Anime Article

Minority Representation In Anime

Alright, so this will be another discussion/opinion piece, but it is something that I sincerely have expressed interest in talking about. When we think of anime characters from the stand point of race, what usually comes to mind? Are they Chinese, Japanese, American, African or Russian? If asked about skin color I am sure most would argue caucasian or asian at the very least, but what about other races? Very few anime actually have shown individuals of color and race, with anime like Durarara!!! being an exception; although still not quite there yet. So the question that I present to you, the reader, is how do you view your characters in anime?

This was a question I was asked a while back in college during a small meeting of our universities anime club. This was something I sadly never though about. Naturally most answered that they perceived the characters as Japanese due to the circumstances of anime being a Japanese product. But what of anime like Nisekoi or Durarara!!! where your cast of characters is a bit more diverse than your average anime. Sure we see Simon from DRRR!!! as African in heritage and yet he speaks with a Russian-Japanese accent. So do we view him as Japanese or Russian?

This is certainly a hard topic to tackle in any situation as what we perceive 2D characters by is often influenced by ourselves. Our day to day happenings and situations bleed very much into our perception of anime and gaming as we begin to look at characters through a lens all our own. I personally have not ever seen an anime character as caucasian or asian… They are just who they are. Sure when you stop to consider things you understand that the Asian and Caucasian demographic does get much more representation in anime. What about the minority representation? You really have to dig for that as a few of the anime that I have seen with minority representation would boil down to just… Durarara!!!, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Bleach, Afro Samurai, Soul Eater, Tamako Market & Revolutionary Girl Utena.

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Compare those to what I have seen and you start to see a lacking diversity. Now before we go off to petition anime creators we have to understand that this medium is made in a country where the primary demographic is an Asian one; which is totally understandable. Bleach is honestly one of the few anime that has a lot of black characters and it really makes the anime shine. It’s roster of character diversity is far from being all encompassing, but it does a pretty superb job at it. I personally would love to have an all encompassing anime that has characters from every single race and more.

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Choi is the first character I have seen of Polynesian decent. From Tamako Market.

This could also stem into nationality representation, but maybe that will be for another time perhaps. Please feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section down below. Having chatted with my old anime club friends and new friends as of late I felt this would be an interesting topic point and discussion point for you all. Thank you Shay for encouraging me to post a topic like this. Feel free to check our her YouTube Channel for random talks about anime, life and fidget spinners!


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5 comments

  1. An interesting point Kausus. I just wonder if minority representation is viewed with the same mindset that non-minority race is approached.

    That mindset, mukokuseki, (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Mukokuseki) generally assigns “non-race” to the character in order to promote other characteristics such as recognition and marketability. You are probably familiar with the term, but the tl;dr for those of your readers who may not be is: A character’s design is usually not a representation of their race. Unless specifically stated otherwise, characters can generally be assumed to be of homogeneous race (often the same race as the intended audience).

    Your choice to use Soul Eater as an example of representation in your article is interesting. The characters of Soul Eater are likely of international origin. Tsubaki is one of the few with a traditional Japanese name. Evans, Elizabeth and Patty, and even Maka are non names of Asian origin. Still, the race of the characters is never explored, and their cultural backgrounds don’t seem to play a part in their actions.

    Kilik looks black, from the color of his skin to the physics of his hair (Same with Tousen from Bleach). He very well could be black but we are never told one way or another, and so the motivations behind designing his character that way are ambiguous.

    This can be extended to any number of the shows you pointed out. When you look at a show like Black Lagoon though, the race and sometimes nationality of the characters is clearly spelled out and has context within the series. Dutch is black. Benny is a Jewish American. They look the part, but Rock (Japanese) and Revy (Chinese) don’t have designs that reflect their genetic racial makeup. For those two, arguably the stars of the show, it looks to be a case of mukokuseki.

    To reach a point in all this, it seems that in cases where race does not play a factor in the story the decision to paint a character with light or dark skin is entirely arbitrary. It could be that some writers have race representation in mind, but it seems the majority of writers simply aren’t thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome response! : D This isn’t a topic that I am much versed on. It was something that I wanted to bring back from my college days and throw it out into the wider WP community. Plus it was something that I have been fiddling on posting as it is not something I’ve tried before. This comment has been immensely helpful and I’ll be using this input for further discussion topics in the future. ^w^v Totally keeping that URL link in a favorites folder.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a person who’s in a “racial minority” I really never cared too much about the so called lack of diversity in anime mainly because it doesn’t effect me and Japan’s population is mostly Japanese by a landslide so it makes sense for most of the characters to be Japanese or asian at least. Even when I ask others who are a “racial minority” they don’t even seem to care, they think it’s great that minority characters exist but they see a lack of characters as anything major.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anime like Bleach and Durarara do make the series interesting when more diverse characters are part of the story. You can like Yuri on Ice that characters like Russian or other nationality are also important to the series. I know that the anime I seen before is Michiko and Hatchin where the anime is not even in Japan and they dwell in Brazil but the character’s names are Asian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oddly enough I view them all as American when I’m watching anime. I dunno, they don’t really look asian to me despite that likely being their real nationality. It depends on the show of course as something seinen typically has more realistic designs which will then look asian. However something like Pokemon, Ash Ketchum totally looks American to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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