Features Issue 6 Magazine

Misrepresentation of African Americans in Anime

By Kylie Deng

Racism in anime is subtle when characters are portrayed, but often characters are illustrated using racial stereotypes. The anime The Promised Neverland released in January 2019 is just one of the many films that misrepresents African Americans. It features a female Black supporting character known as Sister Krone. Within the show she’s shown as a strong and large framed woman drawn with large lips and uncharacteristically big eyes. Even though anime tends to exaggerate features to make characters memorable, Sister Krone is the only one that is drawn with noticeable lips, instead of simple lined expressions. Sister Krone is simply one of the multiple African American characters portrayed by an inaccurate stereotype shown within anime.

Though African American misrepresentation is mostly featured in old mainstream anime, there are changes being made within the industry. A studio by the name of D’Art Shtajio was founded by twin brothers Arthell and Darnell Isom and animator Henry Thurlow. D’Art Shtajio is the first major Black-owned anime studio that has worked behind the scenes on a few of the most popular animes: Attack on Titan and One Piece. The studio is on the path to diversify the industry of anime on and off the screen. 

Arthell Isom said, “We don’t want to just fill in the blanks and colour a person this or that, because that’s wrong. We try to see how we can best represent this character. Whenever we have the chance, we put it out there.” One of their current projects illustrates this message and is called XOGENASYS. The story has miniscule details in its trailer which already features aspects of African American culture that are both genuine and accurate.

Continuing the path to diversify the anime industry from the production to the story, Arthell Isom has also spoken about animating LGBTQ+ narratives in order to magnify independent creators’ voices and give them the platform to tell their stories. The studio is certainly paving the way for more people of color to partake in the creation process of anime and how they are portrayed. Arthell Isom said, “We, of course, want to make a change in the industry, and even for us to effectively get in by any sort of margin, we have to do bigger productions. There’s not a lot of Black, or generally diverse, characters in anime yet, and hearing these stories makes us want to do something with them.”

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