My Love/Hate Relationship With Japanese Anime and Anime Culture
By Bitchard Pryor
This is about my love/hate relationship with Japanese anime and anime culture. I’m part Japanese so I suppose it could be considered a part of my mixed race cultural heritage, but there are an awful lot of recurring themes in a lot of anime that rub me the wrong way. While there are a lot of themes and features to Anime that I enjoy, there are even more that I absolutely loathe. I love the artistic style. Anime has a distinctive look. No matter who the actual artist is, there are certain universal traits that make anime immediately recognizable as a genre. A certain way of drawing eyes and noses, certain favored dramatic poses, all cheap animation tricks to save money on artwork and still get an emotion across. Some of my favorite anime include series like Wolf & Spice and movies like Princess Mononoke. Though, for all its virtues, Anime has certain muddied waters.
First of all, 90% of all anime main characters are drawn and colored as white/Americanish people. For an animation sub-genre born in and typically made in Japan, so very few characters actually appear to be non-white. When characters of other races do appear, they’re all too often depicted in lazy, half-assed, racist stereotypes. Black characters are often drawn with giant lips and a mildly ape-like appearance. Certainly, though some do exist, Anime where there are NO stereotypically racist depictions of PoC’s is very rare.
Even worse is Anime’s primary way of depicting gay characters as ridiculously over-flamboyant or as sexual predators. And, transgender characters? As few and far between as they are, when they are portrayed, it’s generally as a perverted cis male creep exploring his kinky side by dressing as women.
In fact, there is a laundry list of offensive tropes that have permeated Anime so fully that they have become normalized, expected, and, to a certain degree, emulated and enshrined as desirable and acceptable in the community surrounding Anime:
– The gaggle of flighty, airheaded teenage girls screaming and catfighting over the handsome, blonde, but socially unavailable senior;
– The stand-offish ice princess, alpha bitch who just needs Sempai to thaw her heart and show her what it means to be a woman;
– The sexually inappropriate parents, humiliating their children by encouraging them to “get lucky”, and who have no understanding of the word “boundaries”;
– The excessively cruel, middle-aged MILF teacher who makes everyone miserable because she’s sexually repressed;
– The angry straw feminist who’s mean to all the boys because “she needs a man”;
– The token gay/lesbian character who acts like a complete sexual predator towards the uninterested hetero lead;
-The boy/girl who dresses like a girl/boy not because they’re actually trans but because of some convoluted comedy trope.
…And, the list goes on, and on, and on.
But, let’s not forget Hentai. Some Hentai, like any kind of porn, is fun, silly, sexy and lighthearted naughty fun. But WAYYYYY too damned much of it is
obsessed with some seriously problematic themes. There’s a lot of blatant rape, ending with the “she secretly wanted it, you can tell because she orgasmed at the end and was begging for more, which TOTES makes it okay that the aggressor forced him/herself on their victim despite clear and present rejection and protesting” logic. “No Means Yes” is a far too popular theme in Hentai, as much or more than even non-pornographic anime.
As bad as “vanilla” anime is towards transgender characters, Hentai is even worse. And, as an intersexed woman, I am particularly squicked by the all-too-often recurring: “the woman with the hidden penis is some evil witch/satanist/occult sorcerer/demon who is raping poor, innocent cis girls to achieve some unholy goal.” The most prominent example of this is Bible Black, but there are hundreds of Futanari stories in Hentai and Anime that add fuel to this fire. But, as much as this may surprise you, the racist and sexist stereotypes and transmisogynist bullshit aren’t even the issues that disgust me the most. My biggest pet peeve about anime comes from a strange, insulting real life side-effect of it: WEEBOOS
For those who are unaware, Weeaboos are younger white people who pretend to be Japanese based entirely on the characters they see in Anime, from dressing in the fashions anime characters wear to dying and styling their hair to match to…. *shudders* speaking exclusively in “Engrish” with anime dialogue tropes that no actual Japanese people actually use in real life. As was once said in an SNL sketch mocking the culture-bastardizing/appropriating Weeaboos: “…if there was ever any such thing as a form of affectionate racism, this would be it”. These stupid little children actually believe they’re honoring Japanese culture. And, because I am part Japanese, I can say with impunity: I don’t feel honored at all, I feel disgusted and depressed. It’s depressing and disappointing that so much mainstream anime resorts to so many of these cheap tropes and problematic stereotypes, especially ones that directly affect me as a trans/intersexed, lesbian, mixed-race woman.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do love a lot of anime. But, the ones I like, that try to rise above all this cheap lazy broken shit, tend to be less mainstream and, thus, a lot harder to find, let alone with subtitles. Anime with ACTUAL strong female leads, rather than the cold warrior bitches who become submissive waifus once the male lead conquers them, are rare and hard to track down. They also often don’t do as well in Japan’s still heavily misogynist culture and, with rare exceptions, almost never have more than one season.
Mainstream anime needs to try to challenge these problematic, and frankly lazy storytelling tropes, and evolve into something better. Because, as an avid Anime fan, I hate how hard it is to find good anime that I can enjoy and relate to without being left feeling dirty, insulted and dehumanized. Most of all, I hate how few Otakus are willing to stand up and call this shit out.