2019 Darkroom/Interscope Records
By Erica Russell
From Joe Hisaishi’s gorgeous Studio Ghibli scores to the iconic theme songs of Sailor Moon and Neon Genesis Evangelion, music has long played a major part in the success and memorability of many anime properties. But the influence goes both ways.
Rappers, pop stars, French electronic duos — dozens of musical artists have incorporated their love for the art of Japanese animation into their visuals, whether they’ve used clips from famous anime titles, their own original animation, or nodded to the genre’s aesthetic in live-action sequences.
Below, discover 18 music videos inspired by anime.
Daft Punk, “One More Time”
It would be blasphemous to kick off this list with anything other than one of the most instantly recognizable anime-inspired music videos ever: Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” the French electronic duo’s 2000 dancefloor opus. The psychedelic clip, which shows a blue-skinned alien pop group performing on their home planet, was crafted under the visual supervision of Leiji Matsumoto, one of anime and manga’s most prolific figures. It’s no wonder, then, that the video for “One More Time” and the 2003 animated sci-fi film from which it was created (Interstella 5555) bear a striking resemblance to Matsumoto’s iconic ’70s series, Galaxy Express 999.
Billie Eilish, “You Should See Me in a Crown”
Directed by famed Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, the kawaii-macabre video for Billie Eilish’s 2019 single is less inspired by the aesthetics of traditional anime than it is by Murakami’s signature “superflat” style, but the video’s creepy, bizarre narrative — in which a CGI-animated Eilish transforms into a giant arachnid hellmonster and terrorizes a digital metropolis — is straight out of any horror anime.
Grimes ft. HANA, “We Appreciate Power”
Though not animated, the music video for “We Appreciate Power,” Grimes’ 2018 nu-metal banger, is deeply inspired by sci-fi anime themes and visuals. In the neon-hued video, Grimes and HANA wear form-fitting body suits similar in design to Rei and Asuka’s plugsuits from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In one scene, Grimes can be seen hooked up to cybernetic tubes like Ghost in the Shell’s Major Motoko Kusanagi.
Cardi B, “I Like It” (Japan Anime Version)
Featuring graphic design by Ruka Noguchi and animation by Yasuhiro Yamashita, Cardi B’s 2018 Latin trap smash received an anime spin with this special animated version of “I Like It,” which finds a cartoon chibi version of the rapper traveling around Japan and trying everything from karaoke to sushi.
Tyga, “Boss Up”
The part-live action, part-animated music video for Tyga’s 2017 single sees the rapper’s romantic evening in Tokyo get interrupted by a yakuza-esque assassin bike gang. The action-packed clip makes nods to films like Kill Bill: Volume 1 (not an anime, of course, but nonetheless inspired by Japanese cinema) and, most notably, Akira, with the rapper not only wearing an Akira t-shirt but speeding away on a red motorcycle at the end of the clip.
Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend”
Roman Coppola (yes, of those Coppolas) directed this visual for American rocker Matthew Sweet’s 1991 single. The music video features dozens of clips from Osamu Dezaki’s 1982 sci-fi anime film Space Adventure Cobra.
TWICE, “Candy Pop”
Produced in collaboration with Love Live! director Takahiko Kyōgoku, the music video for TWICE’s 2018 Japanese single sees the K-pop girl group transform into an animated idol group — think PriPara meets CHAM! from Perfect Blue. The bright, bubbly modern shōjo style reminds us of charming magical girl series like Ojamajo Doremi.
Britney Spears, “Break the Ice”
Perhaps it was inevitable that one of this pop star’s sons would become a Dragon Ball Z fan. (But really, seeing Britney Spears tweet about Lord Frieza is… surreal.) In 2008, Spears released “Break the Ice” as the third single off her 2007 album Blackout. Alongside the single release came an animated music video directed by British graphic artist Robert Hales. Based on the fictional heroine seen in the “Toxic” music video, the clip stars Spears as an anime-style superspy and utilizes an action-packed, neo-noir style similar to series like The Big 0.
