This week kicked off with the launch of another returning anime collab in Fortnite. The latest addition rings the bell for another round with the anime adaptation of Kohei Horikoshi’s smash hit manga My Hero Academia. This time players can deck themselves out like Shoto Todoroki, Eijiro Kirishima, and Mina Ashido, battling with countless other wisps of pop culture ephemera within an ever-shifting battlefield. It’s a simple opportunity to play around with a set of fan favorites, and it’s just the latest example of a continuing trend in Fortnite that has resulted in standout visuals and some truly impressive feats of licensing wizardry.
No matter what the series may be, the fact that multiple anime titles have coexisted in Fortnite is a pretty big deal. It would be one thing if we had but a fleeting chance to flirt with a few Plus Ultra skins. The fact that items you earn or buy in the shop are yours to keep means we’ve been treated to heretofore unheard-of levels of worlds colliding. Sure, there may be plenty of mobile games out there with crossover campaigns that pop up seasonally and occasionally intermingle. There’s nothing out there on the scale of what Fortnite has been doing.
Like many fledgling obsessions, Fortnite started its anime collaborations with Naruto. Masashi Kishimoto’s series provided an immediately recognizable hook for Epic’s battle royale game. With Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi in the mix along with some of the anime’s iconic accoutrements, players were quick to share improbable GIFs and videos. Manga publisher Shueisha—the giant behind Shonen Jump and the majority of the titles teaming with Fortnite—and anime studio Pierrot likely wouldn’t consider this madness “officially sanctioned.” (We don’t talk about canon in the same sentence as Naruto.) Who’s to stop the rest of us from having some fun, though? After Naruto in 2021, Dragon Ball and My Hero Academia swiftly followed in 2022. There were some awkward moments, including but not limited to some of the DBZ character models, but it was pretty clear this was to become a regular occurrence.
Putting the most popular anime of the past three decades into one of the most popular games in the world seems like a no-brainer. You wouldn’t have asked your cousin why he was always wearing a Dragon Ball Z club shirt in the late ’90s. But there’s more to the bigger picture here, and it goes beyond just capitalizing on hot trends and stacking them with other trends like a giant Matryoshka doll of media. The fact that these series are all co-mingling in a game with guns and dancing and creation and destruction isn’t just novel, it’s a minor miracle.
See it to believe it
It’s not just the fact that Fortnite is massive and anime is popular. Anime rights holders are notoriously protective of their properties. Yet here we have Vegeta doing the Carlton Dance—sorry, “Fresh”—while Rick shoots Orochimaru in the face from point-blank range. Anime has even managed to shape the larger game itself in some interesting ways. Take the launch of the Attack on Titan collaboration, for instance. It brought with it the ability to utilize the series’ iconic ODM Gear and Thunder Spears, letting players zip around the map with explosive results.
Prior to the return of My Hero Academia, the latest anime to join the Fortnite fray was Jujutsu Kaisen. The wildly popular series is based on the Shonen Jump manga by Gege Akutami. The second season of the anime is now airing, so the Break the Curse collab was well-timed. As cool as it is to see the first-year Jujutsu High students in a different context, it’s also difficult to imagine just how complex the web of approvals must have been to make it all happen. Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the current heavy hitters, and its producer, TOHO Animation, knows this well. As such, it’s a very protected property and not something that would usually dance so casually with as chaotic a partner as Fortnite.
So far, most of the anime licensed for Fortnite have been based on Shueisha properties. Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, My Hero Academia, and Jujutsu Kaisen all hail from the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. The anime themselves have their own production committees and animation studios behind them, too. Naruto is a Studio Pierrot production, while Jujutsu Kaisen is animated by MAPPA and produced by TOHO Animation. The Dragon Ball Z anime soars in from another one of the majors, Toei Animation, for which the series continues to be an immense success. Heck, players were even able to watch episodes of Dragon Ball Super on Fortnite‘s Dragon Ball Island! Attack on Titan, on the other hand, comes from Kodansha and has been animated by both WIT Studio (seasons 1-3) and MAPPA (the extensive Final Season).
Two great tastes
Whether or not you think Fortnite is a “great taste” is up to you, but the audiences for both Epic Games’ battle royale monster and anime as a whole are massive. As chaotic as your average match tends to be, maybe that’s what makes it the perfect fit for anime and those invested in it. The more you can control your property, the more likely you are to restrict its use. When you know from the outset that you can’t stop people from making Eren Jaeger dance like a dork alongside Satoru Gojo, well, what can you do? You embrace the chaos and concede that this, and this alone, will be your multiverse playground.
From what we’ve seen so far, pretty much anything popular seems to be fair game when it comes to anime and Fortnite. While there hasn’t been a One Piece collaboration yet, an official Fortnite map recently launched to celebrate the debut of the live-action Netflix series. It’s far from what fans would expect from an actual crossover, but perhaps the real deal is somewhere on the horizon. For now, anime fans will just have to keep stockpiling skins for their next improbable showdown.