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Why isn’t there more diversity in Anime?

Update:  for everyone that screamed that Japan isnt looking to diversify themselves,may want to look at this .

 

In some cases, maybe I am the wrong person to write this. Maybe it’s because, it’s been many years since I have been vested in any anime series or maybe, it’s because anime is no longer an interest of mine. However, when I do take a look every once in a while, I do STILL SEE  that people of color (as they exist on earth, not anyone who is green, blue, purple etc.) still lack any starring roles in anime. This popped in my mind as I saw this article pop up asking “If I don’t draw Black characters, who will?” and it made wonder, why aren’t there more people of color in anime?  Also it made me wonder, how is something that seriously under-represents us is liked by so many of us?

What’s really disconcerting with these questions is that within Western comics communities, many debates continue to rage around characters of color like Sam Wilson becoming Captain America, Wally West Heimdall and Johnny Storm going from predominantly Caucasian characters to people of color in both comics and movies, and then of course Miles Morales co-existing with Peter Parker.  But at least there are plenty characters which reflect the Western culture audience although there is still a great need for more diversity not just within the pages of comics but in the creation process as well.

But where are they in anime and why aren’t there more LEADING characters?   Mind you, we DO appear and most often as a supporting character.  I think the first time I remember being exposed to such a thing, (and crazily enough it really didn’t even register then because I was young at the time) was Robotech’s Claudia Grant and she was very well written.   Even after that, over the years, the only time I recall ever seeing a lead role of any character of color was Afro Samurai. Even then, he was created because of a love of hip hop and African American culture with that imprinted throughout the series.  As a fan, one should ask why aren’t there more roles featuring people of color?

This question is still a head scratcher for me because as much as manga and anime straddles between being its own niche and mainstream culture, it’s very noticeable that we are underrepresented in their media yet and still, if you to any anime con, you see many men and women from very diverse backgrounds who show their love through cosplay. And that’s where things get very interesting. It does so because even though in many circles one would think that the anime and manga crowd is move accepting, many times online we see that they are not.   If you look at many of the cosplay videos that are posted after cons, very rarely do you see anyone of color in them regardless of how well made their cosplay is.   In other circles, there have been people who bash cosplayers simply because they were non-white and in some cases, non-Asian portraying an anime character.

Then, there is the issue that is very complex even to me and that’s understanding how Japanese people see themselves, how homogeneous as community they are and how conditioned they are when it comes to creating their characters.  Western imperialism and standards of what is considered to be ‘beautiful’ may highly be to blame.  It runs deep not just within their culture but most other cultures as well.   It’s just sad that its reflection comes out  in their animated shows which intentionally or unintentionally can lead to a racial divide.  It’s an issue that very few are willing to understand and address.

If one looks at how characters are drawn, it’s obvious to see that they don’t identify with typical Japanese people. Even if a character is identified as Asian, they very rarely look like their real life counterpart. So, it makes me wonder how they see themselves in relation to the rest of the world thus it limits them for allowing characters of color to be the lead in other series outside of something inspired by American hip hop.

My belief is that if you as a person of color is planning to get invested into anime and manga, do it with the open mind that you will see even less of a representation of yourself that even in the pages of Spider-man, The Avengers, or even the Justice League. We are talking about a population of people who very rarely see others outside of their insular society that look and act different than themselves, yet somehow we show up in their media.  It’s also a society that has no probalem appropiating other cultural pop culture norms and adapt them for public consumption.  Be prepared that you may never see yourself in Attack on Titan and if you do, you will be lucky if your character is a background character. Even though many Western media outlets are slowly but surely making moves to bring more diversity to leads that represent all who consume it, anime and manga may take less time to do so because as stated before its due to a homgenous culture. That is why there is hardly any diversity in anime.   This may be one of those times that if we hope to see that change, any mind out there who is brilliant with storytelling and has a capable artist to do it, will have to do it themselves and not wait for someone else to do it. If you look at what Dwayne McDuffie did years ago, then there is nothing stopping an enterprising team of Black, Latino, Asian, or where you may be from, from opening up an anime studio outside of Japan and create something that best reflects the audience of readers and viewers.

