Anime. In the past few decades, Japanese animation has gone from a niche subculture to a global phenomenon and one of the most popular mediums in history. Due to its popularity, it’s no surprise that many western cartoons have taken a few notes. While viewers will find more than a few anime references in most modern cartoons, these shows go a step further. Here are some of the the best western cartoons that take inspiration from the anime style.

Note: Anime and Japanese animation both cover a broad set of styles and tropes, but the cartoons below pay direct homage to what most call anime.

10. Three Delivery

This is an obscure choice, but a criminally underrated one. Three Delivery follows Sue, Toby, and Sid as they protect China Town from magical monsters. In this show, the sorcerer Kong Li uses a magical cookbook for his schemes that our heroes must find the lost pages of. As one can tell, this series pays homage to the “monster of the week” and “collectathon” tropes of many anime. Additionally, the series pays homage to Chinese culture and classic Kung-Fu movies.

9. Ōban Star Racers

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This is the first “Franime” (French anime) on our list, being a co-production. As France is next to only Japan in the scale of its comics industry, its no surprise that they would pay homage to anime. Ōban Star Racers is a sci-fi racing cartoon following Eva Wei and her team during the “Grand Race of Ōban.” Apart from its unique art style, the series makes full use of its mixed use of CGI and 2D animation to create breathtaking scenery and bombastic action.

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8. My Life Me

As yet another “Franime,” this is also another criminally underrated gem. This series follows western otaku Birch Small as she attempts to become a successful artist. Along the way, she is joined by her friends Raffi, Liam, and Sandra during their high school antics. For fans of slice-of-life anime, this is a decent homage. While My Life Me remains obscure, it gained a cult following over time.

7. W.I.T.C.H.

The Owl House wasn’t the first time Disney made an anime-referencing fantasy series about a girl going to another realm to fight an evil overlord. While its rival Winx Club may have seen more success in the mainstream, Disney’s W.I.T.C.H. remains a cult classic with even stronger ties to anime. W.I.T.C.H. follows normal girl Will Vandom as she and her five friends are transported to the realm of Meridian. As one might expect, there are more than a few homages to the magical girl genre for anime fans.

6. Wakfu

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While video game adaptations have a shoddy reputation, Wakfu brings the magic of its MMO world to animation. With a vibrant, flowing art style, the show captures the vast world and grandiose action of the game. This series follows Eliatrope Yugo on his quest across the World of Twelve to find the rest of his kind. Even if one hasn’t played the MMO, Wakfu stands as a solid fantasy adventure cartoon.

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5. Kappa Mikey

Much like My Life Me, this series doesn’t just pay homage to anime and parodies the culture surrounding it. Kappa Mikey follows titular protagonist Mikey, a flash-animated hero, as he wins a contest to star in an anime in Japan. Naturally, much of the humor pokes at the culture-clash between American and Japanese cartoons and otaku culture. As the series comes from the creator of Three Delivery, Larry Schwartz, much of his love for anime was also put into this show.

4. Code Lyoko

For those looking for 2000’s nostalgia, it’s time to return to the past now! In terms of Franime, Code Lyoko stands as the most famous example. Code Lyoko follows a group of high school students who balance their academics and social life with routine battles in the digital world. While the show mostly sticks to its animesque art style, the CGI fight scenes are equally bombastic. Furthermore, the series has more than a few Easter eggs for eagle-eyed viewers.

3. Teen Titans

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Ah, the early aughts, back when anime was just starting to reach the mainstream on our televisions. As it turns out, American comic heroes would jump on this trend with Cartoon Networks’ classic show, Teen Titans. From it’s opening sung by actual J-Pop stars, to its frequent use of “chibi,” to its art style, everything about the show is a love-letter to anime. While the series didn’t last as long as its successor, Teen Titans Go!, the show still stands as one of the beloved classic Cartoon Network shows.

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2. The Boondocks

No Relation. While the other cartoons on this list were safe kid’s shows, the same certainly can’t be said of this next entry. The Boondocks is the adaptation of Aaron McGruder’s comic strip that builds on its source material’s inspirations. Apart from its art style, The Boondocks is remembered for its biting satire, social commentary, and irreverent humor. Despite it’s controversial nature, The Boondocks remains one of the most iconic Adult Swim cartoons.

1. Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra

Was there any debate as to whether the Avatar franchise would top this list? The Avatar duology stands as the most universally praised series in serialized western cartoons. Avatar and Korra homage anime not just through its art, but its understanding of the medium. The show pays passionate homage to East Asian art, martial arts, mythology, and even philosophy in its world building. Furthermore, the series tells one of the most grandiose, well-structured, and heartfelt stories in the entire medium of animation. While Korra may not be as universally beloved, it is by all standards a classic.

Viewers will find Avatar: The Last Airbender on Paramount Plus.

1 Comment

  • Puravive
    Posted February 5, 2024 12:19 pm 0Likes

    I thought you did a great job here. The wording is excellent and the illustration is tasteful, but there’s a feeling that you might be giving more, which would probably happen again if you go on this walk.

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