A Critical Examination of Race in Anime: Part I

Given the recent inauguration of America’s first black president and, more importantly, the release of the first episode of Hetalia Axis Powers, the times call for a critical examination of race in anime.


Japanese People

Madarame is one of about five anime characters who actually look Japanese. The rest all look white.

Even Pesche admits that Ishida looks white through reverse implication. Here’s why the vast majority of “Japanese” anime characters are not Japanese:

  • They don’t have black hair
  • They don’t have brown eyes

We’ve all watched so much anime that we’re programmed to think anyone with a Japanese name is Japanese. Surely a character named Matsumoto is Japanese!

Show this picture to people who don’t watch anime. Tell them she’s Japanese. They’ll laugh at you. Make all the excuses you want. Say she dyed her hair, put on contacts, and underwent plastic surgery. Say her skeletal structure is Japanese (it’s not). It doesn’t pass the laugh test. She’s white, like nearly every other anime character.

Let’s try again. Which of the following characters is Japanese?

It’s the one with the lighter hair and lighter eyes. Yet some people are so divorced from reality that they believe only a Japanese person could convincingly cosplay either one.


Black People

There are two types of black people in anime:

  • Black people who do anything remotely black, thereby coming off as stereotypes
  • Black people who do nothing remotely black, thereby trivializing the richness of black culture and reducing the notion of blackness to a mere skin tone

Indian People

Indian anime characters suck, and I’m not just saying that because I hate everything about India. Look at it objectively. Many see Love Hina as the prototypical harem anime. However, one of the Love Hina girls didn’t evolve into a staple of the genre. Can you guess which?

  • The Bitch
  • The Slut
  • The Pussy
  • The Annoying Hyperactive Indian Girl

That’s not to say Indian characters can’t be cool. I almost liked Kougaiji. Then I noticed a shocking trend as the show progressed: he’s incapable of winning a fight. I suppose it’s not entirely his fault. I can’t reasonably expect him to put up a good fight if he eats nothing but shitty Indian food.


Chinese People

Sometimes I get the impression that Japanese people and Chinese people aren’t the best of friends. Of course, this only applies to men. Women are always exempt from racial animosity.

Chinese Women

Chinese Men


English People

The English love their tea. They really love their tea. Almost sexually. I wonder where these stereotypes come from


Akikans

Few poorly animated fanservice anime satirize racial divisiveness quite like Akikan. There are two types of cans on the show: aluminum cans and steel cans. They transform into girls and talk shit to each other.

Are you an Akikan? Or an Akikan’t?

Mamiko Noto trash talking about the economics of the soft drink industry

These differences seem trivial to us humans. We judge beverages not by the composition of their cans but the contents therein. But the cans can’t get over their petty differences. They’re quick to find fault in others, yet they crave acceptance. Why can’t we all just get along?

65 people love sucking up to me

  1. digitalboy says:

    I have one letter and one word for you – ‘G Gundam.’ The Indian pilot is fucking green and rides a 30 foot snake. The Denmark Gundam is a fucking windmill. The Kenyan gundam is literally a gundam designed to look like a black guy in zebra pelt. The American has guns and constantly swears in English. The french guy dresses like Napolean and his base is a giant Escargo. I could go on.

  2. Kratos X says:

    Hilarious. Keep up the good work

  3. IKnight says:

    I don’t know where the ‘almost’ came from. There’s no ‘almost’ about it.

  4. LJ says:

    Momotaro has something to say in Japan’s defense.
    “I’m not a bigot…at beating you up.”

  5. biankita says:

    you forgot to point out the fact that japanese people have pink, blue, green, purple, what-have-you colored hair. and it’s amazing how the english people love their rap.

  6. Jarmel says:

    For blacks and stereotypes all you need to do is watch Afro Samurai.

  7. True depiction of Chinese men. I look like that.

  8. Laguna Loire says:

    Baka-Raptor: “Why can’t we all just get along?” … ???

    Were is the outstanding baka-raptor´s speech : “I hate people”

    Or the classical global phenomenon (free beatings):

    http://www.baka-raptor.com/FreeHugs/

    Maaaaaaaaaaaaan:

    First the sell-out,
    And then, Oi Hayaku. (which i don´t even bother paying a visit anyway…)
    What´s next ? Baka-Raptor becoming hippie ?

    I guess i´ll go back to the best part of the site:

    http://www.baka-raptor.com/archive.html

    Anyone Following ?

  9. In the manga Solanin the characters actually look Japanese. So does Marvelous Melmo in her own way, and don’t say she’s entirely jailbait because she can take magic candies which make her an adult.

