Racism to show black people in anime
In 1963, the year before the serialization of Cyborg 009 started, Japan's first TV anime Astro Boy started to be broadcasted. The anime was so successful that anime attracted attention as a new form of commerce, and TV stations began to demand anime be broadcast. And Mushi Production (虫プロダクション), the company that produced Astro Boy, also began production of its second anime, Kimba the White Lion. The anime is also based on Osamu Tezuka's manga. The story is set in the magnificent jungles of Africa, and naturally there are African people in the story.
But, when it was animated in 1965, it is said that African people did not appear in the story, or their appearances were significantly reduced. Due to my lack of study, I have not been able to check all the episodes of the anime, but Yoshiyuki Tomino (富野由悠季. The director of Mobile Suit Gundam / 機動戦士ガンダム), who was working at Mushi Production at the time, gave a similar testimony, and as far as I could tell, there were no African people in the anime, and at least there fewer African people in the story than in the original.
Why did this happen? According to Tomino, it was because the TV station received the letter saying that it was racism to show black people in anime. It is unclear who sent such the letter. In Japan, there was a group called Kokujin Sabetsu wo Nakusu Kai (黒人差別をなくす会. Literal translation: Association to Eliminate Racism Against Blacks) that complained about various works and had them sealed under the banner of "end racism", but since the group was established in 1988, it is impossible to complain about the anime from 1965. In the first place, I do not think that many Japanese people at that time would find discrimination against blacks in the design of manga. This is because Goliwog like doll, Dakko-chan (ダッコちゃん), was very popular in Japan at that time.
Then I thought of Osamu Tezuka's experience again. He was strongly influenced by Disney animation and wanted to export his anime to the U.S. He revealed that as soon as he created Astro Boy, he tried to sell it to the U.S., but failed at least once. The reason can be roughly explained by this picture.
© Tezuka Productions
In Japan, Mighty Atom was criticized as "the cruel shonen manga" because of this scene, as explained on page 1, but Tezuka testified that he received the same reaction in the U.S. As an aside, in the manga that describes it, he asks the question, “the U.S. is so sensitive to cruelty... why is it committing genocide in Southeast Asia?". As I see it is the same reason why BLM, which said, "we know all lives matter, so don’t talk about anything other than black people now”, has no reaction to the violence against Asians, to Myanmar in a state of civil war after a coup d'etat by the national army, and to Afghans who fear Taliban regime.
Tezuka also revealed that after successfully selling Astro Boy in the U.S., when he was asked about his next work and mentioned Kimba the White Lion, he was told by an American official, "Since the issue of black people is a hot topic in the U.S. today, please depict black people as cool and white people as ugly". And Kimba the White Lion is the anime that was created on the premise of being broadcast in the U.S. Based on the above, I guess that --yes, this is just my guess-- it was the Americans who demanded that there be no black people in Kimba the White Lion? At least in my opinion, there is no doubt that the racial issues in the U.S. in the 1960s would have spilled over into Japanese anime. This is because, with the exception of Kimba the White Lion, which was designed to be broadcast in the U.S., black characters often appeared in anime after that.
One of the most famous examples it is Armstrong Ozma (アームストロング・オズマ) from The Star of the Giants (巨人の星). The anime, which ran from 1968 to 1971, was based on the baseball manga of the same name, and the highest viewer rating was 36.7%. This is one of the top ten records in the history of Japanese anime. It is still well known today as one of the most popular sports manga, so-called "spokon (スポ根)", that ignores all sports science and uses only perseverance to rise to the top. I do not know much about the manga, partly because I am from a different generation, but this Ozma character seems to have been so impressive that a dedicated entry has been created on Wikipedia. As of September 26, 2021, there are only seven characters, including him, for whom a dedicated entry has been created in The Star of the Giants.
The protagonist of the manga, Hyūma Hoshi (星飛雄馬), is given an uncommonly gifted education by his father, a former baseball player, in order to become a professional baseball player from an early age. He is forced to train hard day in and day out, regardless of his own will, and although he wanted to be free from baseball, his talent blossomed and he became a nippon professional baseball player. Ozma, whom he met on the professional baseball stage, has lived a life similar to that of Hyūma. Ozma was an American living in the U.S., but he entered nippon professional baseball and became one of Hyūma's rivals. Although they were fiercely hostile to each other, by the time Ozma returned to the U.S., they had become close friends.
After returning to the U.S., Ozma became a major leaguer, but was called up for service in the Vietnam War, where he was injured protecting a comrade in arms. Upon his return, he returned to MLB, where he was hailed as a battlefield hero. But, his wounds from the war worsened and he died. The story of Ozma after he left Japan was broadcast over two episodes, and this is known as an excellent story among Japanese otaku. By the way, Ozma was not featured in the anti-Asian media the Guardian video that disparaged Japanese anime as racism in 2020, Ozma was not introduced, does that mean that his design is fine?
Anyway, as you can from Ozma, black characters that are portrayed with a significant amount of time were already present in the anime of this era. Even in Cyborg 009, one of the main characters was black people. But, whoever wrote the letter, the point that Kimba the White Lion received, that "racism to show black people in anime", definitely created a trend of shunning the appearance of black characters.
You may think that you just have to not draw them in stereotypes, but in Japan, there are many other stereotypes besides black people. For example, in Cyborg 009, white people and Chinese people are stereotypically portrayed as well as black people. white have unusually sharp and high noses, while Chinese have thin and long moustache...
