NFTs are some of the biggest trends to grace the metaverse this year. While they’ve been around for years, the frenzy over online collectables took off when an artist, Beeple, made a historic sale—one digital artwork for $69 million. Soon after, the NFT phenomenon took off, reaching the far corners of the metaverse, empowering designers from the smallest villages in the corners of Nigeria. And Japan, which is largely credited for the anime and manga art style and various digital rendering and animation techniques, has influenced many artists in the NFT space. Have a look below at our favourite NFT crypto art inspired by Japan.
What is an NFT?
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are one-of-a-kind digital assets minted on blockchain technology. It’s the underlying technology that supports peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, so these industries go hand-in-hand. Ethereum is one of the most prominent players in this space, having introduced the ERC-721 token standard for NFTs in 2017. But over the years, other blockchains, including Cardano and the Binance Smart Chain, have also become capable of minting more sustainable NFTs.
The scope of NFTs is extremely large. They can be anything from crypto art, video clips, sound, and even memes (the infamous Nyan Cat meme sold for $590,000) – as long as they live online and are minted through blockchain. While this process may sound technically advanced, the barrier of entry is a lot lower than it sounds.
Creating an NFT
In fact, anyone can create an NFT just by owning a crypto wallet, some coins, and uploading a listing to an NFT marketplace. Programming is optional and is an extra step that only complex NFT releases go through.
The small barrier of entry is precisely why NFT marketplaces, such as OpenSea and Rarible, welcome thousands of new listings every day. Artists post anything from gum-chewing zombies to random pixel gifs. Even avatar community Habbo has an entire collection of avatar NFTs decked in some of the platform’s rarest fits. It’s a movement that keeps on growing and drawing people in.
The only caveat to becoming the next NFT wonder is that selling one isn’t free. To post on any marketplace, you need to pay a gas fee, which is another word for a processing fee to mint the NFT on a blockchain. Most marketplaces are based on Ethereum, which means that the gas fee is astronomically high. When the network is congested, this value increases—that can mean only getting a small fraction of the listing in profit or losing money in the transaction. It’s a wild world that requires a bit of estimating and cryptocurrency familiarity to get used to—but plenty of artists are getting there.
Of all the artists that have explored the NFT space, Beeple is perhaps the most well-known name in the industry. If his $69 million digital NFT auction sale isn’t enough of a testament to his overwhelming success, then perhaps knowing that Christie’s—the infamous fine arts auction house that’s responsible for some of the world’s most historical art sales—was on board the whole thing may change an opinion or two.
Mike Winkelmann is the mastermind behind Beeple and his artistic glory. And before his claim to fame in the NFT sphere, he was a digital artist who’s landed his fair share of features for artwork that “reflect today’s society,” some of which share a nod to Japanese culture. Beepl’s crypto art inspired by Japan is reminiscent of the infamous Gundam models. For example, one of his latest pieces, GUN METAL, which was shared on the Beeple Twitter and Beeple Instagram.
Beyond that, Beeple is known for making digital renders out of existing photos and adding unique elements to turn them into fantastic pieces that critique politics and everyday life—often using influential people as subjects for his creations.
Before Beeple was the light of inspiration among NFT artists and artists-to-be, he had already amassed a cult following on social media for his iconic artwork, so his stairway to worldwide fame was not an overnight success story. However, his popularity started to take an upward turn at the end of 2020 when he made a $66,000 NFT sale (the same piece was later resold for $6.6 million), and the rest is history.
There are millions of possibilities in the world of NFTs, and artists can—quite literally—make millions of variations of a single base to create an entire collection. NFT collections are some of the hottest trends on the market, sprouting beloved drops such as the Pudgy Penguins and Bored Ape Yacht Club.
The 0N1 Force’s 7,777-character army stands out in the world of NFT collections because of its gorgeous artwork, characterized by effortless thin lines, anime-inspired features, and accessories that give a mecha Tokyo feel (think SSSS.Dynazenon). But most of all, highly developed storytelling and world-building have brought 0N1’s characters to life. The developers introduced conflict and clans that live within the Ethereal Enclave, allowing the Discord community to spiral into a roleplaying frenzy—and collectors to seek clan-specific traits. As a result, the 0N1 Force is a compelling collection that brings a new level of interaction to a community of imaginative individuals.
From 0N1 Force and beyond, NFT collections have one thing in common: their thousands of artworks were randomly generated through a custom program. First, artists draw a roster of traits for each layer in the subject. That could include hair, eyes, accessories, clothing, colours, and more. A programmer then codes a smart contract that would randomly generate NFTs based on the existing traits. The result is thousands of unique NFTs, ready to put up for sale in marketplaces.
