We’ve talked before about how anime has been an influencing force on animation across the world for a while now. Hell, you can see its impact on western animation, even back in the day. Anime is more than just iconic; it’s an entire medium on its own and helped in the conception of western greats such as the Transformers franchise and Avatar: The Last Airbender. But what we don’t discuss as often is how Western pop culture influenced anime right back. Case in point: My Hero Academia‘s All Might.
Now, I get why some new fans keep asking whether All Might is from America but let me assure you: He isn’t. All Might’s real name is Toshinori Yagi, born and raised in Japan. At best, he might’ve been an exchange student the USA at one point, which might’ve exposed him to the culture that inspired his entire aesthetic as a Pro-Hero. But the confusion is easy to understand because he looks like he could fit right in with the blonde hair and blue eyes, and the red, white, and blue styling.
I always thought the whole Americano styling could just be a tribute to the original superheroes, who were American in origin. Think Superman from DC Comics. Though I always thought All Might most closely resemble Captain American from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And like, it makes sense. The entire show is very much central to the superhero ideal, so of course, it’ll pull inspiration from some of the biggest superhero franchises of all time. And I see the appeal.
Of course, having a foreign aesthetic doesn’t automatically make you an outsider. But in this day and age, if a little cross-culture exchange happens, it isn’t that alien of a concept. Especially when it comes to anime, which has gone so global. At one point, everything was very contained and so, you didn’t really see that much experimentation. But experimentation breeds innovation. So, let’s dive into how western media and pop culture has impacted anime on a whole and why All Might was just the start.
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All Might: Living The American Dream (In Japan)
There is this ideal that we all have when we think of superheroes. The all-American looks for All Might doesn’t seem like a coincidence, in that regard. With tanned skin, blonde hair and wearing the American flag as the costume, it’s a very clear indication of where All Might’s design stems from.
And maybe, that’s all it is: a homage to the golden age of superheroes and the new revitalized age of the MCU. In that regard, I get why Kōhei Horikoshi, the mangaka for My Hero Academia, chose such an iconic look for All Might, who is the mentor figure to his protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, aka Deku. Lauded as a Symbol Of Peace and being the former No.1 Pro-Hero of his time, there’s something almost nostalgic about his design.
It’s exactly what you’d imagine a superhero to look, especially in a country where comic books took a backstage to something like manga. Like, it’s the prototypical superhero look, simplified and then anime-fied. I mean, Japan had its own comic book industry which focused on super-powered individuals. That’s exactly what Shonen manga is. And it’s characters have their own distinct look.
Perhaps this was the creator’s way of setting the tone for My Hero Academia. Because I don’t know many anime that outright use the superhero trop quite as vividly as My Hero Academia does.
How The West Has Influenced Anime Back:
When I first watched Jujutsu Kaisen, it was a ride. There is something so effortlessly stylish about it and I loved every single minute. But the biggest shock for me wasn’t any of the plotlines, it was when Yuji Itadori and Aoi Todo interact. Specifically, when Yuji gets asked who his ideal woman is and he states it’s Jennifer Lawrence. Like, from the Hunger Games.
That was such a wild moment for me because Japanese beauty standards used to be so far removed from American ones. And now we have hybrids of everything, from soundtracks to character designs. It really set the tone for how the Japan Jujutsu Kaisen is set in, is much less conservative. It has taken the global trends and made its own. And, honestly, it’s not a bad thing. The world has become much more smaller, and we share aesthetics all the time.
Seeing anime grow bigger and become more relatable in this regard? It’s honestly so much fun!