Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People


Have you ever found yourself watching an anime and then seeing a character you recognize from somewhere? You rack your brain trying to think of where you have seen them before, sometimes brushing it off as just yet another anime character that looks similar to a character in another anime. Then, it happens! You remember! That person looks like Al Capone! Or Tim Curry, or maybe a famous wrestler or martial artist.

Here is 10 anime characters based on real people who you should easily recognise

1. Attack on Titan’s creepy giants were based on MMA fighters

All anime fans know a huge part of Attack on Titan’s appeal lies in the unsettling nature of the titular monsters. The giants that rampage through populated areas eating villagers somewhat resemble humans, but something about them is a little… off. Their bone structure is exaggerated in weird places, their heads are almost never proportional to their bodies and they have muscular lumps where people usually do not have muscular lumps.

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

All this makes a lot of sense when you consider that the fact that MMA fighters were used as the anatomical basis for some of the series’ most iconic horror shows. Former UFC Champion and WWE regular Brock Lesnar was the inspiration for the bulky “Armored Titan,” and the prolific Japanese MMA fighter YushinOkami was also used for the Titan you see below.

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

2. Everyone in One Piece

One Piece is filled to the brim with anime characters inspired by real people, and one of these characters is Spandam. This character was based off of WWE wrestling champ Mick Foley. It is easy to see who he was based off of and how by just looking at the pictures of the two of them.

Sanji has been one of the most popular characters in the series since his introduction, and since that time a lot of people have tried to put their finger on his creative origins. As author Eiichiro Oda pointed out in a Q/A, many suggested Leonardo Dicaprio, because ofSanji’s terminal case of Titanic Hair.

But in fact the inspiration was Steve Buscemi, of all people — specifically his turn as Mr. Pink in Resevoir Dogs.

3. The real samurai behind Rurouni Kenshin and Gintama

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Though RurouniKenshin isn’t based on actual events, the main character is based on an actual samurai – Kawakami Gensai who was an assassin who lived in the mid-19th century. When Kenshin creator, NobohiroWatsuki, read that Gensai “maintained a duty to his dead comrades,” he found inspiration for the aforementioned redhead. Kenshin and Gensai don’t have a ton in common other than the fact they’re both (former) assassins with a loyal streak and Gensai was executed by his own government after his usefulness had come to an end.

Gensai’s legend also inspired a character in another supernatural/sci-fi samurai action anime. Gintama’s Kawakami Bansai named after Kawakami Gensai. One of the samurai’s contemporaries was also honored in Gintama, as the character Okada Nizou was based on the real-life assassin Okada Izo.

4. Characters in Cowboy Bebop

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

The Cowboy Beop protagonist was heavily inspired by the most badass actor you’ve never heard of: Yusaku Matsuda. Seriously, just look at this guy. Nobody has ever looked so casual yet stylish while lounging in a teacup. Matsuda is Japan’s James Dean, in more than one way. Though he starred in several movies, Matsuda’s biggest influence on the creators of Cowboy Bebop came from his tenure on a detective show called TanteiMonogatari. Matsuda passed away in 1989, but the Cowboy Bebop production team wasn’t shy about using likenesses of actors who were still alive.

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

As the series went on, the writers and animators got a little more brazen about ripping celebrities off wholesale. On the left you see Coffee, a bounty hunter that shows up in the drug-fueled “Mushroom Samba” episode. On the right is Pam Grier, starring in the title role of a movie called “Coffy.” Really.

5. Rock Lee and Bruce Lee in Naruto

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Rock Lee known as Naruto’s resident Krillin, is based on the legendary Bruce Lee. The two are each skilled martial artists who practice Jeet Kun Do, and they happen to have the same last name and even kind of the same haircut. Moreover, they have the same birthdays, November 27. Taken together with everything else, it’s tough to call this a coincidence.

6. A Steins; Gate’s time-traveler is based on a creepy internet hoax from 2000

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Steins;Gatehas got a character’s daughter time-traveling from the future to the present tense of the show. SuzuhaAmane admits that she was in fact behind the unsettling posts of John Titor, a message board poster who gained noteriety at the beginning of the century by claiming to be a soldier from the year 2036.

In 2000, Titor showed off his time machine (stationed in a car) and shared disturbing forecasts of the future that involved the United States splitting up and getting into a small nuclear war with Russia in 2015. There was an alarming amount of detail to his posts that sounded kind of convincing in the more naive Napster Era of the internet.

7. Millennium Actress is really based on two actresses

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress is a brilliant and moving story about a woman who lives in seclusion after a storied movie career. Before his death, Kon described the main character Chiyoko Fujiwara as based on Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine, two of the most well-known actresses in Japan’s cinematic golden age. Hara in particular seems to have inspired the plot, as she was famously reclusive, having ended her career and lived away from the public eye for 50 years before she passed away at 95. At least in a way, we got one more movie out of her.

8. Yuri on Ice and figure skating

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Most key players in this anime are pretty much all taken from actual athletes, often smashing multiple skaters together to get the characters just right. The career of the hero YuuriKatsuki matches with the trajectory of Tatsuki Machida, who also struggled with failure and the low-self esteem that comes with it. Appearance-wise, however, many have noted that Yuuri strongly resembles Olympic Gold Medal winner YuzuruHanyu.

9. High School of the Dead

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Hirano Koutais well known with his manga: Hellsing. His bookish andnerdy-ass face was perfect for High School of the Dead’s Hirano Kohta, the series’ resident killer otaku. Apparently all you need to steal someone’s identity for an anime is change one letter in their name.

10. One Punch Man’s apartment

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

In the series One Punch Man, Saitama’s crappy apartment plays a significant role, especially when the visual comparisons are this strong. It might be a bit tough to tell because of the realistic rendering, but the cartoon version of the building is the one with the huge-ass bloodstain splattered across the side.

Anime Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

Do you know any other anime characters based on real people? Let me know in the comments


  1. BUNGOU STRAY DOGS characters are based om real-life authors/poets and their powers are based on the authors’ works.


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