Why do brown-skinned anime characters have pink nipples?

I'm crossposting this from my blog because I believe some readers here may find this post interesting. Be warned that this post contains links that are NSFW. If it doesn't link to Twitter, Wikipedia or Dreamwidth, it is NSFW.

If you follow me on twitter and were online in the early hours of Christmas morning 2011 (GMT), you may have noticed @LeaBecca, @jolantru and I discussing nipples. In particular colonialism, body politics and how they affect nipple colour. You may want to read their write ups on the topic before continuing, Body Politics and White Skin, Pink Nipples.

So now you know that there is a ‘right’ colour of nipples. And that there are bleaching creams available to turn brown nipples lighter even as there are ‘brightening’ creams for the face and the body. That pink nipples are a sign of innocence and lack of sexual knowledge.

 When I reblogged this anime style drawing of a brown-skinned, female character on Tumblr, I wrote ‘Finally the artist got the right nipple colour!’ because at that moment it struck me just how often I’d seen brown- and dark-skinned anime style characters drawn with pale, pink-ish nipples. There’s been a lot of discussion on how ethnicity is presented in anime and manga, on the ‘race’ of characters in anime and manga. It is relatively rare to see characters with darker skin tones in anime and manga, nevertheless they exist and several people of colour who enjoy watching anime and reading manga across the globe are happy that they exist.

But what happens when your favourite brown-skinned character takes of his or her clothes to reveal pink nipples? Take for example, this image of Miyuki from the anime Basquash!. What would you think? Initially, I thought this suggested that the brown-skinned characters are actually white-skinned characters in blackface. The implications of imperialism and body politics that affect brown-skinned women did not occur to me at that point. I was genuinely confused, I understand some brown-skinned characters look tanned (and are supposed to be tanned) but why would you draw a brown-skinned character that has locs or a huge Afro and colour their nipples pink?

The first time I recall noticing pink nipples on a brown-skinned character was when I came across one doujinshi with characters from Code Geass by Nekomata Naomi, a female hentai mangaka. When I saw the manga, ‘Brown New Wife’, I barely registered that the new wife had brown skin and pink nipples on the cover (mostly because I was squeeing over Nekomataya being a female hentai mangaka). I must have laughed shaking my head and wondered if these artists had seen brown women topless before? Or who knows there could be brown women with pink nipples in this world. I convinced myself that it was a one time thing. I did not want to ‘overreact’ and basically silenced my own criticism.

I joined Tumblr recently and it did not take long for me to come across this photo blog dedicated to brown-skinned females in anime. As I went through the archives and saw that when they were shown, most of the brown-skinned characters had pink nipples I grew disturbed. I was confused and not entirely sure how to react, so I saved the pictures for later discussion.

That was until I saw the art I reblogged. I was surprised at how relieved I felt to see that at least one artist got
the colouring
things right. I believe it was at that point that I decided it was okay to say something. I am glad that LeaBecca and jolantru had things to say as well. As I mentioned above, most of my earlier thoughts revolved around blackface. I wondered if all brown-skinned characters in anime, doujinshi and art are actually white-skinned characters in blackface or tans? I briefly entertained the idea that all of us brown-skinned people who have adored brown-skinned characters in anime and manga have been hoodwinked.

I still do not understand why an artist would draw a brown-skinned character and colour their nipples pink but now I know how they conform to white supremacist ideals by doing so. In a world that regularly extols white skin, straight hair, skinny figures, and now pink nipples, as beauty ideals colouring a brown-skinned character’s nipples pink plays into the idea that there is something wrong with the natural tones of brown-skinned women.

What do you readers of the BN think about this? I'd really love to know.


  1. I have to agree. There are animes where the woman has a dark face and below a lighter body tone. They are called something but to my belief, women in Japan may be doing that in really life. Tanning their faces and putting on make-up over a tanned fac. Like you, I always wondered about that and you have a good point to ask whether the anime characters we love are really black? But then again if the anime isnt called Afro Samurai then we cant be 100% lol.

  2. Like you, I always wondered about that and you have a good point to ask whether the anime characters we love are really black?

    You and me both. =D Pink nipples, though?

  3. @Nicole

    Yeah I know about the tanning in parts of Japanese sub-cultures. Do you mean like ganguro or B-kei? A perfect example would be the character from the manga Beach Girl.

    But then again if the anime isnt called Afro Samurai then we cant be 100%

    Lol! I was thinking the same thing seriously. Even with Afro Samurai, he could just be really tanned and wearing an Afro wig ~sarcasm~.


    The pink nipples on brown bodies will never make sense!

  4. This doesn't surprise me, though I had not seen any of the brown characters in my anime/manga dabbling, so I'm far from an expert.

    There is a theme across the planet, as pointed out in the post, of making brown women more beautiful by lightening their color and/or Europeanizing their features. The pink nipples are just one more drop in that massive bucket of BS.