About Armand (1269 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill

10 Comments on Why isn’t there more diversity in Anime?

  1. Great Question: Why isn’t there more diversity in Anime?

    Answer: http://www.okayafrica.com/news/red-origins-african-magical-realism-animated-series/

    Great Quote: “there is nothing stopping an enterprising team of Black, Latino, Asian, or where you may be from, from opening up an anime studio that best reflects the audience of readers and viewers.”

    Witness: https://www.facebook.com/redoriginsshow/

    Like

  2. Because Japan is filled with Japanese and Asians. There are hardly any whites or blacks. The number is minuscule. Of course there is no diversity in anime, it would make no sense if there was.

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  3. But you did read in the above article that its realized thst Japan is mostly a homgenized society. However they have nomproblem appropiating other cultures into thier society.

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  4. Japanese are an incredibly inclusive nation, 95% of Japanese people never even leave the town they were born in, let alone travel to other countries. So all they have to go off other nations/races are stereotypes.

    Black people probably have it worse in stereotypes as some of them still even believe 150 year old tropes, like that most black people are cannibals Etc.. and have you played Resident Evil 5? But it’s really down to them being naive, rather than any purposeful racism.

    Also, their business ethic is always “us first, fuck the rest of the world”. so they never bother gauging the opinion of foreigners. One of the reasons why they’ve fallen so far in global technology since the 80s.

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  5. I am having a hard time wondering why this article is even written. Anime is Japanese, and made in Japan, where there are pretty much only Japanese people. Having lived there, I am aware that foreigners exist, but would you honestly expect this would lead to inclusion in their “by us for us” media? Every time I see this it is only from an American perspective and expecting them to do what an American would do, not that American is the paragon of diversity in media.

    Also, the typical, Japanese draw their character as white is equally asinine and American. You expect them to draw themselves the way Japanese were drawn in old Popeye cartoons?! Simple test. If you draw a stick figure and show it to a Japanese person, do you think they imagine it as a white man?

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  6. I can tell you why there is very little diversity in anime: Japan doesn’t give a fuck about this overly contrarian PC bullshit like what’s spouted in this article. They don’t care and they shouldn’t care. The author is a whiner, and should kindly STFU about another culture before expecting an entire country to cow tow to their beliefs. FUCK YOU for expecting it!
    🙂

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  7. Kinda same argument about why hollywood white washes or stigmatize all the asian characters. Look what they did to Avatar: TLA or all the joke characters asians get singled into. You don’t see asians being put into certain starring role that often because western society doesn’t see it as attractive either for sales or for their own personal taste. Western media might be slowly increasing diversity, but they’re still lacking in a number of ways. I’m still waiting for an asian dude who isn’t a martial artist expert or super nerd to show up on the silver screen and win the love interest. It’s kinda the same thing with eastern media and black people.

    On a side note, here’s a recent blog about the asian jokes made during the oscars: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2016/02/on-hollywoods-biggest-night-asians-are.html

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  8. Giving a shit about diversity is, for the most part, a uniquely American thing, as we have sizable populations of multiple races, and perhaps more importantly the non-white ones (and some of the white ones too, really) have various histories of being treated unfairly, so making sure the characters in our movies/games/etc. have the ethnic diversity of our actual culture is something we have to be conscious of. Japan (and in fact, *most* countries outside of North America- I’m looking at you, Witcher 3 controversy) is 95-99% one race, so ethnic diversity in the name of fairness to the population consuming the work isn’t a thing they really think about, because they don’t really have to.

    I mean, really- why does a show or game produced by Japanese people for a Japanese audience have an obligation to appeal to the cultural demands of American audiences? I mean if they choose to that’s fine, but treating them the same when they don’t do it as you would an American-produced work is kind of ridiculous.

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