One of the realities of creative works is that everything influences everything else, and there’s nothing truly new under the sun. Creators nearly always take inspiration and ideas from other works, sometimes hiding their tracks as best they can, and other times via obvious homages. When I was learning Japanese I became addicted to Japanese dramas, and whenever a popular American TV show appeared, I knew there’d be a wave of local copycat shows inspired by CSI or ER or whatever. Sometimes these bordered on the ridiculous, like series that would end with shot-for-shot remakes of iconic movies, such as the wedding scene from The Graduate, or the finale from An Officer and a Gentleman. Western story influences sometimes seep into anime, such as with the currently-airing buddy cop isekai police drama Cop Craft.
It’s a combination of two familiar genres: a traditional “buddy cop” action drama and a reverse isekai story. It’s set fifteen years after a hyperspace gateway conveniently opens over the Pacific, allowing humans to mingle with fairies and other non-humans from an alternate fantasy world. In the grim city of San Teresa, a grizzled detective named Kei Matoba teams up with the elfin Tilarna, a fiery tsundere knight from the other world, to investigate criminals who are illegally trafficking in fairies. With writing by Full Metal Panic/Amagi Brilliant Park creator Shoji Gatoh and character designs by the brilliant Range Murata, it’s definitely a fun show that pays homage to classic buddy cop tropes in a visually satisfying way.
Cop Craft isn’t the first anime to take obvious influence from Western sources. Here are some others…
- One anime I enjoyed was Big O, which tried very hard to tell a story about Bruce Wayne who has a giant mech instead of a batsuit. The show is one of a large number of anime and games that borrow themes from H.P. Lovecraft.
- I remember the first “western fantasy” anime I watched, Record of Lodoss War, which felt very fresh and new in an era before fantasy isekai became so common. At the time it was new enough that Japanese terms for Western weapons and armor weren’t yet generally known by fans.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes is basically 18th Century Prussian history set in space.
- My Hero Academia can be thought of as Japan’s answer to superhero stories like X-Men and The Avengers. Bungou Stray Dogs takes this even farther by taking the world’s great literature writers and turning them into fabulously stylized power users who do battle with each other.
- Sometimes anime influence each other back and forth so much, our heads can spin. Power Puff Girls drew took visual imagery and magical girl elements from anime, then Gainax parodied that show into Panty and Stockings with Garterbelt. Where will this trend end?
- A forgotten show called Beautiful Bones, about an investigator who investigates the stories of long-dead bodiesshe encounters, was clearly a love letter to American dramas like Bones or Cold Case.
- Often anime takes themes from classic Western literature. One show I enjoyed a lot was Emma – A Victorian Romance, which tells the story of a maid who’s a commoner who falls in love with her employer, who’s a member of the gentry. It feels like it must be based on an existing 19th-century English novel, but it’s an original story.
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