Stuck Between Two Worlds Aug14

Stuck Between Two Worlds...

Anime is by no means a diverse art form. I sometimes remind myself of this, because when I watch anime, I see diversity. I see characters that share cultural similarities with me in stories taking place near the country where my mother was born. But I also recognize that anime characters are predominantly Japanese; it takes animators who are willing to challenge the norm, like Shinichiro Watanabe, the genius behind Cowboy Bebop, to explore race in media that typically shies away from it. Perhaps that’s why Kids on the Slope, Watanabe’s tale of jazz-loving teenagers in 1960’s Japan, is so easily able to demonstrate diversity sometimes comes with discomfort, a theme that resonates strongly with me. Kids on the Slope features the story of Kaoru, an honours student and gifted pianist, and his budding friendship with Sentaro, a known delinquent and skilled drummer. The two bond over Sentaro’s love of jazz music, and as Kaoru invests in his new friend’s life, he discovers that Sentaro is an incredibly kind and compassionate young man whose troubled life is rooted in mistreatment from his grandmother and adoptive father. The reason for his abuse? Sentaro is biracial, the son of a Japanese mother and a white American sailor. Being taunted as “slanty eyes” or asked if I understood gibberish intended to sound like Chinese drew attention to me. I don’t carve the same big, muscular figure that Sentaro does, nor was I a delinquent, but I am the son of a white military man and an Asian mother. I, too, had to navigate both worlds growing up. It was sometimes confusing. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my Asian features, which are more dominant than my Caucasian ones, and even though I adopted many practices...