  5. Thank you for addressing this! The whole pink nip thing always bothered me. Great article.

  6. This is timely for me as as well as I've come upon this recently in fanfic as well. Mainly Guinevere (Merlin) with pink nipples or blushing bright red when brown folks -at least in my experience- don't blush bright red and don't have pink nipples. I've assumed it was ignorance and obliviousness. That the writer is white and has only seen nipples on other white people and therefore its never occurred to them that the nipples would be any color, but pink. Like you I was really hesitant about whether or not I should say anything to the writer.

    What this means in anime I really have no idea? Do the Japanese have pink or brown nipples? I did a quick search they have brown ones generally, even found a few rants from Asian women about this subject and the whole purity thing.Which just makes this so WTF?? I mean seriously culture is trying to dictate the color of nipples?? Good grief its ridiculous.

    I will be dropping a PM to that writer now though maybe even do a little write up for some of the fan communities. *le sigh*

  7. @Strange Sista

    Wow, in fanfic too! I don't even know if all white people have pink nipples but seriously. This may be another manifestation of the 'Esmerelda eyes' syndrome.

    I mean seriously culture is trying to dictate the color of nipples?? Good grief its ridiculous.

    Yes it is ridiculous! And this seems to be the case, that culture is trying to dictate the colour of nipples along with everything else on the bodies of brown women.

  8. Maybe they're not used to seeing people of color naked?!?

    I for one have seen many many brown breasts and none of them had pink nipples.

    Maybe they need a copy of Players Magazine?!?

  9. To tell the truth I understand what you are talking about. The reason behind this is that some of the young people in Japan like the Ganguro. Some of the artist take the fad and use it to apply to Black people instead of watching Black movies (Non-Gangsta flicks). I very surprised at hentai artist, but then again I'm not.

    1. But ganguro do not loc their hair or wear braids or style their hair in Afros...it is pretty obvious when a character is drawn as ganguro because they usually have bleached hair and obvious makeup. Miyuki from Basquash is not supposed to be ganguro, same with April from Darker than Black. I personally feel that they take in enough stereotypes from Hollywood, the way some dark-skinned characters are stereotyped in anime and manga.

    2. True..because mind you where the first anime get thier ideas from Disney films...and I leave at that.

      But I'm greatfull that their are break throughs in black people in anime that are not stereotypes.

  10. @ Reggie
    LMAO! Although I doubt that since not even all Japanese are fair skinned, and Asiatic people in general come in a wide spectrum of shades. From fair skinned to very dark. Especially East Indians and South East Asians.

    @ Thread

    Yeah. I don't know if maybe this is a subtle nod to Japanese subcultures or if it's some weird artistic rendering of dark skin prejudice?

    1. It is most likely 'some weird artistic rendering of dark skin prejudice' because as I mentioned above, ganguro girls in anime are pretty easy to spot thanks to their bleached hair and made up faces.

  11. I know that this post is a little old and most people wont answer this question but eccentricyoruba this pink nipple thing is only the tip of the iceberg and one of many many issues i have with anime one of them being how most "black people" are just white people dipped in chocolate.

    So my question is this why does japan worships almost everything white so god damn much i mean honesty why?

    1. "one of many many issues i have with anime one of them being how most "black people" are just white people dipped in chocolate."

      When I mentioned this in one of the very first discussions of POC in anime, someone actually asked me to explain myself. <_<

    2. Wow someone that ignorant asked you that i would have not even justify a response to that type of mess.

    3. It is a bit hard for me to view dark-skinned anime characters as being 'dipped in chocolate' because it just comes across as the anime style of drawing. When they get the hair right, this is usually a relief but 'right hair' in this case would be some variation of natural hair when we know that there are lots of black women with straight hair. There are so many issues here.

      So my question is this why does japan worships almost everything white so god damn much i mean honesty why?

      You see, white supremacist thought has had an impact all over the world thanks to the different forms of colonialism and imperialism. The belief that 'white is right' can be found in almost any country in Asia, Africa and South America. I feel that on some level Japan is affected by white supremacist thought that places whiteness at the top and anything associated with black and brown people at the bottom. And at the same time, they are not so badly affected.

  12. Without sounding too racist, Asians have a history of being Euro/Western conformists. In America Asians usually assimilate with White Americans. Forgive me if these generalizations come off as bigotry. You can see other examples of this through clothing, holidays, religion etc...

    I think anime in general shows the mind fuck that has been perpetrated against our Asian brethren. Asians have signature narrow eyes, however anime more often than not depicts asian characters with large, saucer eyes. Is this a some sort of self hate? The fact that Asians are typically brownish and not porcelain white is in direct contradiction with the mainstream depiction of asian art. Asian noses, hair, nipples, eyes are grossly underrepresented in artwork coming from Asia. How troublesome.

    Just my opinion but Asians seem to have some somewhat misguided on issues of race and appearance. its 2012, do i still need to see black/minority characters in anime with the black face lips in bug eyes?

    1. As I said above;

      "...white supremacist thought has had an impact all over the world thanks to the different forms of colonialism and imperialism. The belief that 'white is right' can be found in almost any country in Asia, Africa and South America. I feel that on some level Japan is affected by white supremacist thought that places whiteness at the top and anything associated with black and brown people at the bottom. And at the same time, they are not so badly affected."

