Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Japanese don’t draw anime characters to be white
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Japanese don’t draw anime characters to be white

chibi anime -- do Japanese draw the characters to look "white"?I’ve written before about Japanese anime, or animation, as well as the genre’s characters and their large eyes, and wondered if they symbolize a desire to look more Caucasian.

But this brief guest post by Julian Abagond on the blog Sociological Images titled Why Do the Japanese Draw Themselves As White? that offers very interesting food for thought.

Abagond makes the case that Americans (white people) think Japanese draw anime and manga characters to look Caucasian, but that’s a Western construct, and that “Americans” (he conflates nationality with ethnicity, a common slip in race/culture conversations, even by well-intentioned people and often by Asians) see everything in terms of white unless there are stereotypical symbols that identify a character as another ethnicity.

He says that Japanese simply do the same and don’t think they’re drawing anything other than human beings in their own image: Japanese. He points out that Caucasians in anime are drawn differently from the “regular” anime characters — not with wide eyes and crazy hair colors. So the characters we think are drawn to look “Western” are just Japanese to the Japanese.

If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.

The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.

Marge SimpsonThis makes great sense to me. And, he punctuates his point with an obvious piece of proof from American pop culture:

You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white.

That’s true — the Simpsons are yellow, and we all know (or assume) that Matt Groening created the cartoon family to be a “white” American suburban family. Now, that’s some chewy food for thought. What do you think?