Lindsey Stirling ft. Dia Frampton, “We Are Giants”
The animated video for “We Are Giants,” electric violinist Lindsey Stirling’s 2015 EDM single featuring Dia Frampton, is a total love letter to classic anime scenarios and old Japanese monster movies. As two giant kaiju battle over a metropolis, Stirling’s character goes through her own magical girl transformation to end the Godzilla-esque smackdown on top of a structure that looks very similar to Tokyo Tower. (Fun fact: Stirling is an anime fan whose 2019 album, Artemis, also features motifs inspired by Japanese animation.)
Pharrell Williams, “It Girl”
Pharrell’s Takashi Murakami-produced 2014 “It Girl” video is a colorful ode to tropical kawaii imagery. Featuring animated scenes evoking 16-bit video game graphics and moe (cute) anime girls, the clip also plays like a Japanese bishōjo dating game, like Moe! Ninja Girls.
The music video for controversial Russian pop duo t.A.T.u.’s 2006 single “Gomenasai” (“I’m sorry,” in Japanese) sees an animated version of Julia Volkova rushing to break Lena Katina out of a mysterious facility. The visual is an homage to classic post-apocalyptic sci-fi anime like Akira, and features car chases, giant robots and a sweeping cyberpunk cityscape.
Yuna ft. Little Simz, “Pink Youth”
Also inspired by futuristic anime titles like Akira or Psycho Pass, the video for Yuna’s feminist 2019 single finds the Malaysian star as an animated heroine fighting to bring color and hope back into the world — literally. One again, giant robots, thrilling car chases and epic city scenes abound.
Lil Uzi Vert, “Ps & Qs”
Directed by YASHXANA, the video for Lil Uzi Vert’s 2017 single is a colorful homage to comedic high school anime series like Arakawa Under the Bridge and Oreshura. Featuring illustrated scenes meant to evoke manga artwork, as well as cartoonishly wide digital eye effects during the live action segments, the anime influence is super palpable.
Afrojack & David Guetta ft. Ester Dean, “Another Life”
Borrowing visual cues from futuristic anime like Ghost in the Shell, Texhnoloyze, and Metropolis, Afrojack and David Guetta’s trippy video for their 2017 future bass single follows an A.I. android along its physical construction as it appears to downloads memories from a previous life — or perhaps from the Earth before the planet’s destruction.
Alice Longyu Gao, “Karma Is a Witch”
Chinese-born, NYC-based DJ and performance artist Alice Longyu Gao was undoubtedly inspired by glittery mahou shoujo (magical girl) aesthetics for the video for her attitude-laden 2019 single. “I’m the pretty Sailor Moon princess,” Gao raps on the track, the candy-colored video for which sees her wearing her hair in an odango (double buns) style and wielding a magic wand.
Linkin Park, “Breaking the Habit”
Released in 2004, the MTV Video Music Award-winning video (Viewer’s Choice Award) for Linkin Park’s “Breaking the Habit” was animated by GONZO, the Tokyo-based animation studio responsible for early 2000s series like Gantz and Hellsing. The animation was supervised by Kazuto Nakazawa — who directed the animated O-Ren segment from Kill Bill: Volume 1 — and features an industrial, neo-noir style that matches the dark tone of the electronic-rock track.
Kanye West, “Good Morning”
Like the Billie Eilish music video further up on this list, Kanye West’s 2007 video for “Good Morning” was directed by Takashi Murakami and features the rapper’s kawaii character mascot, Dropout Bear. Though not directly anime-inspired, the animated visual takes cues from Murakami’s famed “superflat” aesthetic, itself greatly influenced by anime and manga. (Bonus: Check out Kanye’s “Stronger” video, which was heavily influenced by his “biggest creative inspiration,” Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira.)
Cashmere Cat, “Emotions”
Cashmere Cat’s video for his 2019 single more closely resembles a Zelda– or Final Fantasy-esque Japanese video game than pure anime, but its mysterious star — a wide-eyed, Hatsune Miku-like CGI-animated anthropomorphic character named Princess Catgirl — clearly takes cues from the countless catgirls found in anime and manga, from Tokyo Mew Mew‘s Ichigo to the characters found in 1995’s Totsuzen! Neko no Kuni Banipal Witt.