With tons of over-the-top characters, you wouldn’t be wrong to think the upcoming shooter Battleborn is a bit cartoony. But you might be wrong in thinking you know what kind of cartoons influenced the game. That’s because, as Gearbox’s art director Scott Kester explains, it’s actually anime that inspired the developers most.
“The energy in eastern animation really jumps out and has a lot of personality,” he said, “and I feel that [some anime] really touched a lot on Battleborn’s style, mood, and personality. We always wanted to do something cool and stylized, but at the same time we wanted to give it that anime personality, with flavors mixed together through our world view lens.”
With Battleborn slated to be released May 3 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, I asked Kester to detail the various sources that had the biggest influence on the game and what they inspired in the shooter.
5. ‘SAMURAI CHAMPLOO’ (2004)
Set during the Edo period in Japan (1603 to 1868) but infused with hip-hop flavor, this action-packed anime follows a young woman named Fuu, a quiet Ronin called Jin, and a reckless swordsman named Mugen as they try to find a samurai who smells of sunflower seeds. It’s been airing on Adult Swim recently, and was recently made available on Hulu.
How it inspired Battleborn: “Samurai Champloo was a constant inspiration because of the disjointed things that somehow work well together, such as Edo-era samurai with urban hip-hop. You’ll also experience a Samurai Champloo-influenced song during the opening of the game.”
4. 'GHOST IN THE SHELL’ (1995)
In the years since the first Ghost in the Shell movie came out in 1995, there’s been a sequel, 2004’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, a TV series called Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (which has its own movie, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society), and a second series, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, which also has a movie, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie. The series follows a cybernetically-enhanced soldier named Major Motoko Kusanagi who leads an anti-terrorist team in post-war Japan while they ponder how cybernetically-enhanced you can get while still being human. A live action American movie starring Scarlett Johansson will be out March 31, 2017.
How it inspired Battleborn: “The shapes and forms of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell were really inspirational for me with its badass characters like Motoko Kusanagi. Our character Mellka, for example, has a lot of connections with that character, from her mentality to her stylings. Her background of becoming a vital part of a commando group was also influenced by Ghost in the Shell.”
3. 'GUNDAM’ (1979) AND 'NEON GENESIS EVANGELION’ (1995)
Two of the most popular and influential anime franchises, both Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion, helped inspire pop culture’s fascination with mecha (a.k.a. mobile suits). In the case of the former, it started in 1979 with the TV series Mobile Suit Gundam, and now encompasses dozens of movies, TV shows, novels, games, and comics. As for Neon Genesis Evangelion, it started as a manga in 1994, but really took off when the anime started airing on Japanese television a year later, in turn inspiring a series of animated movies.
How it inspired Battleborn: “In addition to characters, a lot of Masmune Shirow’s work inspired our mecha designs for the various minion robots and Spidermax sentries. But I was also inspired by a number of other popular mecha anime, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gundam. The shapes and forms from that genre had a heavy influence on such characters as Caldarius, who is heavily Gundam inspired.
2. 'FOOLY COOLY’ (2000)
Also known as FLCL, Fooly Cooly was originally just a six-episode series, but has gone on to become one of the most popular and influential animes. Centered around a 12-year-old named Naota, this coming-of-age tale takes off when Haruko hits him in the head with her bass guitar and a giant robot comes out. As for the whole "six-episode” thing, that won’t be true for very long, as it was recently announced that Adult Swim and the show’s animation studio, Production I.G., were teaming up to produce two new seasons of six episodes each.
How it inspired Battleborn: “For Fooly Cooly, it was the energy from the show and the distorted camera angles during the action scenes. These were a clear influence on the opening for the game, but it was also the distortion of the characters in their animations; we designed the animations of our characters so that we could push and pull, squash and stretch. We took a lot of energy and vibe from that show. It was also very eccentric and combined, as with Samurai Champloo, things that aren’t typically found together.
1. 'AKIRA’ (1988)
One of the most iconic and influential anime of all time, 1988’s Akira is a visually stunning and groundbreaking movie that was directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote the original 1982 manga. Set in Neo-Tokyo in 2019, this sci-fi tale follows a young biker named Tetsuo who starts to develop psychic powers after he has a run-in with a weird little kid. After he’s grabbed by the military, who fear the worst, Tetsuo’s friend Kaneda and the rest of their pals try to find Tetsuo, only to learn that sometimes the military may be right.
How it inspired Battleborn: ”Akira is the granddaddy and my favorite movie of all time. There’s a lot of mood, mentality, and some really direct influences, such as the tell-tale bike lens blur that it leaves behind that we use on our ships as they fly through the air. But I think it comes down to this kind of dystopian future. There’s these people getting by, there’s these gangs that have sort of formed up together to survive. The energy, the vibe, the feeling, and the atmosphere of the film, it’s just really timeless.“
Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.
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