This may be controversial but I have been pondering about this for a while now. No matter how you want to spin it, anime characters oftentimes DO NOT look Japanese by any conventional means. They have a Eurocentric look to them and no matter what anyone says, if I showed casual non-anime people Naruto, and their first thought is “White”, something is up! So that begs the question, why do we insist that they’re Japanese when it’s clear the inspiration is European?
This has been a heated debate for years now. Many people often rule out the fact that since the creators of anime are Japanese, all characters that are not explicitly told what ethnicity they are, are Japanese. However, that logic kinda makes no sense because if we really want to play this game, then that means if Naruto is Japanese, so is Killer Bee! Neither has ever been stated in the show to be of different races, so there really shouldn’t be a reason why Naruto is considered Japanese but Killer Bee is not! And if you going to make the argument that Killer Bee is inspired by Black people, then you’ll also have to accept that Naruto’s blonde hair and blue eyes are inspired by White people.
For a while, I kinda just went along with the former argument for simplicity’s sake it but it has never made any sense to me whatsoever! No matter what anyone tells me, the creators (mangakas) of various anime always make an effort to try and make their characters look a certain way. And that included obvious foreigners.
I know that before I get to my point, people will point out that Anime makes it clear when they add foreigners to their show, such as Americans, and any other Europeans. Their faces are more defined, and almost “realistic” (which always looked off with the anime aesthetic). However ask yourself this, why is it easier to identify these foreigners, yet the character that are meant to look Japanese, show no resemblance to their ethnicity whatsoever. You may say “but they have round faces” but I’ve seen them have sharp jawlines too so that argument falls flat!
I saw this image online which just further proves my point. Personally, I don’t really care. If it’s for aesthetic reasons why the Japanese chose to use the European features then cool (well not really cool if it’s something that involves inferiority complex but we’re not going to get into that), but what we’re not going to do is deny the obvious. And I’m not talking complexion only. If you’re an objective person I think you would see it too!
Like I said, if it is for an aesthetic reason then cool, let’s say that! It’s no secret that the Japanese heavily admire Europeans and their feature and hold them in high regard. So is it really out of the question that there would be a longing for those features themselves? Let’s not forget that the Japanese have an obsession for perfection and once sided with the Nazis in pursuit of eugenic perfection. Do you think all that just up and vanished? Come on now!
But blindly saying that they’re Japanese when they don’t even look Japanese simply because it was made in Japan is wild. And you know my argument holds strong when White people would look visually better playing these characters in a live-action than a Japanese could simply by how close in resembles they look! Heck, I’m not even just talking complexion or hair color, their facial structure plays a major part in my argument. I know that the hair color is used to signify their personality or to make them easily recognizable, but it’s kinda sus that Blonde is the most prevalent hair clout in anime, and those who tend to have blonde hair color often times are characterized in favorable manners! You can play dumb if you want but they make it clear. Again, if that’s what they want to do then sure, they can knock themselves out with it. But trust me, this desire to want to be them is clear as day.
Another argument I’ve seen is that the Japanese themselves see “Japanse” when they watch anime! That honestly means nothing. If I showed you Marge Simpsons and asked you what race she was, you would have said white because they indirectly told you that. However, someone who has never seen the Simpsons would look at Marge’s hair and guess another race, likely Black due to her curly hair. Another person would have said non-human, another may even just go white since society has conditioned us to wee white as the default. The same is true with anime for Japanese people. It’s not that they see the Japanese in them but that they recognize the aesthetic as Japanese and have been told that these characters are Japanese so they say it is.
Yet, I’ve also seen storms of argument against Black people seeing Yoruichi as Black. I’ve already shared my thoughts on that but tell me, why doesn’t that argument ever hold up in court? And the whole, “they have Japanese name” argument….bruh, there’s a Japanese somewhere in this world named Derrick Jonhson. That argument has always been dumb to me! A character having a name doesn’t always necessarily correlates with their ethnicity.
Look, it’s high time that we stop being oblivious to what is happening. The question is why? Heck, even Japanese people have discussed this among themselves too! I bring them up because anime fans have a habit of holding their opinion in high regard. This nullifies any argument that implies that I may be looking at it from a western lens. If Japanese people can see it too, then yeah, it’s not just my western eyes. The only answer I can come with is the same one I’m been saying all this time in this blog, they just like it. They like those features and find them pleasing. There may be an inferiority complex at play here too but I can’t be 100% sure on that! I mean Blepharoplasty, also known as double eyelid surgery is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries in Japan, all in an effort o look like white people. It’s popular for a reason!!!!!
Well, that’s my take on it, let me know what you guys think! It’s obvious that anime characters aren’t 100% white people but they borrow a lot of features from them that you could mistake one for them. This is why calling them outright white is so heavily debated. Anime is all about been ascetically unique and was never meant to be 100% accurate or realistic of course but the designs for these characters at times are inspired by a certain group and there;s no point denying it!