10.25.2011

Black Women/WoC in Japanese Anime and Manga V


Coffee
I'm still pretty heavily into this genre though the love affair has cooled even more than the last post.  As with what's been coming out of Hollywood lately, I'm having a hard time suspending my disbelief when it comes to the heroines that I'm supposed to be siding with.  Much like Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood), Rachel Berry (Glee), or any of the women on Friends (just to name a few), anime/manga has taken the "helpless/annoying (white) woman that must be protected/loved at all costs by the men around her even though she's done nothing to deserve it" to gag-worthy proportions. 

Some of these females are Mary Sue's on steroids, but for some unknown reason, the men want them and the women want to be them.  They're adulated and celebrated, and I'm left scratching my head at the end of the episode or volume wondering what I'd missed.  Sorry, but in my estimation, being nice or good-hearted just isn't enough.  A normal person is usually a multi-faceted being with flaws and strengths that form an imperfect whole that is way more believable--not to mention more interesting--than some of these one-dimensional, one-note characters that we're supposed to want to emulate.

Um...no.

More often than not, the women (or sometimes girls as a lot of these manga and anime are set in high school) are impossibly naive, ditzy, über-virginal, dim-witted or so syrupy-sweet that it borders on caricature.  They can't cook, are sloppy, are bad students, have horrible personalities, and have no other redeeming qualities to speak of.  Yet the men in their lives (and usually several at that) are all willing to get kicked out of school, fight, die, or go off on some life-changing quest to prove their worth to someone who doesn't seem to be worthy of the effort. 

Of course, the fact that these females are usually busty, fair-skinned, long-legged, a blond or a redhead, and attractive probably have something to do with it, so there's that.  I guess.

I'll probably keep watching and reading...at least for now.  I love the art work and some of the storylines are the stuff of legend, but this particular trope is getting harder and harder to stomach.  And although I'm gratified to see more and more black women/WoC pop up in these things, we're still relegated to supporting roles, hardly any screen and/or page time and having no love interests.  Or in other words, we're there to help out Miss Ann when needed, go back to our proverbial rooms when not needed and be the "strong" ones ( read:  alone).

I still have half a mind to write a fic pairing a black woman with some precious male character that would make the fangirl's collective heads explode.  Zero Kiryu, Sōsuke Aizen and Tōshirō Hitsugaya all immediately come to to mind. 

Hmmm...
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Character:  Franceska Mila Rose


History:  Prior to becoming a Números, Mila Rose was a lion-like Hollow. Mila Rose, along with Cyan Sung-Sun, was part of Tier Harribel's group before Aizen recruited her. When Harribel saves Emilou Apacci, she introduces her to Sung-Sun and Mila Rose and asks her to join them. Later, she chased down a Hollow with Apacci and Sung-Sun, which ended in an argument. (more:  Bleach Wiki)

Character:  Michiko Malandro
AnimeMichiko e Hatchin

History:  An independent woman who has just recently escaped one of the most heavily guarded prisons in existence for at least the fourth time. Michiko rescues Hana from her abusive foster parents and claims to know her father, who, according to her, was a good man and "made her fall in love with him right away." Both her and Hana embark on a journey to find him while on the run from the law, as well. They become a bickering pair, but soon come to realize how much they truly need each other. (source:  Wikipedia)

Character:  Hana "Hatchin" Morenos
Anime:  Michiko e Hatchin 

History:  A young girl who previously lived with abusive foster parents. She was the victim of abuse both by the adults and their two other children, living in a "Cinderella-like" situation until Michiko came to her rescue. She is hesitant to trust the woman, but they share the same tattoo on their stomachs. (source:  Wikipedia)

Character:  Atsuko Jackson
AnimeMachiko e Hatchin

History:   She lived in the same orphanage as Michiko, and seems to have a score to settle with her. She is now a cop and was the responsible for Michiko's arrest 12 years before the main plot. Michiko likes to call her "Jambo" (a Portuguese word for both some syzygium fruit and to refer to a dark or brown-skinned person), in order to get her angry. She seems to have mixed feelings for Michiko and is sometimes seen helping her out of a bad situation.  (source:  Wikipedia)

Character:  Dorothea Ernst
Anime/MangaCode Geass

HistoryDorothea Ernst (ドロテア・エルンスト, Dorotea Erunsuto) is a member of the Knights of the Round and is the Knight of Four. She is a dark-skinned, dark-haired woman who is described as being as heroic as Bismarck. She joins Bismark and the other Rounds members against Lelouch but is the first killed by Suzaku in the Lancelot Albion. She is never shown with a custom Knightmare, being killed while piloting a unshown Knightmare.  (source:  Code Geass Wiki)

Character: Villetta Nu
Anime/Manga: Code Geass

History: Villetta Nu, 26 years old (27 at R2), is a dark skinned elite Knightmare Frame pilot and subordinate of Jeremiah Gottwald, though she is more collected than Jeremiah in battle. She is not of noble blood, but supports Jeremiah and the Purist Faction in the hopes that it would earn her a real title of nobility. As a Knightmare Frame pilot, she holds the rank of Knight, but this title of nobility only lasts for a single generation. Jeremiah had hoped to bestow her the title of Baroness so that her descendants would retain her noble rank.  (source: Code Geass Wiki)

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A special thanks to all those who made suggestions!