    I agree, Madarame does look Japanese, but so does the fat guy from Genshiken who stutters.

  10. kanzeon says:

    I lol’d at the Indian people comment. Sure that girl from Love Hina annoyed the hell outta me XD.

  11. Marmoset says:

    But…but…but I don’t like vinegar. And British rap sounds nothing like that!

    Is it just me or are the majority of American’s in anime black?

  12. LJ says:

    @Marmoset:
    It’s just you. We’re all blonde.

  13. lelangir says:

    Don’t forget nearly everyone in Yakitate Japan

  14. lelangir says:

    nvm, I typed that before I watched the video.

  15. TheBigN says:

    “There are two types of black people in anime:”

    It would be good as to explain what doing something “remotely black” means.

  16. Eroshiyda says:

    1. Can you find the picture of the black anime character with white characters standing behind him with the caption, “What is that?”

    2. Also, why don’t they ever have Native American anime characters? Or Mexican ones? Why do they always leave us out of the equation?! *sniffle*

  17. gulag says:

    @Eroshiyda
    heh, that was yang wenli. what an awesome character.

  18. Blowfish says:

    Yakitate Japan is pure gold when it comes to racial stereotypes.
    I especially loved the german girl living in poverty over here becoming a breast surgery slut par excellence when becoming an american citizen.

    I also love that in Animes every foreigner is capable of halfway decent japanese except the chinese ones

    Good times,good times

  19. Epi says:

    Eroshiyda,

    I think everyone in Michiko to Hatchin and El Cazador de la Bruja are supposedly Mexican.

  20. Aizen says:

    I don’t care what can it is, just as long as there’s no such thing as a male can.

    Oh and, they make Chinese people look like gangsters who rape anyone in sight. wtf.

  21. Windspirit says:

    @Epi : Michiko to Hatchin = Brazilia, for Heaven’s sake.

    Nice post, as always.

  22. Epi says:

    Oh I dunno, I only saw the first episode ahha.

  23. Is it bad that digitalboy’s description of G Gundam made me want to go watch it?

    @ Eroshiyda – Atl in Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi is Aztec.

  24. Rakuen says:

    It’s about time somebody rambled about this race and anime. I love thee, in a non-gay manner.

  25. Baka-Raptor says:

    @digitalboy: No need, I’ve got the idea and decided not to watch it.

    @Kratos X & Windspirit: I agree, this was a great post. I’ll buy myself a cake to celebrate.

    @LJ: Will post a response comment when I get around to watching that video…

    @IKnight: I apologize. But if the tea is less than 18 years old, you’re pedophile.

    @biankita: I forgot nothing. I merely pushed it off to a Part II that’ll never happen.

    @Jarmel: I’ve been meaning to. lelangir’s been pushing me for a while now.

    @The Sojourner: The one on the left? Right? Both?

    @Laguna: Don’t get me wrong, I hate people more than ever. But when you hate people as much as I do, you find much better reasons to hate people than race. Dr. Tenma made a similar statement about Johan’s hatred in Monster. Haven’t seen it yet? It was the first anime review I wrote.

    @Asperger’s: Do those anime/manga sell well? Japanese people seem to like pretending they’re look white.

    @kanzeon: I didn’t even know she was Indian until they explicitly brought it up in the show.

    @Marmoset: Not all Americans are black, but the only black people who matter in anime are American. Nobody seems to care about Africa.

    @lelangir: I accept your apology.

    @TheBigN: Doing something remotely black means any possessing any trait other than skin color that is associated, either legitimately or stereotypically, with black people. For example, the rapping jinchuuriki from the Naruto manga, the breakdancing black kids from Soul Eater, and the running back on Eyeshield 21 named “Panther” all possess non-skin color traits that are remotely black. An example of someone who isn’t remotely black is Mashengo from Legend of the Galactic Heroes (see below). It’s expected in a show that takes place in a future where 21st century cultural associations have so long that many don’t even know that human life originated on Earth. He doesn’t rap, break dance, have a stereotypical name, or possess any trait that’s remotely black (although you could argue that his role as the big tough bodyguard is slightly stereotypical. Even if a character isn’t black, dark-skinned characters in anime are typically larger than their lighter-skinned counterparts). So what’s his role on the show? To be the black guy. What’s wrong with that? A sense of forced political correctness. It’s something that stands out particularly to American audiences because of the one-third black rule in American media. Also see Marmoset’s comment (#12).

    @Eroshiyda: There are a few Mexican characters, though the rest of Central and South America are completely ignored.