There’s a second layer of complexity that makes certain traits and combinations more desirable than others. The program isn’t coded to release an equal number of each characteristic, which means some traits inevitably become rarer. Moreover, each character’s traits and corresponding rarities are published in the NFT listing, so a character with multiple rare traits (under 1% rarity) is always valued higher than one with fairly common traits (20% rarity, for example).
Wagmi-san is a master craftsman from the fantastical world of New Tokyo. He creates NFTs in the form of digital accessories—particularly high-top sneakers and, more recently, backpacks. His shop, the rarely-open 10KTF, is spicing up the NFT landscape by offering derivatives, allowing existing owners of prominent collections (such as Pudgy Penguins and Bored Apes Yacht Club) to mint completely new NFTs.
Derivatives are changing the NFT game by offering boundless opportunities for artists and existing asset owners alike. Unlike traditional NFTs, where owning enough Ether to make a purchase and paying the gas fee is enough, you need to own the parent NFT to mint a derivative. For instance, if you own the BAYC #5733, then you can head over to 10KTF (when you catch it open), pay a fee, and mint a pair of sneakers in the same design. You keep both assets!
Derivatives offer a new incentive to the market. They give collectors a reason to purchase the parent asset to mint the derivative work—whatever it may be. And while this innovation is relatively new to the market, it’s expected to become mainstream as collections continue to explode in popularity.
Unsurprisingly, Takashi Murakami is creating some of our fav crypto Art inspired by Japan.
Takashi Murakami is one of the 21st century’s most well-known contemporary artists, having introduced the Superflat art style that brings together otherworldly, psychedelic elements, traditional Japanese art, and anime and manga influence. Despite being a widely renowned artist in the gallery sphere, he’s best known for his iconic signature flowers, which have graced Louis Vuitton handbags and high-end streetwear—turning them into some of the most recognizable prints of the decade.
Murakami’s entry into the NFT sphere came fairly recently when he partnered up with video game designer Yoshihisa Hashimoto (known for working on Sonic and Square Enix releases) to create a 108-set of his signature flowers. Needless to say, the collection has amassed astronomical success—but Murakami has since announced his pull out of the NFT limelight in his Instagram account, takashipom, to better the conditions and security of his releases.
Japanese artist Haroshi is known for repurposing recycled skateboards and turning them into stunning installations and contemporary pieces. His entry into the blockchain-powered art world was spearheaded by his collection RECYCLED PIXELS, exhibited through LGND.art. Each with multiple editions, the three-piece drop features some of Haroshi’s most iconic works—Middle Finger, Skull, and Free Hydrant—now reimagined as NFTs in the metaverse.
Japan’s Gundam phenomenon has far-reaching influences, inspiring some of the most prolific NFT artists on the market. In particular, this year’s most anticipated launch is MekaVerse, the unapologetically Gundam-inspired drop that just arrived in early October. Unlike most collections made of 2D flats or pixels, this set of 8,888 NFTs are made with highly detailed, 3D “mekas,” conveniently grouped into four factions to keep the community’s creative juices flowing. With nearly 300,000 Discord members, developing the Meka multiverse will be a breeze.
The MekaVerse roadmap has hinted at more exciting things to look forward to in the future. In particular, the team behind the project has been thinking about a physical drop—possibly one that Gundam model fans and collectors won’t miss out on.
The Kawaii Creatures are 8-bit gifs that feature whimsical creatures from AGEPOYO—a world that has become difficult to live in after a meteor drastically changed its climate conditions. So, on a quest to find a new home, the Kawaii Creatures ventured into the earth, a world that resembles the pre-meteorite AGEPOYO.
This NFT series was created by a Japanese artist, and its sole community base is the Twitter account @CreaturesKawaii. Unlike collections, where every NFT is derived from the same base material, the Kawaii Creatures are individually drawn and animated pixels reminiscent of Kirby and Pokemon’s youth. Despite being released by a Japanese artist, these NFTs have taken to OpenSea to build their home base, attracting global collectors to cop the fun pixels.
Digital illustrator Eito Asano is one of many that have recently delved into the metaverse by offering NFT drops inspired by Japanese culture. His work, which brings the world of yokai and traditional Ukiyo-e style to the future through animations and digital art, is making waves on Foundation, where they have been put up for listing. The otherworldly pieces bring a polished appeal to the table, attracting collectors of pretty pieces amid a sea of NFTs minted by amateur artists.
Japan’s voice in the art world is bringing forth an era of Japanese-inspired NFTs to the metaverse—and it’s only just beginning.