Anime is one of the most versatile variations of the animation medium in the world. From a niche cultural export to a bona fide global phenomenon, Japanese animation has left an indelible mark not only on Western animation, but on Western film as a whole.
In an interview with Polygon, Creed III star and director Michael B. Jordan cited anime as a major influence on the writing and cinematography behind his directorial debut. Jordan specifically mentioned an intense fight between Naruto and his rival Sasuke Naruto Shippuden as inspiration for the climactic confrontation between protagonist Adonis Creed (Jordan) and his nemesis, Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors), in the film. The moment stands out: during the titanic fight of Adonis and Damian, the two childhood friends turned adversaries punch each other in the face at the same time.
“That punch is Naruto and Sasuke,” Jordan told Polygon. “(T)hat punch has happened a few times in anime. (…) But for me, (the Creed III scene) was about the relationship between two brothers, so the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke was where the inspiration for that relationship came from.”
From the deadly aerial combat acrobatics of the “Itano Circus” to the plaintive pastel aesthetic of “postcard memories“Anime – like any other stylistically distinctive take on the medium of film and animation – features an array of unique narrative and visual callbacks upon which its aesthetic language draws. While Jordan specifically pointed out Narutoand to a lesser extent Dragon Ball Zas the inspiration behind that pivotal scene Creed III, the trope itself dates back further than any of those series, and in fact not only derives from one of the film’s other cited anime influences, but technically predates the phenomenon of anime. For anime fans, the “cross-counter” refers to a moment when a confrontation between two fistfighters of equal skill culminates in one of the combatants countering a hook punch by throwing a punch down their opponent’s arm, resulting in the two at the same time smash each other in the face.
Within the context of anime, the trope dates back to the 1970s Ashita no Joe (aka “Tomorrow’s Joe”), the iconic boxing anime directed by Osamu Dezaki about a young drifter’s hard-fought journey to become a heavyweight boxing champion. Several instances of the cross-counter punch appear over the course of the anime’s 79 episodes, as well as in the 1980 anime film that used re-edited and reanimated footage from the series. Combined with the postcard memories trope – also credited to Dezaki through his work on anime as Ashita no Joethe 1973 sports romance anime Aim for the Ace!the 1982 sci-fi pulp anime Space Cobraand more – the cross-counter trope left an indelible mark on a generation of Japanese youth who would grow up to be some of anime’s most influential creators in their own right.
The cross-counter trope has been featured in countless anime that have since been released Ashita no Joe‘s conclusion: 1986’s Dragon Ball (and its 1989 sequel, Dragon Ball Z); 1988 Legend of the Galactic Heroes; years 1992 Yu Yu Hakusho; years 2001 Digimon Tamers; years 2004 Bleach; 2006 Obituary; and that of 2007 Gurren Lagannjust to name a few. megalobox2018’s sci-fi sports anime and spiritual sequel Ashita no Joe produced in celebration of the anime’s 50th anniversary, of course also features several examples of the cross-counter trope, including one during the climactic fight between Joe and his rival Yuri.
While Dezaki’s influence on anime is undeniable, it’s worth noting that the cross-counter trope itself isn’t entirely attributable to anime. The earliest cinematic example of a cross-counter style punch could be Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 comedy-drama City lightsin which Chaplin’s character The Tramp comically exchanges blows with a burly no-nonsense prizefighter before promptly knocking each other out with a simultaneous hook to the jaw. People have been berating each other at the same time for centuries, so it’s hard to imagine even the silences being the start of the trope.
While this may be the first, it’s definitely not the one only for example for Creed III where the cross-counter punch has appeared in live-action film. years 2003 The Matrix Revolutionsdirected by renowned anime fans Lana and Lilly Wachowski, features a moment where protagonist Neo and his nemesis Agent Smith create their own rendition of cross counter punch. And the one from 1982 Rock III famously ends with a freeze frame of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed exchanging blows to the face before fading into an oil portrait of the two rivals-turned-lockdown friends and immortalized in battle.
Was this a sneaky nod to Osamu Dezaki and Ashita no Joe? Is Sylvester Stallone secretly an otaku? We may never know the answer to that question, but what goes without saying (especially in light of Creed III‘s release) is the unimaginable influence that anime has had and continues to have on the medium of film and vice versa.