    @Eroshiyda & gulag:

    @Blowfish: I’ll get to American stereotypes in Part II. Breast size analysis is inevitable.

    @Aizen: I’m not how many people would mind being raped by Chun Li.

    @Epi: If El Cazador taught us anything about Mexico, it’s that Mexicans love their taco taco tacos, delicious tacos, the best tacos are Amigo Tacos

    @Day: It’s bad but not unexpected. Digitalboy is creepy and writes hentai reviews, just like you.

    @Rakuen: Geyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

  26. Fish and Chips! Fish and Chips! I watched that video 8 times just now. Now I will be forced to watch that show.

  27. korosora says:

    completely unrelated but catch up on claymore manga.
    The reason?
    RAKI IS NOW GAR.

  28. vendredi says:

    Have to say this post is pretty overdue. Anime has tons of racial profiling; all Chinese women in qipaos, black people with MASSIVE lips…Still, I think the Japanese do recognize different varieties of white people. Like you pointed out, there’s the English, but you forgot to cover Japanese depictions of French people (Tamaki from Ouran springs to mind) and Americans (best example might be Terry, from King of Fighters – “AH YOO OH-KAY!?”).

  29. otou-san says:

    Not sure how you missed that 8 out of 10 American females in anime is a huge drunk, a huge slut, or a hugely drunken slut. Also, they are blonde, and while Japanese characters get to be blonde sometimes, they’re not actually blonde. It’s cartoon blonde. They never acknowledge blondeness unless the character is American and thus blonde for real. Usually it’s an object of envy to some teenage Japanese girl character, who probably has purple hair.

    Then the American girl gets drunk and sleeps with the Japanese girl’s boyfriend.

  30. Praz says:

    Isnt Bear Walken indian?

  31. Rakuen says:

    But I love cute japanese girls with purple hair… T_T

  32. Eroshiyda says:

    I love you, Baka-Raptor. Will you be my flaming lesbian rapist girlfriend in a man’s body?

  33. @ Baka-Raptor – I’m not creepy. If I were a guy, I’d be creepy, but because I’m female and can be convincingly moe, I am not creepy. Duh.

  34. Shin says:

    Will the next part include Jews? I think I know only of Benny of Black Lagoon.

  35. animekritik says:

    Ha! Well, I guess the Japanese view themselves as such an homogeneous race that in their fiction they like to exploit all of the colors and varieties they can think of. At the same time, there is a yearning in the Japanese subconscious for Caucasian looks (starting I think in Meiji times) so blond and white will predominate. Plus they’re scared of Africans. Then again those last two factors are present across East Asia..

  36. […] get the good-looking heroine, the loli, the pesky Indian girl that Baka-Raptor hates, the drunken slut, and my favorite– the miko-samurai. But is this the only reason why I hate […]

  37. […] For the most part you get spiky hair and huge fuckin eyes. The character’s rarely even look Japanese, but instead look more western, if anything. I must say that this style draws me in a lot. I like […]

  38. Kamall says:

    What do you got against Indian people? I don’t think that girl in Love Hina is Indian you silly wapanese.

  39. DINNER says:

    How do you know if Kougiji is Indian?
    He was pretty cool and I dont got shit against Indians, I mean I got a lot of them there pretty chill I guess, but did it ever say in the anime that he was?

  40. Flar says:

    What about Anthy and Akio in “Revolutionary Girl Utena”? They are supposed to be Indian. Anthy even has a bindi (red dot) in the movie.

  41. Tee-hee says:

    I swear all of us Americans are blonde! I watched this anime video and this blonde american lady said she isnt good at talking in japanese(she was doing just fine) and then the Japanese dude comes up speaking jacked up English and the American lady’s english is even worse.

    Not to mention that all the black people I see in anime arent black. Take Yoruichi for example, she isn’t “black” she is dark-skinned. I don’t watch Afro-Samurai so I wouldn’t know. I don’t really see a lot of black people in anime so I…I don’t know what to say about this one, haha.

    It also gets me irritated with all these blonde japanese characters or “looking-more-white-than-the-white-person” japanese characters. Seriously, what is wrong with have dark brown hair and brown eyes? I may be stereotyping by saying this but I have never seen a big-breasted japanese lady unless they are heavy.

    Oh well. Japanese people will be japanese people. Plus, its not like we don’t stereotype. All the Indian-Americans in american cartoons have an accent, all south asian people have to know some sort of martial arts or have an obsession with technology. The black stereotype is dying down since a lot of black people in cartoons are becoming nerds (i.e. AJ from Fairly OddParents or Tucker Foley from Danny Phantom)and the latino(preferably Mexican) stereotype is still alive.

