Anime’s Racial Representation Aug18


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Anime’s Racial Representation

Racial representation is a very hot subject in Western media. There has been many an uproar about Americans and other western countries misrepresenting ethnicity by whitewashing characters or stereotyping. On the flip side, Eastern media, particularly Japanese, sometimes portrays race in unusual ways. The infamous satire Hetalia portrays just about every race under the sun in the most exaggerated style, but I want to take a look at anime that is taking these racial portrayals seriously.

Kallen Kōzuki from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.

In most anime, Japanese characters are animated with a variety of hair colours, as opposed to the realistic sole black (with the exception of hair dye). Kallen Kōzuki in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion has red hair, Light in Deathnote is blonde, Amu in Shugo Chara has pink hair, and so on.

However, in shows such as Terror on Resonance and Psycho-Pass, characters with hair outside of black or brown are rarer, possibly because they are targeting older viewers.

May Chang from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

In Black Butler, there are two Chinese characters—Lau and Ran-Mao. Lau is portrayed with black hair and small eyes, while Ran-Mao has larger eyes and black hair. Both are always seen in authentic Chinese garb, though this may also be due to the Victorian time period.

Other Chinese characters include: Code Geass’s Xingke Li, Darker than Black’s Hei, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s Ling Yao and May Chang.

Screenshot from Young Black Jack.

In Young Black Jack, the show takes place during the Vietnam War. At one point the characters travel to the Vietnamese front where they encounter many Vietnamese citizens including their translator Phan. The citizens are shown with darker skin as is accurate, but for some reason any Vietnamese spoken is muted then translated by Phan into Japanese.

Other Viatnamese characters include: Sakura Wars’ Coquelicot.

Agni from Black Butler.

Also in Black Butler are the characters Prince Soma and Agni. They are shown in accurate skin color, but they also wear traditional garb. Agni is amazing at making curry, which could be seen as stereotypical, but I can’t blame anyone for liking curry.

Other Indian characters include: Darker than Black’s Mina Kandaswamy and Eureka Seven’s Rajkumar Nair

Dan Eagleman from Guilty Crown.

Here’s where things start straying into misrepresentation. American Caucasian characters in anime are often portrayed as big, obnoxious villains. In Terror on Resonance, the US military is responsible for the two main characters’ deaths, and in Summer Wars, the US military is deemed responsible for unleashing the virus Love Machine. In Guilty Crown, Dan Eagleman (can that name get any more stereotypical?) is a former football coach working for the baddies. Americans are often portrayed as blond, blue-eyed, and buxom if they are ladies or arrogant if they’re men.

Other American characters include: Genshiken’s Susanna Hopkins, Lucky Star’s Patricia Martin, and Black Lagoon’s Revy.

Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler.

Since Black Butler is set in 1800s Great Britain, most of the characters are British, including Ciel Phantomhive, Madam Red, Finny, Undertaker, and Bardroy. They’re portrayed in a far more positive light than American characters, though Ciel lives in a big mansion and enjoys his tea.

Other British characters include: Read or Die’s Yomiko Readman and Fate/Stay Night’s Saber,

Sasha Braus from Attack on Titan.

Western European:
The majority of the characters from Attack on Titan have Germanic and Slavic origins. None are defined because of the culture degradation within the walls, but obviously by their names they are indeed from those countries (Eren Jaeger, Sasha Braus, Bertolt Hoover, Reiner Braun). Eren, who is German of descent, is a very angry character, which can be a German stereotype.

Other Western European characters include: Infinite Stratos’ Laura Bodewig, Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Asuka Langely

Canary from Hunter X Hunter.

African American:
In Naruto Shippuden, there are several African American characters including Killer B, the Raikage, Omoi, and Darui. Killer B has a thing for rap, which can be considered stereotypical.

Other African American characters include: Hunter X Hunter’s Canary and Bleach’s Kaname Tousen.

Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning writer of speculative fiction and an editor for Geeks Under Grace. When not typing away at her novels, she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea.
Victoria Grace Howell

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