Pop culture is religion in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, including anime. The new film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 sci-fi novel spotlights several hallmarks of the anime medium, from the 1989 movie Akira to the iconic mecha series Mobile Suit Gundam. And there’s plenty more waiting to be uncovered, which will come with multiple rewatches when the film hits streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD later this year.
In Ready Player One, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) races to find the “Easter egg” of James Halliday, the enigmatic creator of the world’s most popular virtual reality game, the OASIS. In the OASIS, players live out their wildest fantasies, to become anyone and do anything. Or, as the film puts it, you can climb Mount Everest with none other than Batman.
A geek smorgasbord celebrates everything from comics to sci-fi to video games — especially video games — Ready Player One is a nostalgic extravaganza. And there’s plenty of room for anime, too. Here are all the ways anime gets screen time on the big screen from Steven Spielberg.
Gundam (from Mobile Suit Gundam)
The biggest nod to anime is hard to miss. Initially teased in the trailers, the RX-78-2 Gundam — from 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam, the first in the Gundam franchise — appears as an avatar for Daito (Win Morisaki) in the climactic battle against Mechagodzilla, controlled by Anton Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Yes, this is a Hollywood movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
The RX-78-2’s time limit is also a reference to the superhero Ultraman, who had a significant presence in the novel but was omitted from the film due to a lawsuit regarding Ultraman’s legal ownership.
The Mach 5 (from Speed Racer)
In the film’s opening race to Central Park, the Mach 5 can be spotted not far from Wade’s slick DeLorean. The Mach 5 famously belongs to Speed Racer, the plucky speedster of the anime Speed Racer. 2018 also marks the tenth anniversary of the film Speed Racer, directed by the Wachowskis and released by Warner Bros. back in 2008.
Kaneda’s Bike (from Akira)
Commonly known as the “Akira Bike” or “the bike from Akira”, the red two-wheeler from Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime film is driven by “Art3mis” (Olivia Cooke) in the opening race. Her bike gets torn up by King Kong, requiring repairs from Wade’s best friend in the OASIS, Aech, in their nifty garage.
ThunderCats logo (from ThunderCats)
One of the most understated Easter eggs is on Wade throughout the film. Engraved on the buckle of Wade’s avatar — which itself is a Star Wars Easter egg, because it’s Han Solo’s belt and holster — is the logo of ThunderCats.
Although an American series — it was created by Tobin Wolf and aired from 1985 to 1989 — the show was animated by Pacific Animation Corporation under the supervision of Masaki Iizuka. Pacific Animation Corporation was later bought by Disney and renamed Disney Animation Japan, until it closed in 2004.
Planet Doom (from Voltron: Defender of the Universe)
From days long ago…. the planet ruled by King Zarkon on the Drule Empire is the final setting for the movie’s climactic battle for the Crystal Key. Best known to Voltron fans — all because of Peter Cullen’s epic intro to every episode of 1984’s Voltron: Defender of the Universe — Planet Doom is where Wade summons all of the OASIS to fight Sorrento and IOI. Too bad there weren’t five robotic lions to swoop in and fight Mechagodzilla, though.
Ready Player One is in theaters now.