Yeah, this one here is probably one of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve noticed being part of the anime community. It’s the one that creates the biggest discussion/arguments when brought up and makes everyone look bad by the end of it. Dark-skinned characters in anime, we don’t see them too often but when we do, their race immediately gets assigned to being African/Black people. However, that may be wrong!
I’ll give you an example. Take Yoruichi Shihouin from Bleach for example, ever since her debut in Anime: Episode 18 Manga: Chapter 51, to this day fans have debated whether she’s Black or Indian. Never been able to settle on one or the other. However, that’s the first mistake. Anime (unless specified in the narrative) generally don’t create characters with a specific ethnicity in mind from what I can tell. They are inspired by them but don’t go out of their way to be 100% accurate in their depiction, favoring stylized art! It’s either you’re fair-skinned, caramel-skinned, or chocolate-skinned character, with fair-skinned being the predominant skin tone. I get that since we don’t see a lot of dark-skinned characters often in anime, being cool and awesome at that, so when we do get one, every group is fighting to “claim” them.
Oftentimes, here in the West, we tend to chuck all Dark-skinned to Black people, however that may be ill-advised. Unless drawn with explicit traits that belong to Black people or their ethnicity is revealed in the narrative as part of the plot, most characters can be anything and you’d be right. Don’t forget Africans aren’t the only group in the world with melanated skin. We got Indians, certain Native Americans, Aboriginals, South Asians, and Melanesians that exist too! So if someone were to say Yoruichi or Ghislaine from Mushoku Tensei were Black, you’d be correct. If they had said Indians, they’d also be correct because there’s no way to prove or disprove it. Hate to say it but unless the CREATOR of the anime/manga specifies it, your word doesn’t really mean shit in a lot of cases. If people view a character as “X”, there’s nothing you can do about it. Your head-canon means nothing to the other person.
The other reason why I decided to talk about this now is that I’ve noticed this discussion flair up again with Nessa from Pokemon and Genshin Impact’s Kaeya and Xinyan! In both instances, we see dark-skinned characters immediately assigned to the Black race, and well, unless it has been stated in the lore of the world or in behind the scenes creation of the project of what race they belong to, to the public, they’re none of those races and all the races at the same time. That’s just how anime characters a made, they are sometimes ambiguous on purpose, with features from other races combined.
This happens with fair-skinned characters too actually. A lot of times we in the west assume that all fair-skinned characters are white, as in European white, and thought that Asians were just obsessed with white people. I mean there’s truth to it in the way that they represent actual white people in anime but not in this case per see. You can say that they pick and choose “features” from white people that they like such as blues eyes, and mix them together to create anime characters as we know them today. Here’s a really interesting video that shows you how Asians see fair-skinned characters. It’s an old video but it illustrates my point.
As you can see, they just either guess or insert what they THINK their race is, and characters that are clearly euro-centric white are immediately identified but overall they see all anime characters that don’t have clear ethnic traits as Asians. It can be argued however that that’s just what they’ve come to see as Asian whenever they see anime characters but I wanted to highlight this to be a little more open-minded about this sort of topic! Just food for thought!