This Influential Anime Inspired The Final Alien Design In Nope

This post contains major spoilers for "Nope."

Now that many people have had the chance to see "Nope," it should probably come as no surprise that Jordan Peele is a fan of classic anime. After all, what other type of person would incorporate an "Akira" motorcycle slide reference into a live-action movie?

However, if you were watching "Nope" and felt like one aspect of the film felt pretty familiar, then your intuition was likely correct. When the alien nicknamed Jean Jacket reveals its true form towards the end of the movie, it is a frightening yet oddly beautiful sight that feels almost biblical. According to the production notes for the film, this final reveal owes itself to the 1995 mecha anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion," a series often attributed as one of the most influential of all time and one that helped to spur international interest in anime. 

The "hyper minimalism" and "biomechanical design flair" of the otherworldly entities known in "Evangelion" as "Angels" were directly cited as one of the influences behind Jean Jacket's design — and it is extremely obvious and welcome.

A brief explanation of Angels

Before diving any deeper, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the possibility that you may have never heard of "Evangelion" before or haven't had the chance to watch it yet. Don't worry — we won't go into any important plot details here, but having an elementary knowledge of what Angels are is mandatory to understand why its influence in "Nope" is so apparent.

Angels are otherworldly creatures that date back to the First Ancestral Race, created by an all-powerful entity named Adam. Varying wildly in appearance and ability, they come to Earth in order to try and reach the Tokyo-3 Geofront, or a subterranean cavity carved underneath the surface of the industrial city. If they achieve their goal, they can combine forces with the remnants of Adam to trigger the Third Impact, a devastating event that would wipe out all life on Earth as we know it. In order to prevent any of the 16 Angels from entering the Geosphere, NERV created the Evangelion project and the massive mechas that have become cultural icons.

The Angels that potentially inspired Jean Jacket

The initial saucer design of the alien seems to derive from a couple of different Angels, mainly the fifth Angel Ramiel and the sixteenth Angel Armisael. When appearing as a saucer, Jean Jacket is able to maintain a stationary form, not unlike Ramiel's seemingly unbreakable appearance as an octahedron. As for Armisael, not only does the appearance of the Angel seem similar to that of Peele's creation, but there is a slightly similar fusion effect between the two creatures; staring at Jean Jacket's eye for too long will cause the viewer to be consumed, not unlike how Armisael can infect a being with its mass. The flowing tendons of Jean Jacket also appear similar to those on the sixth Angel Gaghiel.

Despite these two Angels seemingly having some sort of influence on Jean Jacket, none are as obvious as the tenth Angel, referred to as Sahaquiel. Introduced in the series' twelfth episode, this Angel is one that can rapidly expand and has a very wide wingspan with an unblinking eye in the middle. It also has the ability to completely shut down technology in the areas it is hovering over. Sound familiar? Of course, there are some major design changes between Sahaquiel and Jean Jacket, but the influence that this specific Angel likely had is loud and clear.

God's in His Heaven; All's right with the world

There is no denying the massive impact "Evangelion" has had on popular culture. Thought-provoking and action-packed, it was one of the series that broke down the common western assumption that Japanese anime, and even animation in general, was mindless entertainment for children. Sure, other anime also had a part in the disintegration of that stereotype (the "Gundam" franchise famously has a lot to say about the military-industrial complex), but few have perfected the bait-and-switch between fun mecha action and psychological surrealism quite like "Evangelion."

In a way, this bait-and-switch is not that dissimilar from the one that Peele often uses in his work. While "Us" was marketed primarily as a movie about evil clones, it also had a lot to say about classism and inequality, and with "Nope," a movie about Hollywood's abuses in the name of spectacle, was marketed as an alien invasion. Those movies might not be as slow-burning as the original "Evangelion" series, but Peele's writing has never been that dissimilar from the anime that seemingly influenced him. It just required a project as grand as "Nope" to really recognize this. While we hope his next grand project isn't a full-on live-action "Evangelion" adaptation (seriously, it's perfect the way it is), we do hope that it has the ideas, scope, and ambition of one.

"Nope" is currently in theaters. "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is available to stream on Netflix.