Just BEE Yourself
Written by Jordao Allen
Afro Samurai (Afro Samurai). Sister Krone (The Promised Neverland). Ogun Montgomery (Fire Force). Carole Stanley (Carole & Tuesday). Kaname Tōsen (Bleach). Canary (Hunter X Hunter).
These are some of the names of the most well-known and most respected cultural represented characters in anime. But there is just one crazy, rapper of a ninja from the Hidden Cloud Village that has made an explosive impact as a character, redefined cultural representation and shown exponential and important exposure to diversity in anime. His name is Killer Bee (Naruto Shippuden) and he’s one of my favourite characters in anime for that reason.
“What was inside our hearts before the monster… shines like a sun, powers us to any length! That’s where our true power comes from!” – Killer Bee, Naruto Shippuden
Killer Bee is a strong shinobi from the Hidden Cloud Village located in the Land Of Lightning, tasked to host the Eight-Tailed Beast within his body, and is also the adopted brother of the Fourth Raikage – with a dream of becoming the greatest hip hop artist in the ninja world. Like Naruto, he was a victim of prejudice and antagonism; neglected, hated and a frightening part of racism; not treated as an equal by his fellow ninja and other villagers when he was young. Yet none of that has stopped him from growing up to be one of the most outspoken, proud and powerful jinchūriki in the ninja world. He never let the fact that he was the source of his people’s fear and anxiety sway him from becoming the person he always wanted to be. He stayed strong and always looked into the positive aspect of life. It’s no wonder his brother loved him as deeply as we did.
Bee when he was young. Always proud, always about those positive vibes, no matter how much abhorrence and prejudice he had to go through, he always strives to be himself.
What’s interesting about his name is that it actually comes from an east African bee, which tends to swarm further than any other bees. It also has a strong defence and aggressively attacks those who wish it harm, much like Killer Bee himself. When he or his people are in danger his true strength is revealed, and no moment shows this more than when he fought against Sasuke in Shippuden episode 143. That fight was absolutely crazy. He nearly destroyed Sasuke for crying out loud! As one of Killer Bee’s killer highlights, the fight demonstrates his battle prowess with his powerful pro-wrestling-like Taijutsu, unorthodox sword style and his mastery of his jinchūriki power, combine that with almost the same speed, mobility and power as the Raikage himself, and you have got yourself a badass that brought the famous “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” line to a whole new level.
When I first read Killer Bee’s first battle vs. Sasuke in the manga, I thought of him as cringe-worthy because of his cheesy LA gangster look and personality that screams for desperate attention to the Black anime community, rather than an inspirational ethnicity representative. As time went by, that same cheesy LA gangster personality eventually grew on me, not because of how well it later fits into the comedic and dramatic aspect of a shonen story, but because it helped us understand his struggles as a host of an “Ox-octopus” and as a fantastically well written black character in a series, who’s just being himself, representing himself as a great person, brother and most of all: a ninja, making him one of the best characters in the series and one of the greatest examples of multi-culture in anime.
With more characters of colour being introduced in Naruto, most of them from the Hidden Cloud Village, such as the quick-tempered Ay, the fourth Raikage, an equally quick tempered Karui, the overthinking, over-imaginative Omoi, a calm, but deadly Darui and finally, the daughter of Choji & Karui, Chocho Akimichi from Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, it’s easy to see how serious Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto-san is to bring ethnicity and multi-culture to the Manga/Anime world more than ever before. According to an interview with ANN (Anime News Network) back in October 2015, Kishimoto-san said:
“When I started expanding on the world, especially through introducing other ninja villages, the very nature of doing that kind of forced me to widen the perspective. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a deliberate decision, but I was definitely conscious of the fact that if I wanted to have my Naruto world reflect actual society more, then it might be easier for fans to accept, to see, other cultures or races as well. So while it wasn’t necessarily an outright deliberate decision, I think I was conscious of the fact that I wanted Naruto’s world to reflect, at least a little bit, the world at large.”
Representation of black culture isn’t something you simply add to a narrative as a means to make it interesting or entertaining for the audience, and the same can be said for yaoi and yuri anime that came before like the Ikuhara cult classic, Revolutionary Girl Utena or a yaoi favourite, Love Stage!! – that is not how it works. It is there to allow us to reflect on the real-world perception of race and multi-culture in a way that we can relate to those characters of colour, orientation, or even LGBTQ+. Killer Bee has made his exclamation point to that by doing the one thing that betters a person and the people around him; Bee the person you want to bee.
Bee Yourself, Bakayarō! Konoyarō!
This is the fourth 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 Jordao Allen (Murkage Knight), who is an anime enthusiast, content creator, streamer & competitive fighting game player.
Find Jordao here: Twitch, YouTube, Blog, Facebook, Discord, Twitter, and Instagram
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