See also

10 comments:

  1. This is a great list. Unless I missed her in the previous posts, I'm surprised that you haven't yet mentioned Casca from Berserk.

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  2. Mihiko e Hatchin is on my list to watch. I first seen an amv of it back in 2009, and after some time I forgot the name of the title. So I had been unable to watch it. D: Just until recently, I'll say maybe four days ago, I just remembered the title and bookmarked it on the anivoid website, so I can watch it one day. It seems like a very interesting show.

    Also, I remember another character, Junko from the NANA series, http://www.absoluteanime.com/nana/junko.jpg <-- that is a small picture of her, but it's her nevertheless.

    Then there is also Yoruichi from Bleach, Gidget and Hilda from Eureka 7, Karui from Naruto. There are a few more that I'm missing but that's all I can remember for now, lol.

    Btw, this is a very good list. :)

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  3. @Cinnamon,

    I still haven't found the courage to browse a Japanese manga. One of the reasons is this:

    You wrote:
    More often than not, the women (or sometimes girls as a lot of these manga and anime are set in high school) are impossibly naive, ditzy, über-virginal, dim-witted or so syrupy-sweet that it borders on caricature. They can't cook, are sloppy, are bad students, have horrible personalities, and have no other redeeming qualities to speak of. Yet the men in their lives (and usually several at that) are all willing to get kicked out of school, fight, die, or go off on some life-changing quest to prove their worth to someone who doesn't seem to be worthy of the effort.

    Hmmm...in many instances, Japanese women are portrayed this way on television and this is why I usually avoid anything that isn't a documentary or written by a writer who doesn't have these tendencies. It pays to to know who penned the original manga before it morphs into a drama.

    I also suspect that a live action version of these comics will not yield a single WOC. On the other hand, regardless of how they are "colored" in a manga, Euro women also do not make the live-action versions. The protagonist will always be a high profile Japanese actress. After all, in the Japanese mindset, everyone is Japanese.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think many characters are supposed to actual blonds either--they're just drawn that way. Unless it's actually stated or their name sounds "foreign" you have to pretty much assume they're Japanese.

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  4. @Cinnamon
    I still have half a mind to write a fic pairing a black woman with some precious male character that would make the fangirl's collective heads explode. Zero Kiryu, Sōsuke Aizen and Tōshirō Hitsugaya all immediately come to to mind.

    You should do this. Watching collective fangirl heads explode is FUN! I love to watch them lose their minds. "I can't relate. I can't relate. I can't relate." Now that's what a broken record sounds like.

    Last year, I said I'd stop writing fan fiction of any kind, but I've had a change of heart. There simply isn't enough believable blasian fiction out there period, so we actually need to be more forceful. After NaNoWriMo, I will write more Mika/Raizo.

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  5. I've started watching Michiko e Hatchin and it is FULL of black women. I mean everywhere with all kinds of people. Also I(quite idiotically) looked up some forum talk about it... sigh.... But amusing show actually.

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  6. Fascinating read, thank you for sharing your thoughts, it's great hearing a fresh perspective! We definitely need more strong WoC in games, comics, anime Hollywod and media in general.

    I've created a character in my crew called The Firemasters-a 3D platformer coming to IOS and Android end of the summer. Her name is Hardwire. She's brilliant, funny and takes no mess. You can check her out and the rest of the crew at thefiremastersgame.com @Misc_studios

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  7. I get your frustration with really stupid female protagonists. Hot Gimmick and Sailor Moon are two that come to mind when I think of leads that are stupid beyond the pale. However, I think it depends on what anime/manga you are following cause I think there are many that go against the grain as well. There are also alot of lead characters--yes they suck at alot of things--because they're supposed to be relatable misfits. Alot of manga, just like daytime dramas here are supposed to cater to fantasies.

    As for the black people in these anime I have mixed feelings. I find too often they come across like blaxploitation characters more than anything. Like you can tell alot of the inspiration for the character design came from watching films rather than actual real black people. I won't be too critical of it though cause Japanese people aren't making these "representations" for me, but for a largely Japanese audience.

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  8. I thought I should add if you look at series like Dragon Ball, Ranma 1/2 or even Inu-yasha there are plenty of strong female characters. If you want darker skin, then look no further than Peach Girl LOL. I guess my point is don't give up based on what seems like a reoccuring theme. You just need to explore more. :)

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