Anime is a genre that I hold very dear to my heart. I think the first show I fell in love with was Sailor Moon. The whole school age girls transforming into magical warriors to save the world was just everything to me. But as I got older and watched more and more shows I realized that there was not a lot of characters that were black or brown. Unless you count Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z (which I hope you don’t because his character design is highly offensive but we can save that conversation for another time). At first I wanted to write about the lack of black and brown characters throughout anime. Instead, I would like to keep things positive here at GOC and composed a list of six awesome yet underrated Black and Brown characters from my favorite anime shows.
Mohammed Avdol (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is already one of my favorites because of its story lines, expressive character details and the flamboyancy of the male characters. Mohammed Avdol is one of those characters where the creators got diversity right. Avdol is an Egyptian Stand user with a lot of love and wisdom. Often times he wears his heart on his sleeves but is level-headed. Voice of reason comes to mind when discussing his role in the team as he tends to be the most balanced out of all the characters. Avdol is a big asset to his team and they know it. He’s full of knowledge and not only is he there to advise the team on the best course of action but is more than willing to protect his friends with his life.
Yoruichi Shihoin (Bleach)
Bleach carries many cool ass characters but Yoruichi definitely tops that lists. She is the former captain of the 2nd Division of Gotei 13 as well as the Commander of the Onmitsukido. Even though she possesses a very flirty nature (she has the ability to transform into a cat and sometimes when she switches back to human form she doesn’t have clothes on), she is also very dangerous and skilled. Her preferred fighting style is hand-to-hand combat and has been shown numerous times taking down enemies with relative ease.
A/The Fourth Raikage (Naruto Shippuden)
Okay I know I’m not the only one who was hype when we saw how black the Hidden Cloud Village was. I mean the Raikage and his younger brother, B, has cornrows! The Fourth Raikage came on the scene and wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions. Being tough isn’t all he is about though. We also see how compassionate he is with his brother and those close to him and his sense of humor. A is second in speed only to Konoha’s Yellow Flash, Minato, the 4th Hokage and that’s without the use of any seals. A uses lightning to speed up all his synapses as well as his strength. The cornrows come undone and shit gets real. His fighting style is wrestling techniques with blunt force trauma taijutsu and strength. A was able to crack the ribs of Sasuke’s Susanoo as well as punch through it. He is a conglomerate of so many things I love. He not only looks like me and kicks ass he is also a leader and important figure in the series.
Afro (Afro Samurai)
Afro from Afro Samurai is hands down one of the greatest characters in anime period. Afro Samurai has no name, all he is known by is Afro. He witnessed his father get brutally murdered in a duel when he was a little boy and swore revenge. Afro grew up to become known as the second greatest swordsman in the entire world with everyone trying to take the throne. He just brushes the blood of his enemies off and keeps on keeping on. He becomes an urban legend of sorts because most of the people who cross his path don’t live to tell the tale. The only goal for Afro is to get the number one swordsman spot and no matter what it takes or how wounded he gets, that’s all that’s on his mind. Afro is the strong and silent type for the most part and lets his bomb ass swordsmanship do the talking. Dude can even slice through a bullet. A fucking bullet. He’s also voiced by Samuel L. Jackson in the English dub, so that makes him an even greater character.
Michiko Malandro (Michiko to Hatchin)
Michiko is bad ass. To put it plainly. She is a free-willed diva who escapes from a supposedly inescapable prison fortress for at least the fourth time. Michiko rescues Hana “Hatchin” Morenos from her abusive foster parents and claims to know her father. Both her and Hana embark on a journey to find him while on the run from the law as well. Michiko’s relationship was rather complicated at first, due to their clashing personalities. But in time the two drew closer to one another. I know people might frown their face at the fact that the first black woman leading anime series is about a prison escapee on the run from the law but I swear its way more than that. We see Michiko from the start of the series as someone who is kind of selfish and just focusing on not getting caught or playing by the rules. Further, into the series, we still see that free-willed nature but instead, we see a more compassionate and sensitive side as she interacts with the young Hatchin. This ‘mother-daughter’ duo has all the feels you can ask for from joy to anger to sadness. It’s set in the fictional country of Diamandra which has cultural traces from Brazil. We see a wide number of Afro-Brazilian characters which makes this series a fan favorite.
Kaname Tosen (Bleach)
Kaname Tosen, the former captain of the 9th Division of the Gotei 13, was born blind. However, this does not hinder him from becoming on the strongest Shinigami. Kaname is the epitome of cool. He has dark skin, dark brown braids/cornrows, and sweet ass clear goggles. Tosen’s creed in life is to take the path with the least bloodshed. This creed tends to bump heads with his actions as he betrayed the Soul Society and sided with Sosuke Aizen, a character who doesn’t hesitate to kill. He does not feel remorse for his actions when he feels he is doing it for the right reasons. Overall, Kaname is definitely an interesting character and you’re going to have to watch the show to make a sound judgment for yourself.
Black characters in anime are definitely underrepresented. Beauty standards in Japan generally entail being as pale as possible. To be honest, there isn’t much diversity in Japan, to begin with. With characters such as Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z and Jynx from Pokemon, we know that Japan can definitely be ignorant of stereotypes and blackface. But as the list above shows you, sometimes they get it right depicting a character that is nonwhite. Representation is so important even in anime. There are plenty other dark-skinned characters and I’m hoping that there will be more to come.