From One Black Anime Fan To Another…

Written by Timi Ofarn

I like to think back to the anime shows I used to watch when I didn’t know what anime was, and how they affected me growing up. Pokémon, Digimon, Shaman King, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon ruled my Saturday mornings! Whether it was watching Ash catch 30 Tauros, seeing Goku fighting Frieza for the umpteenth time, or looking on as Sailor Moon pined for Tuxedo Mask’s affection, my journey into anime began long before I was searching ‘best Naruto fight scenes’ on YouTube, and I can imagine it being the same for many other Black millennial anime fans; that “Oooohh!” moment when you realise a show you loved as a child was an anime is something I’m sure many anime fans can attest to. So, let’s take a quick look at a few of the anime shows and characters that I believe have impacted us as Black anime fans.

Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z is a name that comes up often when discussing Black anime characters. There are so many similarities (and in some cases stereotypes) to Piccolo’s life and the Black experience; plus there is kind of an unspoken rule that if a character is green or purple they are automatically Black. Bleach’s Yoruichi Shihoi is one of the first examples of a Black female character in anime who could truly hold her own amongst the powerhouses she was surrounded by. That iconic moment when she shows off her shunpo/flash step against Byakuya Kuchiki is one for the ages. The influence Naruto has goes beyond the realm of mainstream anime, with the fighting template between Orochimaru & Sasuke also being used in The Boondocks, a Black animated show that drew a lot of inspiration from anime. I could literally do this all day; the legendary show Afro Samurai, which involved talent like Samuel L Jackson, RZA and Wu-Tang Clan, Killer Bee (even though his rapping style is questionable), the ice-cold Kuzan Aokiji from One Piece, Rumi Usagiyama from My Hero Academia, and of course, my boy, Ogun Montgomery from Fire Force. Yes, to be an anime fan is something special, but to be a Black anime fan is something almost magical because the few times you do see yourself in anime, or see anime used in Black culture, is a moment not many can relate to!

The future when it comes to Black anime characters and Black anime shows is exciting, to say the least. Black culture has always found its way into anime, but a more organic inclusion is definitely on the rise and it will be interesting to see what the anime landscape looks like in the next 12 months, and how it will impact Black anime fans. There are even Black-owned anime studios in Japan, with D’Art Shtaijo, founded by Arthell Isom, being the first one. This opens up the floodgates for all kinds of stories to be told. I’m by no means saying that all anime has to now be filled to the rafters with Blackness, what I am saying is that the natural inclusion of Black characters and Black stories within the anime genre is something that can now be explored better, and in a way that doesn’t seem like studios are doing us a favour. Anime has sure changed a lot over the past few decades, but that change should never be seen as negative; even despite the negatives that can occur, there are so many positives that have come from anime, and with every month that passes, I for one am filled with anticipation to see what comes next!

This is the final 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!
Timi Ofarn is co-founder of The Nerd Council and you can find him here!

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