Representation Matters Pt. III: My thoughts on anime (How I got into Japanese animation, what I think about it, and how it could be better in regards to representation)

Welcome back to my Representation Matters series! For those who are new to my blog or only occasionally read my posts, you can check out the first one here and my second one about me creating my own characters here. Now we’re going to get into part three.

This is no secret, but I have an appreciation for Japanese animation. I’ve talked about that subject a few times on this blog and I have a whole separate blog called Iridium Eye Reviews where I critique that form of animation in addition to obscure movies, short films, and documentaries from all over the world. My first exposure to it was when I was very young and saw Teknoman (the English-dubbed edited version of Tekkaman Blade) on UPN. I thought the show looked really cool and wondered what that kind of a cartoon it was. I watched more of the stuff that was on TV back then and when I was in high school, I got into renting and owning various DVDs of certain series. What I liked about some of the anime that didn’t get played on Toonami or the other channels was the uniqueness of the stories, finding pieces of animation with actual artistry, and finding different stories I would never get from Western animation. If you think all anime is just DBZ, Pokemon, Naruto, or god forbid anything that’s hentai, then please slap yourself. There’s so much more than what the mainstream talks about.

One thought that I had during my teens was that some anime was a bit of a consolation prize of sorts for me. Because these series were made by nonwhite animators and featured characters who would be considered POCs in different contexts, I subconsciously settled for this despite not being of Japanese descent let alone Asian. It’s probably no wonder I was a Japanophile during my high school years not just because of some shows I thought (some I still think are) were legitimately good, but it even got to the point where I took Japanese classes at a community college during my last two years of high school. I can still remember numerous words or phrases to this day and would technically be my “2nd best” language next to English. Sure, I didn’t always think “Most of these characters aren’t white, so I can find them to be more relatable!” all the time, but I can’t lie to you that it was something in the corner of my mind at times during that point of my life. That interest faded out later in college and I had a hiatus of sorts until not long before I started Iridium Eye a couple of years ago.

While I still like certain anime series and movies, the Japanese animation industry has been marred with racist aspects, too. As much as I give a ton of crap to Disney and other American media companies for their bigotry and they deserve to be called out on those things, I can’t pretend that even the Japanese companies don’t do anything like that. Sure, they’re not going to do racist things against their compatriots or even other Asian ethnic groups most of the time, but they’ve had very questionable things go on. There’s obvious examples like Mr. Popo from the Dragon Ball franchise, Jynx from Pokemon, or even Pyunma/008 from Cyborg 009. The backlash got so big that the creators eventually changed their character designs by changing skin colors for the first two and for 008 shedding the sambo imagery into a more realistic African man (okay, I think the Call of Justice version looks like an anime version of Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, but I digress). This problem hasn’t gone away. There’s a more recent anime called The Promised Neverland which did look like it had an interesting plot, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when I saw pictures of one of the characters called Sister Krone.

Image result for sister krone

I felt legitimately uncomfortable and that’s one of the less offensive images. She’s shown as this unstable psychopath while at the same time being subservient to a white woman who’s one of the villains in the show. Her character design is much worse in the original manga. This anime came out in 2019 and there is no excuse for this. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this kind of imagery, then let me remind you of this.

Those would be mammy figurines from the Jim Crow museum. This is the same kind of garbage that permeated the imagery of black women being servants, stupid, and being undesirable. That imagery has been around since even before the Emancipation Proclamation, and this is the same kind of stuff that people bash a certain Tom & Jerry supporting character or Gone With The Wind for. I know the creators of The Promised Neverland know better than this and they would NEVER write a white or Asian woman that way.

Here’s how anime can do better. They can write characters who aren’t Asian or Caucasian into characters one can take seriously across the board. They need to consult other ethnic groups for making certain characters. Don’t make race their only defining characteristic. They can also ask themselves this question: How would they feel if someone incorporated Japanese stereotypes in a character?

I know there are some anime series that are better at positive representation than others which I do appreciate, but I’d be lying if I said there was no bigotry in Japan. I’m not into anime as much as I used to even though I still review it. I think it can be sad that I do a better job at positive representation of multiple ethnic groups compared to animators on both sides of the Pacific at large.

