Disclaimer: I am not telling anyone to boycott anime as a whole! I am simply just addressing anime?s history of poor representation of Black people & how anti-Blackness is a global issue that is a fight we must keep fighting. I have been a fan of anime since I was a small child. My dad even told me he had me watching Lupin The 3rd as a baby.
What is anime?
A style of Japanese film & television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children.
Anime itself is not a monolith. Anime itself is its own industry. Anime has a large variety of genres to choose from. Many can be chosen based on your own personal interests & what you?re into as an individual.
When most people in today?s society think of anime they probably think of Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Inuyasha, & several others. Those are just really popular mainstream anime that so many people across the world enjoyed & even still enjoy today.
Anime characters are known for their uniqueness & the creativity that is displayed. Ranging from their hair color to the style of attire & even their facial features. Anime characters have always stood out in the entertainment world. They?re always recognizable. Growing up I can admit I did not see many anime characters that looked like me. When I did see actual ?Black? or ?Black looking? characters they were always different. But not different in a good way. Different where the characters look like they belong on a Minstrel Show.
Here are a few examples:
It?s characters like the ones above that display anti-Blackness & further the idea that Black people as a whole are less than human beings. Especially when the representation of Black people treats them as if they?re animals. It?s because they emulate Minstrel Show-like caricatures. These caricatures were created during & after slavery. It was a way to remind Black people of how inferior they are. The Minstrel Show itself was a popular art form in America. Minstrel shows emerged as brief burlesques &comic entr?actes in the early 1830s in the Northeastern states. They were developed into full fledged form in the next decade. By 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national artform, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience.
Minstrel Shows were the epitome of promoting racism. Minstrel Shows were everywhere in America. It was another way of fueling already stereotypes against Black people that were put in place to ruin our self esteem & to teach us to hate ourselves & each other.
Blackface itself is not an uncommon practice in other cultures. In fact, blackface has been practiced & is still practiced across the globe today. Including in parts of Asia. Blackface & anti-Blackness itself is not just a problem in America. It is the issue of anti-Blackness itself. Anti-Blackness is a global issue.
As you can see those anime creators definitely got their inspiration of Black people from Minstrel Show-like caricatures. I feel it would be disingenuous to say otherwise. Nobody just runs with harmful stereotypes & use them to represent a certain group of people without their intentions being meant to harm others. Certain things are harmful & anti-Blackness is a global issue that many non Black communities often perpetuate. This isn?t saying that I hate anime. I just believe it is important to recognize certain things apart of the past to make sure that we never repeat. I recently rewatched a childhood favorite anime called ?Super Gals? & I did not notice how the some of the ?gyaru style? girls in the anime obviously wore blackface & had the typical oversized Minstrel Show-like lips. It May have been the ?style?. But I just want to say that every form of anti-Blackness/racism is not blatant. Racism can be subtle.
Just like this is:
At the time I did not notice this as a child because I didn?t know any better. & I get they?re just characters in a fiction anime show. But these images/caricatures did not emerge in a vacuum. It is learned ideas. Anti-Blackness is learned behavior. Anti-Blackness is the idea that anything associated with Black people (our complexions, facial features, hair types, our neighborhoods, our culture, etc) are bad things. Any person can be guilty of perpetuating Anti-Blackness.
Jynx, should not have even been a thing in the series of Pokmon. Like EVER! Do I even need to go into detail about why it was unacceptable? Because umm..
Jynx complexion has been changed. But her lips could use a change as well. That?s just me, though!
The Gym Leader of Nacrene City in Pokmon Black & White, Lenora was depicted as a mammy. From her personality & to her wearing stereotypical mammy attire. She was later changed in the English Dub for obvious reasons.
I feel like certain things should just not happen out of respect for different groups of people. Being a decent person is not hard. Respecting people is not hard. Respecting people regardless of their complexion, hair type, body type, or facial features is not hard. I also feel it is okay to acknowledge when some of our favorite anime shows are wrong. Whether it is Pokmon or Dragon Ball, they all have their flaws.
Lately, I have definitely seen a change in representation of Black people for the better. For example? We have great anime like Michiko To Hatchin that respectfully depicted Black people in a non offensive manner. The representation on Michiko To Hatchin has always impressed me. So many beautiful Black characters. Not just being treated as sideline characters or ?sidekicks?. The main character is actually a Black woman. Michiko ALWAYS served the best looks & stayed in really fashionable jewelry!
As for the other characters? Nothing but excellence!
As you can see anime has definitely came a very long way. It?s obvious our voices matter just as much as our lives do! We have to always demand what we want to see or create our own content. I?m actually very glad to see how far along we?ve came.
& Of course we still have a long way to go. But I am liking the way things are looking as of lately!