Over the years, Michael B. Jordan has made no secret of his love for anime — from watching classics like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z to voicing the lead of the Gundam-inspired series Gen:Lock.
Now, having starred in and made his directorial debut in Creed III, Michael recently revealed to Polygon just how anime inspired his directing choices.
"I watch anime every day," Michael said. "It's like these images are burned into my head. So when I was in preproduction and putting together the fight choreography, it was just second nature to me to reach for that."
Creed III focuses on the relationship between Adonis Creed (played by Michael) and his childhood friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian Anderson (played by Jonathan Majors), who was recently released from prison. As the two fight each other for the undisputed heavyweight championship, their relationship mirrors the childhood-friends-turned-rivals dynamic explored in most shonen anime.
Given that, Michael explained that he pulled from the relationships between Ed and Alphonse in Fullmetal Alchemist, Goku and Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, and Bakugo and Midoriya in My Hero Academia to help define the dynamic between Adonis and Damian.
However, he was most inspired by the brotherly bond between Naruto and Sasuke in Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden, especially when directing the fight between Adonis and Damian.
In fact, while doing press for the movie, Michael revealed that there's a cross-counter punch between Adonis and Damian that he directly took from Naruto: Shippuden (episode 450, to be exact).
"That punch is Naruto and Sasuke," he told Polygon. "For me, [the Creed III scene] was about the relationship between two brothers, so the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke was where the inspiration for that relationship kind of stemmed from."
But the "biggest anime swing" Michael said he took in the movie? The Void scene. During Adonis and Damian's championship fight at a sold-out Dodger Stadium, the scene suddenly shifts to show the two boxers in a hazy dream world. As their audience disappears from the screen, Adonis and Damian are isolated in a void while they continue to brawl, highlighting their emotionality and mentality.
Michael explained that, in anime, when two main characters finally battle, they typically go to "a quiet place" and calmly talk about how they feel while simultaneously fighting. "It's just about these two guys and nobody else, and the Void is a way that idea is communicated through anime," he said.
He even specifically referenced a Naruto: Shippuden scene in which Sasuke speaks to Kurama inside of Naruto and acknowledges the nine-tailed beast sealed within. The choice to set a scene in an isolated space emphasizes that the fight between two characters isn't about spectatorship. Rather, it's about physically communicating emotions that can't be expressed verbally. "That idea evolved into revisiting their childhood trauma and making it more like performance art," Michael said.
Even if you've never watched anime and won't catch the references in Creed III, Michael threw in some obvious Easter eggs during flashback scenes by placing anime memorabilia in Adonis's childhood bedroom, including a Naruto banner, a Gunpla (aka a Gundam plastic model), and a Robotech poster, to name a few.
"When you're watching anime, there's all these similar tones, themes, and feelings between them all that, in a sense, boil down to when a hero is challenged, and they usually have a best friend or rival that’s the one challenging them in a lot of ways," Michael said. "There [are] a lot of different ways anime iterates on these themes and feelings."