© 石森プロ 2013
But, these stereotypical designs were rarely a problem when compared to black people. Historically speaking, among whites, blacks, and Chinese people, it should be Chinese people that Japan should pay the most attention to, but, Chinese are the ones whose stereotypes are the least problematic. In Japan since the 1980s, a new stereotype of Chinese people has been added: girls with chignon and cheongsam. Typical examples of this are Chun-Li (春麗) from Street Fighter II (ストリートファイターII) and Shampoo (シャンプー) from Ranma 1/2 (らんま1/2). And, these are not considered to be problems either. When Japanese works are considered problematic by Chinese people, it is almost always, or rather, exclusively, because of the content, not the design (more to the point, even that is rarely the case).
As a result of this process, more than a few people have come to believe that it is not "stereotypical portrayal of a particular race or ethnicity" that is the problem, but "portrayal of black people" that is the problem. This was mentioned in a conversation between Isao Takahata (高畑勲. Director of Grave of the Fireflies) and Yoshiyuki Tomino that took place in 1981. This dialogue is well known among geeks, but it would be too long to quote it all, so I will summarize it.
The dialogue was a project about Mobile Suit Gundam. Takahata asked Tomino, "Is not it unnatural that there is an organization called the Earth Federation (地球連合軍) in Gundam, but no black people appear in it?". Tomino replied, "Originally, I was planning to include black people. I was also thinking of depicting racial issues in this anime. And Ryu Jose (リュウ・ホセイ) was going to be it. But the TV station said, 'If you show a black character, some people will say it's discrimination, so please don't show him', so I gave up". Hearing this, Takahata sums it up like this (As usual, my translation).
Takahata: Huh... TV station is thoroughly on the run, isn't it. They just run away, don't they. But, I am still very particular about that. I think that Gundam should have made people aware of the fact that there are all kinds of people on earth. Especially for today's Japanese. There is a lot of hunger and racism in the world, and after overcoming and solving these problems, the World Federation was established... I feel that teenagers need to be awakened to the imagination in the sense that it is impossible without solving these problems. It's just a matter of interspersing them. You don't have to address the issue head on, just make people aware of it. Basically, we are people of color. We are different from the self-centered Westerners, and we need to remember that.
Tomino: It really is.富野由悠季の監督術 『機動戦士ガンダム ロマンアルバム復刻版 ロマンアルバム・エクストラ (42)』高畑勲VS富野喜幸 - ATENOBLOG
It is important to note that the black people that Takahata says should appear are "designed to be instantly recognizable as black people”, that is, it is a character with a design that media outlets like the Guardian would be overjoyed to badmouth. This is because when Tomino said, "TV stations do not like to show black characters", he offered the Cyborg 009 anime as a disproof against it. The Cyborge 009 anime was broadcasted from 1966 to 1968, but has been remade several times since then, and a remake of that anime was also aired in 1979 when Mobile Suit Gundam was broadcast.
If such a character had appeared in Mobile Suit Gundam, what would have been the reaction of Western media? I can only say that Tomino was right in his choice not to show black characters. After all, even though black characters had appeared in manga and anime from a very early stage, partly due to the post-war mixed-race orphan problem, the influence from the U.S., which ruthlessly abandoned them, drastically reduced the chances of them being depicted in the mainstream.
You seem to assume that the reason for this is because Japanese people are racists, but don't be silly. It's because you guys are so picky that consideration and consideration. And now, you'd snapped at anime is racist that because it was no black people, you'd snapped at whitewashed that the skin color of the character you've decided is black people is painted in a light color, even a little bit, and it's getting more and more demanding. You guys having an event called blacktober where they paint anime characters black for some b*lls**t reason like "protesting the lack of black characters in anime", but there will definitely be even fewer black characters if you guys do that. To make excuses, they say that there are black people in Japan, but they never mention the mixed-race orphan who will be the first generation. They can't touch them. Because they don't know. They don't even want to know about them. If they knew about them, it would be negative for them, so they continue to ignore their existence.
As if you guys had finally mentioned their existence, you criticized the mixed-race children, saying that they had been complicit in discrimination by not taking an interest in their GI fathers, who had been discriminated against in Japan. Sachio Kinugasa and Hideki Irabu, who BBC featured in this sh**ty article as representatives of mixed-race children, both grew up without knowing their fathers. In the first place, what kind of discrimination did the GIs suffer in occupied Japan? Where were GIs who were repeatedly abducted and raped by Japanese people, GIs who had their 9-month-old children raped and murdered by Japanese people, GIs who were slaughtered for robbery by Japanese people, and GIs who were murdered for rape by Japanese people? Stop playing around.
Japan has become so safe that even black BLM supporters say "safer here than in the U.S.", it was because of the existence of mixed-race children that the U.S. and Britain abandoned. If you despise them, then there is no reason for the Japanese to consideration for black people or white people anymore. Most of the mixed-race children of that time are no longer in this world. Most of the people in Japan today are people like BLM, who ignore the existence of mixed-race children after the war, ignore the crimes committed by the U.S. military in Japan, continue to ignore discrimination against Asians in the West, and continue to interpret the world in ways that are convenient to the West. They are not minorities anymore. They chose to be on the side of the U.S. soldiers and BCOFs who abandoned the mixed-race children, instead of the mixed-race children who have lived hard to prove that they are different from the U.S. soldiers and BCOFs who do whatever they want.
Next page: To hell with political correctness