The April OWLS Blog Tour is well under way and today is my day to contribute to the tour. If you are unfamiliar with OWLS please check out my post Raise Your Voices For OWLS for all the details your little heart could desire! You can also just comment below with any questions. I promise I won’t bite! I also hope you were all able to check out Remy’s post on stereotypes through the eyes of Little Busters.
April’s blog tour is titled: Colors
“We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this monthly topic, we will be discussing how people of color or characters of different “races” (a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.”
I knew as soon as I heard this topic the anime I would choose. I had to go with Bleach. I must also take a moment to apologize for the fact that this is only my second post on GrimmGirl discussing Bleach.
(Seriously… What is wrong with my life that I only have two Bleach related posts on here! Memo to self… Must fix this ASAP!)
For this topic I wanted to talk not only about the diversity of Bleach but also a word that I’m afraid all to often is applied to instances where it actually does not relate.
If you are unfamiliar with this word breaks down to mean lack of membership/statelessness. In the legal sense it refers to the lack of belonging to any specific country but it also is used in subculture to address anything in which the Japanese culture is hidden. Therefore the product was born/started in Japan but doesn’t make reference to the culture, not just to Japanese culture but also to any culture. In short their race is indefinite.
I find this idea to be simply beautiful but at the same time I see it so often misused.
Anime as a whole does not fall into this category. All of anime/manga is not mukokuseki and that’s okay.
Here’s the thing. While I find the idea of mukokuseki beautiful I also find the idea of culture, ethnicity, and race to be beautiful. When both of these concepts are combined you get a show like Bleach and it is magnificent.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the characters in order to get an idea of what I mean.
Ichigo is not mukokeseki right off the bat because there are many references to his origins and to his culture. His orange hair be damned the man is Japanese, and guess what? That’s awesome! One of the things I love about watching anime/reading manga is slowly getting a chance to view a different culture.
When a character makes references to holidays celebrated in Japan or different events that are mainstream there I’m always stoked because it is so different then my experiences in my country. In America we don’t hold school festivals, our school system isn’t established the same way as in Japan, we don’t have Shinto shrines or priests, and the list goes on!
So seeing a character with ties to his Japanese culture is a beautiful thing to me because for me it’s a glimpse into a world I don’t get to see everyday. Why wouldn’t I celebrate that? Why would I try to erase the Japanese essence, which Ichigo clearly harbors? I think it should be celebrated!
Here we have another character that does not fall into the mukokeseki category but is still totally awesome. The anime/manga explicitly states that Chad is Mexican/Japanese and when I first saw him I cheered my ass off! I personally am biracial (my mom is white, my dad is black) so I get a special type of joy ANYTIME I see any sort of biracial couple or person.
Look growing up I rarely meet anyone who was biracial so seeing a biracial character on anime was a big deal. When’s the last time you saw another character besides Chad that was Japanese/Mexican portrayed in any sort of media?
I bet you can’t think of even one.
I love the references they make to Chad’s heritage and life in Mexico. I love his the diversity he brings to the table. Again I have to ask, why would anyone want to erase or ignore Chad’s race? It should be celebrated!
Members of Gotei 13
What are the races of the members of Gotei 13? Unknown. Seriously we could look at this character or that character and “assign” a race but it wouldn’t matter in the slightest. There “race” is Shinigami and to be Shinigami requires spiritual power they are unearthly beings.
What I’m trying to say is that if they were ever to do a live action Bleach roles could be given for the members of Gotei 13 to every race under the sun and it would be perfect. Isn’t that beautiful?
Take a character like Yoruichi. When I first saw her I thought, “She’s black like me!” but in realty because she is an unearthly being anyone with dark skin could relate to her! I think it’s cool to think that if you are Indian, Lakota, Hispanic, or anything under the sun you could look at Yoruichi and also think, “Look a character like me!”
And you wouldn’t be wrong!
That goes for all of the characters within the Gotei 13. Each of us regardless of race can relate to them because they are stateless in that sense and that is so beautiful because that gives us the chance to create our own diversity. In fact we can as a viewer create endless diversities!
My point is this. Anime is full of diversity and we should celebrate that. We should celebrate the characters that identify as a race and we should celebrate the characters that don’t because each is so beautiful.
Here in America people have tendency to say, “I don’t see color” this is usually in an effort to demonstrate how they do not judge people based on race, but whenever people say that to me I get a little sad. When people say that it feels as if they don’t see me. By erasing my color/my race it feels as if they are erasing all of the beautiful things that I can bring to the table because of my race, it also erases all of the struggles I have to face due to my race.
Remember, in America minorities have only been considered equal by law for the past 53 years. That isn’t that long. For this reason I want to shout at them, “DON’T ERASE ME! SEE ME! PLEASE SEE ME!”
I want people to see color. I want them to see it and realize it is beautiful. There is a difference between seeing color and judging people based on it and seeing color and celebrating the differences.
Unfortunately in American media we do not get a lot of practice in seeing color in the media. Often times when we do see minorities on the screen it is in side roles or stereotypical rolls. Oh you’re black? You can be a thug. You’re Mexican? Be a maid. Muslim? You’re a terrorist. Asian? You’re dorky and smart.
Starring roles that could be played by minorities are often given away, the claim being that other white actors are more bankable and profitable… But if you never cast us how do you know that we wouldn’t be successful?
Does this happen every single time? No. But it happens way more than it doesn’t happen and that’s a problem.
So this is why shows like Bleach mean so much to me. The diversity isn’t shoved under a rug. It’s woven throughout the story. Bleach creates a medium that we can all identify with regardless of our race. Everyone can be included and celebrated.
We all want to have meaning and none of us want to be erased. We want to be celebrated for who we are. While Bleach brings many diverse characters and ideologies to the table they learn to judge each other not on their race but on their merits.
Uryu Ishida at first hates Ichigo and the rest of the Soul Reapers, while the Soul Reapers hold zero trust towards him but they all begin to fight on the same side. They are able to look past each other as “Soul Reaper” or “Quincy” and become comrades.
Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck is an Arrancar but that doesn’t stop Ichigo from befriending her and rushing to her aid when she needs help!
Both Ishida and Nel become great allies to Ichigo and all of that would have been lost if Ichigo had judged them first on their diversity. Instead of ignoring their differences he celebrates them and is able to see that it is their differences that make both of them such powerful allies.
The same can be said for each of the characters of Bleach. There is a reason that each zanpakuto is different. They exhibit the difference strengths the characters bring to the table! It’s their love of each other’s diversity that is what makes each of them shine in their own way.
So let’s start celebrating not only the diversity in our anime but also the diversity in our lives. How beautiful it is that we all have different traditions, views, ethnicities, and races? How wonderful is it that by talking to someone of a different race/ethnicity you can learn all about a different culture/point of view?
It’s time we take a page out of the Bleach handbook and start SEEING color and celebrating it!
Celebrate who you are Grimms because it is your greatest strength, celebrate the diversity in others because it brings us together, and remember that we can make connections with others regardless of color while still taking pride in all of our beautiful colors.
Peace and Love
Don’t forget to check out Lita Kino and her OWLS post using Gundam Seed coming to the great InterWeb on the April 15th!
I do not own these images