Ready Player One lands in theaters on March 29th, and I couldn’t more stoked. As a fan of the novel, a huge Spielberg nut, and a child of the 80’s, this movie checks off pretty much checks all the boxes for me. But I wonder, will it also speak to me as an anime fan?
The trailer for the film has some nerds worried. Spielberg seems to be leaning more heavily on contemporary pop culture and less so on 80’s nerd culture, like the book did. That said, it heavily features Kaneda’s motorcyle from Akira (not in the novel) and the Gundam RX-78 (in the novel), and the Mach 5 makes an appearance (also in the novel). That could be the only nods for us otaku, but I’m guessing we’ll get a few more easter eggs, if not items that figure into the plot. Here’s my wish list for the anime and Japanese stuff I’m hoping to see in Ready Player One.
1. The Bebop
One of the weird things about the Ready Player One novel is that some 90’s anime show up alongside the barrage of 80’s media, including the classic series, Cowboy Bebop. Shoto, one-half of the Japanese player duo that is among the leading contenders in the Hunt, pilots a ship called the Kurosawa, which is a remodeled version of Spike and Jet’s interstellar vessel, the Bebop. I hope that Shoto plays a good-sized role in the film (some of the more emotional scenes involve him), and if he does, maybe, maybe we’ll get a glimpse of the ship. Edit: We do know that the Swordfish II, also from the series, is in the film (thanks for the tip, Andy)! Which probably makes it a replacement for the Bebop—but I’ll take Spike’s fighter jet over their bigger craft any day.
Chance of inclusion: 20%—not likely, space cowboy
2. Evangelion Unit-03
Unit-03 isn’t called out specifically in the novel, but the Eva units are mentioned collectively during an intense action sequence. Boy would I love to see Shinji’s robot in action. Imagine that unit going up against other Japanese mechs? Awesome. And I think there’s a possibility here, too, because Evangelion is ingrained in the west; there’s memory of it in Hollywood from pre-production false starts (remember those concept drawings from Weta Workshop that made the rounds years ago?). Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic. Still, it’s hard not to get excited at the possibility of finally seeing a live-action version of that cannibalizing monstrosity of a mecha.
Chance of inclusion: 33%—get in the digital robot, Spielberg.
3. Big O
When the long form trailer of Ready Player One dropped, word spread that The Big O, the titular mecha from yet another Sunrise anime, was in it. I didn’t see it, and my best guess is that someone got his brain twisted around by the appearance of both a Gundam and the Iron Giant (The Big O is like the giant robot baby these two had, right?). Still…I would absolutely scream if I saw Roger Smith’s megadeus in action. I would probably faint if it fought Unit-03.
Chance of inclusion: 5%—Spielberg won’t take us down to Paradigm City
While the previous entrants skew a little older, this one would please both the old school fans (and I’m talking even people in their 40’s and 50’s who don’t even know what anime is) and teens. Voltron has resurrected in recent years with a critically acclaimed remake, but the original one would more likely find its way to Ready Player One (Or would it? The inclusion of a current video game character in Tracer has me thinking otherwise). And there’s another chance here for nerds like myself to explode—if Voltron forms together from it’s individual lions? Oh my.
Chance of inclusion: 60%—a likely defender of the digital universe
5. Totoro and Catbus
Alright, stay with me on this one. The rumor is that Spielberg watched Miyazaki’s classic film, The Castle of Cagliostro, and either said it was one of the best action movies or had one of the best car chase sequences of all time (in fact, if you remember the DVD release that was out in the 2000’s, he was quoted on the cover as saying such). If true, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that when Spielberg thinks anime, and he must have considered it when crafting this film, he thinks Miyazaki. Totoro is Ghibli’s most recognized character in the west, and it would be awesome to see a mighty Totoro kicking butt in the OASIS; even more fitting might be Catbus, who could be a vehicle in that world!
Chance of inclusion: 25%—Totory possible
The best for last! I’m not an Ultraman fan, and admittedly, this is live action and not animation, but how could I leave out the lifeblood of Ready Player One? Ultraman plays a massive (<— key word) role in the novel and if Spielberg takes him out, it would hurt. There’s no sign of him in the trailer, which might not mean anything, but it could mean he’s been replaced (Has the RX-78 changed roles? Is the Iron Giant the replacement?) or that the storyline has been changed. We’ll have to wait and see…but here’s hoping this iconic character remains in a pivotal role.
Chance of inclusion: 67%—better get your beta capsule ready
Are there any others anime/Japanese properties or character you’re hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured illustration by 塗壁 | reprinted w/permission