“Creed III” director and star Michael B. Jordan made sure to inject anime influences into his new film as much as possible.
In a recent interview with Polygon, Jordan, 36, divulged just how much of “Creed III” was inspired by various anime he grew up watching.
The ninth installment of the “Rocky” franchise sees Jordan return to his role as heavyweight boxing champion Adonis Creed, the son of legendary athlete Apollo Creed. This time around, Adonis squares off against an old childhood friend who mysteriously shows up out of the blue: Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson, played by “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” star Jonathan Majors.
Jordan shared that as the two boxers fight it out, one particular action shot of them jabbing each other at the same time with a cross counterblow was influenced by the anime “Naruto” – specifically, episode 450 of “Naruto Shippuden.”
The fight between Creed and Damian had to be an even battle, and in an emotionally high place where these two men were both baring their souls to one another. The emotional level they were at, where they were coming at it from, the emotions between those two characters. That was the moment I leaned into with that scene from “Naruto.”
Jordan shared that he watches anime every day, so much so that certain action scenes are burned into his mind.
While developing the dynamic between Creed and Damian, Jordan also referenced the tried-and-true theme of heroes being challenged by a rival or friend.
They repackage these feelings and beats and emotions in different ways through different styles of animation. I’m watching “Blue Lock” right now — which is dope as f*ck — and that’s all about the ego of these characters, them developing their skills, and devouring different styles and defeating others in order to evolve and grow.
Jordan also shared that another “Naruto Shippuden” reference was “the biggest anime swing” in “Creed III.”
To convey Creed and Damian’s conflict, Jordan decided to use the idea of the void, where two characters are in a space outside of a physical realm talking to one another about their emotions or desires.
When Sasuke acknowledged that Kurama [the nine-tailed fox] was inside of Naruto and was like, “Oh, this is what you’ve got up inside of you? This is what’s inside of you? Nah, we ’bout to shut all that shit down.” They went to that space. I was like, “Oh man, that would be dope if I could figure out a way to get these two guys into a void,” and that’s where they were really having their final battle at. It wasn’t about nobody else — it wasn’t about anyone else watching the fight. It was about these two dudes who couldn’t emotionally say what they had to say with their words, so they had to physically get it out through fighting. So that idea evolved into revisiting their childhood trauma and making it more like performance art, even.
When asked why anime resonates with him so deeply, Jordan cited Goku’s resilience and a Saiyan’s ability to always come back stronger, even in death.
I think that resilience, that never-give-up attitude, is what I connect with, and I dig that. I think the unassuming nature of Goku, his disarming nature combined with his ability to be ready for whatever happens when his back is against the wall, is really inspiring. He always steps up to whatever challenge.
Jordan also points to the character of Naruto, who manages to keep his promises, avoids holding grudges and stays smiling despite being treated like an outcast.
The “Black Panther” star sees the character’s nine-tailed demon fox as a symbol of inner strength. He also considers Shikamaru and Rock Lee to be his other favorite “Naruto” characters — he is particularly moved by Lee’s character, who was born with limitations and is underestimated in reaching his goals to surpass his own limits and strength.
So for me, [Naruto] is about promises. The importance of keeping your promises, of being able to say, “I’m sorry,” the importance of the bonds and friendships you make when you’re coming up. I could go on in a lot of different ways, but I think those are the ones that really stick out to me the most, and why I think they resonate with a lot of other people as well, too.
Jordan notably made headlines following the release of Marvel’s “Black Panther” in February 2018 after fans discovered just how much of an anime lover he is.