It takes a certain amount of creativity to write a cohesive and interesting story with characters that really pop off the page. However, most people who create also glean from real life inspirations or create homages to people they respect. It happens frequently in all media and you can spot it in anime too. Some represent long-dead historical characters while others are clearly modeled on other celebrities. So what are some good examples of anime characters with real life inspirations?
Rock Lee from Naruto
For martial arts fans, Bruce Lee was a household name, thus its not a big leap to make to connect him to Rock Lee. While Bruce Lee didn’t sport quite the same exaggerated features, he did sport Rock Lee’s never quit attitude. Furthermore, there is no one who would be more fitting to be the Taijutsu expert of the ninja world.
In shirtless Bruce Lee, one might also note some similarities to Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star as well.
Jiro Horikoshi from The Wind Rises
The plot throughout much of this Studio Ghibli movie is pure fiction, but the main character of it is not. Jiro Horikoshi was a real man and in fact was the lead engineer in the creation of Japanese fighter planes in WW2, coincidentally what much of the plot in The Wind Rises is about.
Many Characters in One Piece
One Piece is a show about pirates, and wouldn’t you know it – there are tons of famous pirates! Oda makes no qualms about his real life inspirations, changing the names just barely and the appearances only a little. Blackbeard, Anne Bonney, and even non-pirate characters like Al Capone. Of course, when you have a long running series with a lot of characters, you have to get inspiration from somewhere which is why fans make a lot of even more bold leaps on IRL inspirations for less obvious characters.
All Characters in Bungou Stray Dogs
Part of the reason that Bungou Stray Dogs is such an absolute gem is that every character is named after and based on a Japanese author. Certainly some of the characters don’t look like their real life peers – Ichiyou Higuchi definitely didn’t sport blonde hair or boast good combat skills – but if you are a fan of Japanese literature, it is fun watching these figures come to life in a form just slightly more interesting than that of your standard author.
Hirano Kohta in High School of the Dead
This one is a little difficult to spot, but once you see it, it cannot be unseen. The fat otaku in High School of the Dead is actually based on someone pretty famous in the manga world – creator of the Hellsing manga, Hirano Kouta. You see the similarities in the name? Well, it turns out there are also certain similarities in the character design as well.
The Siblings in Grave of the Fireflies
You know what makes this already pretty hard-hitting movie hit even harder? It’s actually autobiographical. The movie is based on a story by Akiyuki Nosaka who detailed the events before, during, and after the firebombing of Kobe in 1945. The bombing took his father and two sisters, and the short story – and later the anime movie – served as his apology to his young sister that died of malnutrition afterwards.
Tatsuhiro Sato in Welcome to the NHK
It’s just a dark comedy about a NEET, right? Well, the anime series is actually based off a book written by an actual hikkikomori. Unfortunately, the success that followed pushed him further inside his NEET lifestyle, but at least he has royalties to live off of. Anyway, Tatsuhiro is actually a mirror of the author, Tatsuhiko Takimoto.
The Shinsengumi in Hakuouki
Yes, it is an anime based on an otome game, but that doesn’t change the fact that those bishounen versions of the Shinsengumi are based off the real Shinsengumi from the late shogunate period. Certainly a number of fantastical things happen in the plot that didn’t happen in history, but all the members are represented and pretty thoroughly fleshed out. A lot of other anime that feature the Shinsengumi usually leave a few members out.
Did we miss any more anime characters inspired by or based on real people? Let us know in the comments section below.
Founder of Recommend Me Anime. Combine 5 years of freelance writing with 15 years of anime fandom, and the result is a site that is (hopefully) more interesting to browse than your average news and episode recap anime site.