From Naruto and Sauke to Goku and Vegeta, the latest installment in the Creed franchise draws heavy inspiration from popular anime known for their intense action scenes, over-the-top fighting styles, and dramatic character relations.
Over the past few decades, anime has become a global phenomenon with a massive following across the world. Its popularity has also seeped into other forms of media, including movies, television shows, and video games. An example of this cross-cultural influence can be seen in Michael B Jordan’s directorial debut with the third segment in the Creed trilogy.
Carrying on the story of Adonis Creed, the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed, the film follows Adonis as the new heavyweight champion of the world, retired to serve his family better. When a childhood friend and former boxing prodigy resurfaces after serving time in prison, he's eager to prove that he deserves his shot in the ring.
The face-off between former friends is more than just a fight. To settle the score, Adonis must put his future on the line to battle Damian - a fighter who has nothing to lose played by the outstanding Jonathan Major’s, in what will surely go down as one of the finest supporting performances of the year.
This influence is seen in the film’s combat choreography and Jordan’s razor-sharp vision as a director. Fights are intense, fast-paced affairs that require quick reflexes, strategic thinking, and a good understanding of one's opponent. The film’s special effects and sound design add to the intensity of the fights, with bone-crunching punches and the roaring crowd adding to its immersivity.
Best Decision taken by @michaelb4jordan to shoot live sports action sequences in @creedmovie with @IMAX cameras. #IMAX #CreedIII #Creed3 pic.twitter.com/rUWOZYtFd8— Ajay Kumar (@AjayKumar2909) March 3, 2023
Jordan and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau's approach to capturing the fight scenes in Creed III evokes a feeling reminiscent of anime on multiple levels. An example of this is seen in the frequent use of close-ups in the movie's fight scenes. In contrast to the camerawork in Ryan Coogler's Creed, Creed III's camera focuses more on the faces and eyes of the fighters, highlighting character’s state-of-mind and thought processes with increased intensity.
The movie frequently uses unorthodox camera angles to highlight the boxing rings, gloves, and shorts bearing the names of the two lead characters, further emphasizing its anime-like feel. This style, often seen in anime, offers different perspectives on action scenes, giving the film a larger-than-life feel, which is precisely the approach Jordan takes in framing the action in the film.
A key influence of anime on the film’s writing is the focus on evolving their characters. In Naruto for instance, the titular character grows from a brash and impulsive youth into a mature and responsible leader, while in Dragon Ball Z, Goku evolves from a naive and inexperienced warrior into a seasoned fighter capable of taking on the most powerful foes. Following a similar path, Adonis Creed's character arc is one of growth and self-discovery, as he struggles to step out of his father's shadow and establish his own identity as a boxer.
With characters pushing their physical and mental limits to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles a la your everyday shounen anime, the two lead characters in the film seem to follow the same formula.
Drawing inspiration from Dragon Ball's protagonists, Goku and Vegeta, the film's rivalry between Adonis and Damian has a similar dynamic. Verbal sparring is a notable parallel with Dragon Ball, as it is just as heavy on characters like Goku and Vegeta, trading verbal barbs with one another during fights.
Michael B Jordan showed Jonathon Majors Kakashi vs Obito from Naruto in preparation for Creed III pic.twitter.com/9bCtatu5Wy— Amir (@PEAKFlCTION) February 25, 2023
The final match between the two is the most anime-esque of the film, with many slow-motion shots of punches landing to emphasize their impact. A particularly potent uppercut from Damian to Adonis’s torso is an example of the same, vividly felt through the shot of rippling flesh and beads of sweat flying from his body - a direct visual homage to Dragon Ball .
Beautifully juxtaposed parallels and side-by-side shots over the duration of the film, further state that the dynamic of their rivalry is drawn from Naruto and Sasuke, as a relationship between two brothers. This black and white dichotomy raises the stakes even further, with both sides fighting for the same motivations, having shared history with one another.
In a first for the Rocky or Creed franchises, the climactic final match takes place in isolation from the crowd, with the stadium suddenly going dark, the entire audience disappearing, and prison bars appearing around the ring, leaving Damian and Adonis to wage war on each other alone.
With each passing blow, with each cracking rib and each zealous growl from the other, this is no longer a fight for the heavyweight title. This is a street brawl for honour.
Me rooting for both Michael Bae Jordan and Jonathan Majors in Creed pic.twitter.com/HaldrkfMLf— Ashley K. (@AshleyKSmalls) March 4, 2023
A specific moment pulled straight from Naruto Shippuden and Dragon Ball Z makes for the most picture-perfect shot in the film, with both characters trading simultaneous blows to the face, knocking each other clean.
As Joseph Shirley’s immaculately crafted score builds towards the epic final confrontation, Adonis switches gears, zeroing in on windows of opportunity and capitalising on them with match-ending blows to rival the likes of My Hero Academia.
Anime has become a cultural phenomenon across the globe, and its influence on African American culture is no exception. They have not only brought together a vast community of fans but also created a sense of brotherhood and community within the African American community.
One significant aspect of anime's appeal to Black culture is its representation of underdogs overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Shows like Naruto and My Hero Academia center around characters who were initially underestimated or undervalued by society and compelled to prove themselves and work harder than others to succeed.
While that may come off as a tad on the nose, it is the very same themes that resonate soundly within young African Americans who find a sense of community and belonging through their mutual love for anime.
With Creed III’s unreserved tributes to anime classics, Jordan has helmed a multicultural touchstone and one of the most entertaining cinematic experiences of the year.