Black and Otaku
Black and Otaku
So once again its that time of the year. No. Sadly its not Hideo Kajima Day. Its Black History Month! Well it was when I wrote this. Yay! What? Not what you were expecting? Oh. Sad day…
I want you to take a moment. I mean, take a real moment and think about the last black character you saw in an anime. Now try and think of the last black main character you remember in an anime series. What did you come up with? If you named Mr. Popo at all you lose points. All of them actually. I could only come up with Dutch from Black Lagoon and from Claudia Grant from the Robotech series. As someone who has been watching anime for the better part twenty years, I must say that that is a depressing number. Especially when you consider that there are just as many minority, or more specifically, black Otaku’s roaming about.
Now I know what you’re saying. “But P-Chan its Japanese anime. Its based in a country where there are very few African Americans or blacks period. So how can you complain about a lack of them?” Well, it would be a lot like if I were to make a movie based in Brazil but then have a single or no Brazilian’s in the film. My problem comes about when American society is portrayed with only blonde haired blue eyed Caucasians and zero minorities. So, with a collective American demographic composed of let’s say, Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American, why are blacks unrepresented or misrepresented? Its not merely in anime but in gaming and media in general. Here, same test, different media. Think of the last black protagonist in a game. If you thought of more than four, you did better than I did. I could only come up with Carl “CJ” Johnson from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Barret from Final Fantasy 7. You have a gang member and a stereotypical Mr. T wanna be. That’s not a whole lot of personality for, what makes up 12.4% of the American population. Why? Why is such a large consumer group all but ignored in such large media groups?
As someone who has been into all kinds of so called “nerd” media, I have had ample time to look for those with like complexion in my daily doses of entertainment. Marvel Comics Group has been one of the best when it comes to racial diversity. I remember the first time I read a Black Panther comic book. A black king in Africa who is as smart as Reed Richards and as skilled as Captain America? Awesome! Even Wesley Snipes as Blade, a vampire hunter who is part human part vampire, was a strong main protagonist who kicks more ass than Toby Maguire and Hugh Jackman combined. I can’t tell you how great it was to black characters not supporting a white man as comic relief or spouting random token epitaphs. So why hasn’t anime caught up? One could make the argument that there aren’t that many Caucasian American’s in anime but you would simply not be looking hard enough. Anime is in dire need of catching up with times. What with, African American’s struggling to find appropriate cosplay options or some common ground with the characters they love, something will eventually have to give. How can the black community continue supporting an industry that discounts us or simply forgets about us? The answer is because of a love for the art and the understanding that time does eventually change.
All I ask is, that next time you sit down to play a video game or watch an anime see just how many minority faces you see. Then ask yourself if I’m just being too paranoid for my own good. I believe you will find that I may have a point.