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6 ways Japan influenced The Matrix movie

The latest Matrix movie, Resurrections, has been recently released and even if you are not the biggest fan of the genre or you didn't watch all the episodes, for sure you can recognize the unique fighting scenes, the tiny sunglasses and the green vertical codes. The movie in fact is a masterpiece of cinematography which changed the industry forever. It took inspiration from many cultures and has many philosophical references, however influences from Japan are particularly high and tribute to Japanese culture are frequent.

Here below are 6 ways Japan is related to Matrix movies!

1. The green Code is a sushi recipe

Matrix digital rain, the green vertical code, includes mirror images of katakana characters (used mainly to represent foreign loan words in Japanese), Western Latin letters and Arabic numerals.

It was designed by Simon Whiteley, who in a 2017 interview at CNET, he attributed the design to his wife, who is from Japan, and added, "I like to tell everybody that The Matrix's code is made out of Japanese sushi recipes. Without that code, there is no Matrix".

Moreover characters are scrolling vertically from top to bottom on the screen like the Japanese (and Chinese) writing system.

2. It’s the “live-action” of an anime: Ghost in the shell

The anime plot is about a cyborg police officer attempting to bring down a villainous computer hacker who built a parallel world.

Furthermore, it is well known that the Matrix directors first described their intentions for their movie by showing the anime “Ghost in the shell” to the producer and saying, "We wanna do that for real".

The film's opening title sequence, as well as the general look of the Matrix code throughout the film resembles the opening credits of the 1995 Japanese cyberpunk film, Ghost in the Shell.

Moreover, the way characters access the Matrix through holes in the back of their necks is exactly like in the anime.

3. It’s influenced by other anime: Akira and Ninja Scroll

The Wachowskis said “We liked the Ninja Scroll and Akira anime. One thing that they do that we tried to bring to our film was a juxtaposition of time and space in action beats.”

In particular, the famous "bullet time" sequences in the original Matrix film, where the camera rotates around the scene frozen in time, could be regarded as a specific tribute to the [Akira] manga.

Moreover, praised for its animation and action scenes, Ninja Scroll is regarded by many as one of the most influential anime films ever made. It was one of the responsible for increasing the popularity of adult-oriented anime outside of Japan. The film has been cited by The Wachowskis as an influence on the Matrix franchise. Kawajiri, the anime director, later even contributed to The Animatrix, an animated science fiction anthology film telling the backstory of The Matrix film series.

4. Seven Samurai tribute: big battles and rain

The visuals, plot and dialogue of Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa have inspired a wide range of filmmakers, ranging from George Lucas to Quentin Tarantino. Elements from Seven Samurai have been borrowed by many films, examples include visual elements in the large-scale battle scenes of films such as The Matrix Revolutions (2003).

Additionally, one of the visual elements from Seven Samurai that have inspired a number of films is the use of rain to set the tone for action scenes. Examples of this include Blade Runner, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Matrix Revolutions.

5. Japanese Martial arts and clothes

A Guardian article states that “ Neo’s long cloak and his Karate expertise were also borrowed from Japan’s traditional martial arts scene”.

Most dominant style of fighting is Kung Fu, (actually wire-fu, a cinematic adaptation) but many other martial arts are used. These include: bojitsu (a martial art from Okinawa where a long pole is used to strike enemies and defend yourself), kenpo, (a variation of Karate) and Japanese jujitsu.

If you remember, Neo’s first practical test ever is a battle with Morpheus in a virtual fight. The costume created for it is a two-piece uniform based on the traditional Karate “Gi”.

Furthermore, costume designer Kym Barrett stated that to help Neo sartorially channel "The One" in his duster-length wool coat, she looked at a mix of cultures and religions around the globe, starting with Japanese Samurai.

6. Japanese scenes in Resurrection: cherry blossoms, tea house, bonsai

NO SPOILER in this post but if you watch the Japanese trailer here below you can see a Keanu Reeves bowing and saying few words in Japanese.

Moreover you can perceive a few scenes set recalling Japan: a bullet train with cherry blossom view and a beautiful tea house decorated with katana swords. I am pretty sure I even spotted a bonsai in another scene of the movie.

In addition, in the previous movies there is an early mentioned famous fighting scene in a dojo, which is a Japanese hall for intense training. I recently learned that nowadays this term has been borrowed by other fields, in particular a “Coding dōjō” is a space and associated technique for groups to practice computer programming skills, which perfectly fits with the movie topic.

Did you know all these curiosities? Are you aware of others?

Let me know!


Sources list:

"200 Things That Rocked Our World: Bullet Time". Empire. EMAP (200): 136. February 2006.

Sato, D. T.; Corbucci, H.; Bravo, M. V. (2008). Coding dojo: an environment for learning and sharing agile practices.


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