philosopher’s Stone.
Alchemists are often referred to as Fullmetal because when they use their alchemy, their hair becomes blonde from the fumes. Alphonse Elric, who has lost his entire body but retains his soul, travels with his brother Edward Elric to find a way to restore themselves.
Set in a world where humans live side-by-side with gods, the show centers around young men known as Saints who are tasked with protecting the goddess Athena. Each Saint wears armor based on a zodiac sign from Greek mythology and possesses an ability related to their astrological symbol.
The show has been dubbed by several companies into English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Tagalog. This is due to its popularity with viewers outside of Japan. For example, it was among the first anime to be broadcast in Latin America and many parts of Asia, including China and Indonesia. It is also credited with boosting interest in other mecha series such as Mobile Suit Gundam.
Led by renowned director Koichi Chigira, Last Exile took place in the fictional world of Prester, where aerial vehicles dubbed as van ships were popular.
Taking place during the Edo period and characterized by its anachronistic, hip-hop setting, this television series was the first directorial effort of Japanese director Shiichiro Watanabe, following the widely acclaimed Cowboy Bebop.It followed the swordsman Mugen and a brave young girl named Fuu, who asked him to accompany her to Japan to find the “samurai who smelled like sunflowers.”
Death Note is about an overachiever high school student who finds a notebook that can kill people when their names and faces are written inside. He then decides to create a world without crime, by killing all criminals and people he deems evil.
This anime was one of the most famous Japanese anime to be aired on American television, so it has influenced many others since then. The reason why this anime is so popular is because of its suspenseful plot, which leaves viewers thinking about what will happen next, as well as its complex characters that keep you guessing until the end.
Fist of the North Star
Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson, Fist of the North was a Japanese anime series that took place in a post-apocalyptic world that had been destroyed by a nuclear war. The story of this anime series revolved around Kenshiro the warrior, who was also the successor of a deadly martial art dubbed as Hokuto Shinken. The protagonist of this story dedicated his life to fighting against the ravagers who took advantage of the poor and the innocent.
One Piece is a manga series that was skillfully written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. The first episode of this series was released on December 24, 1997 and was about a young man named Monkey D. Luffy, whose body turned into rubber after accidentally gobbling up a Devil’s Fruit. The story also revolved around the crew of pirates of Mr. Monkey Luffy called Straw Hat Pirates, who accompanied him as he explored the ocean in search of a treasure called One Piece.
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Cowboy Bebop is one of the most popular Japanese anime in the US. First shown in 1998, it is considered to be a Japanese animation masterpiece. It has a stellar cast of characters and an extremely diverse set of storylines.
From space westerns to gangster stories, Cowboy Bebop has something for everyone. You’ll love this show if you like fun adventures with tons of explosions and excitement. It tackled the philosophical concepts of existentialism, loneliness, and nihilism. There are also hints of romance mixed into some episodes as well.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most influential anime in the United States. This show is what many people think of when they think of Japanese animation. It was originally created back in 1995 and it’s still popular today.
This iconic series has had an impact on both Western and Eastern audiences with more than 23 million copies sold worldwide. In the story, giant humanoids called Evangelions are used to fight “Angels” by a parliamentary group. These Evangelions were piloted by a group of teenagers led by Shinji Ikari, the protagonist.
Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is a Japanese anime series based on the manga of the same name by Akira Toriyama. The original manga was published from 1984 to 1995 and became an instant hit with young and old audiences alike. Dragon Ball Z follows Goku, a powerful warrior who defends Earth against villains from outer space.
In this series, Goku and his friends defend Earth against enemies such as King Piccolo, Emperor Pilaf, Piccolo Jr., Dr. Myuu, and Lord Slug. They have many adventures along the way to collect all seven Dragon Balls which can grant any wish they desire when gathered together.
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So, what about you? Did you have an Anime that influenced you as a kid we didn’t mention? Sound off in the comments and tell us about it!