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We all have this mildly narcissistic tendency to wear things that project a little bit about ourselves. Admit it: Whether it’s your school colors or the print on your graphic tees, style is an inevitable outlet for self-expression. Sneakers are an especially potent way of referencing your other interests, if only for the sheer variety of colorways and our tendencies to name them.
If you’re a sneakerhead who also happens to be into Batman, your purple-and-green Kobes are suddenly your “Joker 5s.” It’s just another way by which sneaker culture unites and divides, cutting across a lot of different enthusiast-subcultures.
One such subculture is that of the animé/manga enthusiast (or otakus). Japanese pop culture certainly isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sneakers, but there are a few uncanny references between the two, every now and again.
If you happen to be in the middle of a Venn diagram for “otaku” and “sneakerhead,” here are several times that the stars lined up for you:
Reebok Ventilator “Gundam Pack”
The Ventilator, which made a huge comeback last year, was also done up in a pair of Gundam-themed colorways: one for the Zaku II and another for the RX 78-2 mobile suit. These were previewed at the Sole Academy Sneaker Carnival last year, where they quickly became the center of attraction at Reebok’s installation.
Reebok Instapump Fury “Gundam Pack”
But before the Ventilators, Reebok had already done a pair of Gundam colorways. Previously, it was with the Instapump Fury, still paying tribute to the same mobile suits in the hit animé series.
MegaHouse x Reebok Instapump Fury “Tachikoma”
Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex is easily one of the early 2000s’ greatest hits when it comes to animé. This pair of Instapumps pays tribute to the Tachikoma robots from the series, but are also a great colorway in and of themselves.
Patta x ASICS GEL-Respector
There isn’t any obvious reference to animé in this Asics GEL-Respector, but collaborator Patta claims that it was “inspired by rich, colorful animé films and characters such as tropical fish and mythological creatures.” Whether or not you believe that doesn’t matter, because this pair looks incredible in any case.
adidas Crazy Fast “Evangelion”
While a lot of you might remember Neon Genesis Evangelion for inappropriate reasons that we don’t need to know about, you might still remember Unit 01—the purple-and-green Evangelion that inspired this colorway of the adidas Crazy Fast.
Nike Air Zoom Brave IV “Manga”
Long before the Slam Dunk Jordan 6s came around, the series’ illustrator Inoue was already doing sneaker collaborations. In 2009, he and Nike came up with a nice, soft blue colorway of the Air Zoom Brave IV. Look closely and you’ll see faint images printed on the upper—chibi-esque doodles of people playing basketball!
ASICS Gel Kayano “Manga”
ASICS’ Gel Kayano has been a pretty big hit since 2014, but one of its more out-there colorways is this one, dubbed “Manga,” for its clear references to the manga-style typography of the katakana (a component of the Japanese writing system).
Shoes of the Hero high-top sneakers
Inspired by One-Punch Man‘s bald protagonist, Saitama, this pair is the newest in this list, having been launched in Japan just this December. With a colorway dominated by the colors red and yellow, it’s an unmistakable reference to the hit animé series. For those clueless, though, it might look like a pair made in partnership with McDonald’s.