  42. ReiKuroi says:

    Its cheap of you to slam indian characters like that. Its the stereotypes that suck, not the indians. And by the way, have you seen the indian scientist, Rakshata Chawla from code geass? She rocks. Furthermore, code geass is one of the few series where thae racial differences between people are actually reasonable.Snd just where the hell does it say that that annoying girl in Love Hina is indian? “Shitty indian food”? Indian food is like any other food, some of it is awesome, and some of it is not. And just what is the deal with YOU, assuming that anybody with a bindi is indian? I have many names i’d like to call you…but not in a public forum.
    Screw You.

    • @w@ says:

      OMG I agree with you! *tears of joy*
      People shouldn’t bash on another culture, without learning about their own and learning why things are the way they are. 🙂
      And openly ranting about a single culture only makes the basher’s culture reflect badly.

  43. aBz says:

    OMG I totally agree with most of this n even what people have sed in their comments! I’ve often wondered why in manga/anime the characters have tons of different hair colours and eye colours n none of them actually look japenese!!! (I’m not sayin litterally none of them)
    I guess because – say no one can have natural blue hair and pink eyes (this is at random) becuz they’re just cartoons and hey even us the english/american/etc. draw cartoons that have…blue skin or wat eva lol!
    But omg I hate the way the japenese must see black guys – n not in a ‘bad’ way but just that the black guy in any anime/manga is always VERY american and kinda cocky I’d say!! argh stress… tho the black guy is usually my favourite… *rolls eyes*
    I’d write a better comment if I cud think properly I’m well too tired lol I thought it was hilarious wen u were tlking about Akikan (I read like 2 pgs of this n found I cudnt care less) – ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ xD <3

  44. Sakred says:

    What’s funny about this is that Baka-Raptor is Indian himself. But yeah, baka, it would help if you toned down the Indian-hating a bit. I’m Indian too so I get what you mean, but other people might not.

    -Longtime Lurker.

  45. Hanu-man says:

    I cant belive?u think indian food is unhealthy n tasteless?either ur mother is a bad cook(sorry aunty)or u hate spicy food!the country of ayurveda/yoga has unhealthy cousine?u must know every indian spice is used as medicine!spices were the main reason for colonisation of india by foreign empires!i m a 19 yr old indian boy.i know these things but how can u 39 yr old douche bag doesnt know?a request to guys out there-woah,every one want to be cool hah?be cool but not by postin crap abt ur own community!i admit im being too patriotic but I take pride to be indian/asian.Please my asian bros & all d luvly ladies out there-i request u to avoid da great american attitude of talkin shit abt ur own ppl.wer asians,wer proud of our communities,that separates us frm rest of d world!! If u delete this post then ur afraid of being critised.be fair 2 every1!

  46. Keiji says:

    Its unreasonable to expect that the Japanese would have a rosey impression of Indians. They value hard work, discipline and refinement in culture. Present Indian society has anything but. And Indians can be very racist towards Japanese people as well. I don’t think many Japanese know that yet. Just check youtube for the Coca-Cola ad with Amir Khan. Many Bollywood movies have ugly stereotypes of the Japanese. There are exceptions, I am Indian and I worship everything Japanese. I would commit seppukku if the Japanese emperor asked me to X-D

  47. […] see Anime characters mainly as Asain Links forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=135957&page=3 http://www.baka-raptor.com/2009/01/31/a-critical-examination-of-race-in-anime-part-i/ Why do Japanese make their anime characters always […]

  48. Malini says:

    ok so first i was about to tear you apart for saying stuff about india…then someone said u were indian…so haha. i’ll let it slide. but what about Meena Kandaswamy from Darker than Black. sure she’s just a side character, but she’s gorgeous and smart

  49. Matt Wells says:

    That video has us english types all wrong! Not all of us are sexually attracted to tea! Just a 70% majority! And Malt Vinegar belongs ONLY on fish and chips! And we are nowhere near that outgoing! Those english people didn’t apologise even once for being so forward! Totally off!

    Everything else was pretty spot on though. Right down to our cuisine being utter shite. Sorry to say that’s true.

  50. Megha says:

    Hey don’t mention those racist words toward my country. It ain’t matter if we can’t make decent animes like yours at least we tried!
    Also our food IS NOT BAD!!!!

  51. B'z says:

    It’s sad that India has citizens like you who hate their own race…very sad indeed

  52. Randomness says:

    Why are indian internet users are so patriotic? Loved the topic and the Genshiken episode with the american chick was awesome. I love stereotypes which cannot be avoided in a popular medium like anime.

