Black Excellence: Black Anime Fans Take Representation Into Their Own Hands

Written by Tundun Folami

As a black girl who grew up on anime and who continues to be obsessed with the medium, I don’t particularly consider black anime fans a rare phenomenon. As I got older, and with the advent of microblogging sites such as Tumblr I quickly gravitated to black anime fans across the world who cosplayed, bought merch, wrote fanfiction and were otherwise obsessed with their favourite anime and manga. However, despite how widespread black anime fans are on and offline, to this day there persists a particular image of what an anime fan looks and does not look like.

We’ve seen celebrities such as Michael B Jordan and John Boyega being open about their love for anime: you’ll find John Boyega standing proud by his anime figures and merch throughout his Instagram, and Michael B Jordan has gushed over his love of Naruto in numerous interviews. Popular musicians such as Megan thee Stallion and Thundercat have shown that black anime fans are multifaceted.

Recent examples include Thundercat’s soulful crooning on Dragonball Durag – a nod to his favourite anime, Dragonball Z. In Megan’s viral PAPER magazine feature, she pays homage to her favourite My Hero Academia character, Shouto Todoroki, in a two-toned wig and the outfit, makeup, and fire and ice visual effects to match. But even with all this, the legitimacy of Megan’s claims to be an anime fan were contested. As a black woman into anime, I’m no stranger to gatekeeping and was not surprised people had their doubts. It does however beg the question as to why these doubts existed in the first place. Because Megan is a popular rapper? Because she does not represent the commonly accepted idea of what a nerd is? Why was it so hard to accept that a woman like Megan could have a genuine love for anime?

I’m thankful for the voice social media has given black anime fans and the outlet it provides for their creativity. Fans have shown that standing proud in their blackness, being into rap and hip-hop, or into fashion and beauty doesn’t take away from their identity as a nerd or anime fan. In fact, it only brings more dimension and allure to it. Talented creators such as King Vader and Mark Phillips have contributed significantly to the representation of black anime fans online, blending humour and musical creativity into their anime-themed skits, and notably getting the attention of big companies. Trailblazers such as Black Girls Anime, Adorned by Chi and animators like LeSean Thomas (of The Boondocks and Cannon Busters) have thrown their hats into the ring to create original anime and manga where black characters are front and centre.

It brings me immense joy to be able to find other black anime fans with ease, thanks to how easy it has become for fans to self-publish their work and share their love for the medium. With black creatives creating their own original anime and manga series, it makes me excited as a black anime fan for what the future of the landscape could be with fans taking representation into their own hands.

This is the third part of our Black History Month campaign, with content written by Black anime fans who want to share their thoughts and feelings on the world of anime!

This piece was written by Tundun Folami is a full-time librarian and fangirl, and a co-founder of 4 Eyes Academia.

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