All photos are under “fair use”.

The photo of Sister Krone is from The Promised Neverland and is property of Aniplex of America.

The photo of the mammy figurines is from Wikipedia.

 

Oh, wow! I got the One Lovely Blog Award!

one-lovely-blogger-award

So recently, I received my 2nd award as a blogger on this platform with the Ospreyshire page. Thanks to Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews for nominating me! I didn’t see that nomination coming. Even though I cover so many topics with anime being one of them with Iridium Eye, I’m glad people still appreciate what I blog about across all my pages.

Here’s how the award works:

1) Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
2) Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
3) Share 7 things about yourself
4) Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
5) Include this set of rules
6) Inform your nominees

Alright then. Without further ado, let me tell you seven things about myself.

1: I have written bios for various musicians.

As you may or may not know about me, I enjoy writing. You know that I write fiction and that I do film reviews on my other blogs. However, I have done some commissioned public relations work for various musicians in different countries. Granted, these are independent artists, but I’ve enjoyed being able to write pieces on various singers and bands. I’ve helped out some of my labelmates on ZAP Records and then some.

2: I have been training to become a multi-instrumentalist.

Okay, not as much now since I’m not into the music scene as much as I used to be, but this was a huge goal of mine for years. I’m not a maestro by any stretch of the imagination. The instruments I have the most competency in would be ukulele, guitar, turntables/DJ-ing, Omnichord, hand percussion, bass and some keyboards. Don’t expect me to shred like crazy, but I can at least jam with other musicians and do my best to hang with them.

3: I’m a three-time NaNoWriMo winner and a six-time Camp NaNoWriMo winner.

This goes out to all my followers who know I do fiction. I’ve been getting into storytelling over the past three and a half years. 2014 was my first year where I wrote books and where I tried National Novel Writing Month for the first time. It was shocking that I was able to write a 50,000 word novel (roughly 100-110 pages) over the span of thirty days on those Novembers. I tried out Camp NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month’s off season challenges that happen twice a year (April and July). It does feel invigorating trying to write a book in a month’s time. Now, I have to publish my bibliography…

4: I’m a geography nerd.

I love learning about other cultures and countries. It was amazing visiting outside of America for the first time of my life when I was on vacation to Ecuador earlier this year. This international affinity started when I first watched Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego (the game show) when I was a child. That was my favorite show growing up. My love for geography shows since I write multi-ethnic casts for many of my fiction projects and world cinema is one of my specialties when I review movies on Iridium Eye.

5: Speaking of stuff from other countries…Wanna know the first anime I’ve watched?

This one goes out to the anime reviewers that know my blogs. The first anime I’ve ever watched in my life is Teknoman AKA Tekkaman Blade. Yes, this was the edited English dub version, but that was my first exposure to Japanese animation despite me not knowing anything about it when I was in elementary school. This was on UPN Kids back in the day which is a defunct channel as it merged with My Power and Warner to make the CW. I thought it was cool seeing superheroes in metallic suits fighting aliens and stuff.

6: I’ve wanted to be a voice actor, but never got around to it.

Part of it involved me watching a ton of anime during my teen years, but I’ve been good at using different kinds of voices. I’ve been known to do impressions of various movie characters, cartoons, and some random celebrities in front of some of my friends and co-workers as a joke. If you know me, I can come across as dry in my humor, but I can make people laugh whenever I do these imitations of random voices. I’ve had others tell me that I should be hired as a voice actor, do TV announcements, or a radio DJ.

7: What’s in a name?

I’ve always wanted to name either a band or a creative project after a bird (insert Portlandia joke here). The word Osprey came to mind, but I wanted to go beyond that once I started coming up with this current spoken word/anti-pop project on this blog. Suddenly, “-shire” came up in my mind as the definition of a place. Thus, I fused the two words and came up with Ospreyshire as my stage name.

Now that you know a little bit more about me, I want to hear from the following people. Enjoy the nominations!

1: KimchiSama
2: Travel Itineraries
3: Adventures of A New Floridian
4: Tim and Joanne Joseph
5: Girl Goblin
6: Remy Fool
7: Auri
8: Irina
9: Bel
10: Joshua Stamper

-Curtis