Domee Shi sums up her vision for Turning Red, Pixar’s latest coming-of-age fantasy comedy, as “Asian Tween Fever Dream” — an aesthetic and energy that’s equal parts bright, spunky, dorky, and bubbly. Shi, who made her debut with the acclaimed 2018 short film Bao, drew on all her experiences and passions in crafting the story of 13-year-old Meilin “Mei” Lee’s unconventional adolescence. In particular, the influences of anime are on full display throughout the film, from Turning Red’s soft color palette and energetic tone to Mei’s frequent transformation into a giant red panda every time she gets too stressed or excited.
Speaking with Polygon, Shi offered up a list of some of her favorite anime that she looked to for inspiration while creating Turning Red.
It’s no surprise that Shi cites Sailor Moon as one of the key inspirations behind Turning Red’s art style. Naoko Takeuchi’s 1991 manga of schoolgirl-turned-superpowered heroine Usagi Tsukino has been adapted into two animated series, the former of which is credited as one of the key titles responsible for introducing an entire generation of anime viewers to the “Magical Girl” genre of anime.
“We were really inspired by the pastels and the dreaminess of the night time, of the nightscapes,” Shi explains, citing the 1992 series’ soft color palette as an influence on the overall look and feel of the film.
Sailor Moon is available to stream on Hulu.
Ranma ½, based on Rumiko Takahashi’s martial arts adventure manga, follows the misadventures of a teenage martial artist who, following a mishap during a training journey, is cursed to transform into a girl every time she’s splashed with cold water, with the opposite effect after being splashed with warm water. Naturally, this predicament leads to a whole slew of hilarious shenanigans.
Aside from being the anime rom-com equivalent of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Ranma ½ was a big influence during the production of Turning Red. “Ranma ½ is another anime that we were inspired by, especially when Mei transformed, she poofs into a giant pink cloud. We kind of borrowed that from a lot of anime that dealt with transformation. And that whole device of a girl transforming into an animal, I feel like I see that a lot in anime.”
Natsuki Takaya’s slice-of-life rom-com Fruits Basket is a modern classic of shojo manga, inspiring two beloved anime adaptations in 2001 and 2019, the latter of which made our list of the best anime of the year (three years in a row!). The series follows Tohru Honda, an orphaned high school girl who befriends the many members of the Sohma family. The clan is possessed by the 13 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, who transform into their animal counterpart whenever weakened, stressed, or embraced by a member of the opposite sex.
It’s not surprising that Shi credits Fruits Basket as an inspiration for Turning Red, what with its shared themes of adolescence and transformation, a vibrant color palette, and its celebrated status as a popular gateway introduction to the world of female-centric anime and manga.
Aside from Ranma ½, Rumiko Takahashi’s fantasy romance adventure series Inuyasha was another prominent influence in the making of Turning Red. Both the manga and its 2000 anime adaptation follow the story of Kagome Higurashi, a middle school girl in modern-day Tokyo who is magically transported to the Sengoku period after falling down the well in her family’s shrine. After freeing the half-dog demon, half-human Inuyasha from his imprisonment, Kagome sets out on a journey to recover the shards of a powerful artifact known as the Shikon Jewel before they fall into the hands of a nefarious demon known as Naraku.
A popular mainstay when it first aired in the West on Adult Swim back in 2002, Takahashi’s fantasy epic also features elaborate transformations and strong female characters in addition to elaborate storytelling and fierce action.