    • Muhammed rashid says:

      @randomness indian intenet users arent just patriotic they are humens not just some guy with a pc who has lost his respect for fellow people
      you guys should be ashamed genre is only used in my country for helping the indiginious and poor people. We respect everybody we dont care is they are chinease japanease american african ok,
      india – ‘unity in diversity’
      and P.S
      come to calicut kerala india we will show you how an indian treats others
      adhithi devo bava -‘our guests ae our gods’

    • buck wade says:

      speaking about stereotypes of anime…am I the only one that watched sonic x? The ONLY asian characters/only Japanese character is a butler that knows martial arts that talks in a weird voice. And as to why you’re stumbling upon patriotic Indian users…well face it, every country has annoying patriots, but some have the more annoying ones (America. Holy *bleep*). We just have the unfortunate to stumble upon the annoying patriotic ones.

  53. James Taylor says:

    I’m a 34 year old Black male born in the inner city of Philadelphia…just a bit of my profile…I’ve loved animation since the old G.I.Joe days. I was first introduced to anime with Transformers the movie. Though there was much more out there I didn’t know at the time. I was later re-introduced to anime with Ninja Scroll DBZ Wicked City and Fight Iczer 1/Iczer Robo. After that I was hooked. Later I studied animation at the art institute of Philadelphia and then joined the Air force which took me to Japan where I learned to read write and speak nihongo very well (but not fluently). Later I was discharged and lived for a few years in Tokyo before bouncing back and forth between work and living here in the states and there in Tokyo. I now work painting and detailing private and corporate jets in the states.

    Anime has many black colored or dark skinned characters but not many Black people. Not stereotypical or politically correct African Americans but BLAAACK people. Black people in prominent and or positive roles. It’s just not going to happen. Many will argue saying “well, what about Afro Samurai and Blade?” and most of those people will be of European decent.

    The only anime that ever came close to doing it right was Cowboy Bebop and though there was a wide assortment of BLACKS throughout the show even they fail to add a Black person in a positive role throughout the show.

    It’ll never happen because the worlds media(not just America) spends so much money publishing Blacks downfalls rather than triumphs that the very theme of a Black person doing what is right or even human in any situation sounds more unbelievable than the lie.

    Afro Samurai was an awesome anime about a “Black” Samurai. That’s fantasy. Blade is also an awesome anime about a “Black” inner city youth turned day walking vampire/vampire hunter, but again fantasy.

    Japan doesn’t know what real Black culture is like. In fact the common non-Black American doesn’t know either. But anime is all cartoon and stereotypes not only of other cultures but even of it’s own. I think the question that many people want to ask is why anime so often depicts it’s main/leading/positive characters looking like the same people who dropped two atomic bombs on Japan while at the same time oppressing the ethnic cultures whom anime often depicts as lesser/supporting/negative characters?

  54. Johnnyboy says:

    OK, they’re supposed to be Japanese. They live in Japan, speak Japanese fluently, have Japanese names, wear Japanese clothes, use chopsticks, eat Japanese food, embrace Japanese culture, know martial arts, wear sandals, and are created by Japanese people…

    They must be Russian or something.

  55. Rajat says:

    If you hate indians then don’t watch anime including them..close your eyes.. but don’t say shit about my countrimen..i love them as the way they are..

  56. Muhammed rashid says:

    Hai ,
    guys my name is muhammed rashid iam an indian. I understand that you guys are talking abour anime iam an anime fan myself, but talking shit about my country and culture even if it is for fun i cant accept it, iam pretty sure that you guys are going to tease me for this if you can please avoid this
    ok take care

    • buck wade says:

      Okay back up, there are too many Indian commenters on this website (If you couldn’t tell I’m joking), time for a Turkish American to post something (seriously, how many Turkish commenters are there online?). I wonder why nobody ever questions why in cartoons like Tom and Jerry and looney toons animals can talk and survive freaking bombs and recover from them like they got hit by pillows. That’s pretty much what anime does with green hair and pink eyes. It’s just there…it’s just anime logic. There was one series called Future diary where the main love interest is a pink haired and pink eyed phycho with the only defining traits that could be classified as race being light skin. I saw a poster of who they hired for her live action role, and thank logic the studio didn’t actually hire a pink haired pink eyed actress (how would they even find someone like that anyway?). But with anime characters getting BLUE eyes and BLONDE hair while the eyes are drawn completely race neutral (show me ONE human being with eyes that cover a quarter of their face), the default apperence seriously leans on caucasian. It’s not like with some final fantasy characters or dead or alive in which characters are created so that they actually look realistically asian but with caucasian features.

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