      All of us, people of colour, have been mind fucked in one way or the other. A few of us have gained enlightenment and are staunchly anti-white supremacy. Yet everyday I interact with people of colour that are affected in one way or the other by white supremacist thought. I remember attending a worship on young African women in London, there was a Japanese woman who commented that she was interested in doing something to 'help' African women. Yet despite the large number of friendly, cheerful Black women in the room, she chose to stick with the 2 white women in attendance. I didn't get how she wanted to help us when she couldn't even be bothered to talk to us. Anyway, that's the end of that anecdote.

      There's a story behind the large eyes in anime, her name is Betty Boop and she influenced the anime and manga industry. I've seen anime in which characters had large eyes and still looked distinctly Japanese.

  13. One more thing. I've dated women of many different races, and consequently multiple different nipple colors. Never once have I been concerned with the color of a woman's nipple. Being a black guy I'm more accustomed to brown nipples so of course I took note of any pink ones that I have seen, but trust me, in 1.5 seconds my attention what back squarely where it belonged lol. This blog entry made me do some research and it seems that Japanese men prefer pink nipples. Asians are just so alien to me sorry lol.


  14. This is a perfect example: http://www.fakku.net/viewonline.php?id=7335

    And through the "dark skin" tag you get these: http://www.fakku.net/manga/tags/darkskin

    This one is odd :(...: http://www.fakku.net/viewmanga.php?id=7536

  15. Old Age Japan believes white skin is a sign of purity, beauty and rich. Stay thing in Egypt. The ones that stay inside and take herb bathe is light skin. The dark skinned is always a symbol of hardworking or curse. Some japanese artists believes the color of pink means cute, innocent and bliss. I am a black artist studying graphic design for B.A. The pink nipples,not all black people wear afro/braids, etc use to bug me. I kinda understand the errors in the anime world.
    1. 20 percent black folks live in Japan.
    2. Older generation in Japan is racist
    3. Fan girls dislike gaujins near they men

  16. I think that manga's characters with huge/colored eyes and colored hair is mainly creativity/fantasy in a country where these features don't exist in their people. I do acknowledge that the old animes' characters were very/essentially Western looking though and I didn't really understood that. Western influence is everywhere, especially in the media, but Japanese manga have developped their own graphic and their own comic genre. Western comics tend to picture characters in a really realistic way, they look like real people or in a minimalist/simplistic way. Now I'm no expert on comics so please take this with a grain of salt.

    As for the pink nipples, I honestly don't think that any Japanese woman has pink nipples, unless she's mixed or something, at least it's safe to say that the vast majority of Japanese and Asian people in general have brown nipples.

    Anyway, I think that many Japanese people or their media have a fascination with pink nipples, something they don't have. Don't know if it has to do with innocence and if it is the case then it could be just a code/fantasy/fascination thing in mangas. You all know that many Japanese mangas love kawaii/teenager looking girls/women.
    So yeah, it's ridiculous to see black characters with pink nipples but it just makes me laugh lol I don't think they do it out of ignorance, they know what they're doing, and they basically copy/paste their standards on black characters. What is unrealistic for a Japanese character will be unrealistic for a black character. Makes sense.

    Let's not make it ALL about white people like their the center of everything, after all, Asian have had their pale face/body standard for hundred years, look at the ancient paintings, some cultures are really dicrimnating and have been for centuries.
    I don't really think that Japanese people worship the US or white people anymore (Korea is different though). What I feel is the need to be different from others in this homogenous country (Japan), an appreciation for "extravagance" (sorry for the French word), a need to express themselves in a weird but personal way, creativity in technology and other stuff to match people's needs/fantasies as kinky as they can be. Fashion, make-up, etc which is interesting when you know the discipline and strict expectations they deal with everyday.

  17. Thank you Myra! my thoughts are exactly the same. i think what u wrote is one of the most succinct and concise explanation i have read. Every culture, every society has their own unique way of seeing the world. they try to understand the phenomenons surrounding them through what they already know. On the topic of the origin of manga style, i doubt it was significantly influenced by the foreign culture. Fair skin color was traditionally linked with higher class, nobility, and purity (which i'm not sure if it should be so relevant today), rather than racial discrimination. For example, even the English language vocabulary for lighter skin is "fair"! Asian cultures have traditionally viewed "youthful" = "beautiful", just as botox-crazed society in 21st century. Another distinctive feature of manga is the size of a nose, which tends to be proportionately smaller or not visible at all. to be honest, if i were to guess the closest inspiration of beautiful/cute facial feature would be a baby's facial feature, with disproportionate size of the head compared to the body. all babies have these features, it's universal. also anime/manga artists use many creative ways to personalize their characters to be memorable to the reader/viewer. compared to this, as someone has already mentioned, european/american comics have much more realistic approach in its character design like face features and body proportion. in conclusion, i don't see much of white-supremacy promotion being the motive nor an inspiration. but i do hope that animes/mangas will include more diversity and tell stories that reflect present reality. there are still yet much to be accomplished.

    (btw, the focus of this blog is awesome!)