Kò Sí Ẹni Bí Ogun! (There Is No One Like Ogun!)

Written by Timi Ofarn

In today’s climate, authentic representation is everything. Being able to see portrayals of yourself in various forms of media is one of the most gratifying things in this world we live in. Having said that, as a huge anime fan, I don’t look to Japanese anime for my representation. I’ve come to understand that the art form that is anime is created by those who won’t be able to necessarily know how best to portray the Black experience. And that’s okay. But never in my years of watching Japanese anime did I think I would come across a character who I could relate to more than Ogun Montgomery from Fire Force.

Ogun Montgomery is a member of Fire Force Company 4 and is good friends with Fire Force’s main protagonist. But it’s not just the fact that Ogun is Black that I resonated with his character, it runs much deeper than that. Ogun is one of the first Nigerian characters I’ve seen in anime; better yet he’s a Nigerian from the Yoruba culture. His name is derived from the Yoruba God of warriors and metal workers, which matches perfectly with his powers such as Yoruba Forge & Yoruba Blacksmith! In short, the creators of Fire Force went above and beyond to bring Ogun to life, and that is to be celebrated.

Representation of Black characters in Japanese anime has always been a touchy subject to address. While there have been good depictions of Black/darker-skinned characters such as Canary from Hunter x Hunter, Darui from Naruto, and Muhammed Avdol from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, there have also been examples where there have been poor and arguably racist depictions of Black people in Japanese anime, notably Mr. Popo in Dragonball Z. Even Bleach has been under scrutiny for its treatment of Black characters, who, while being positively portrayed visually, have questionable storylines according to many fans. I’m by no means saying Japanese studios should stop creating Black characters for anime; what I am asking rather, is why do some get it right and others get it so wrong?

Whilst the inclusion of Black characters in Japanese anime will always be a hot topic, as a Black anime fan, I can find solace that there are creators out there willing to include us in their stories. Social media has allowed for Black anime fans to find each other and bond over their love of anime and with more and more anime shows including Black characters, the number of Black people becoming fans of anime can only increase. With the rise of western anime shows like Cannon Busters that take the anime art form and use it to tell stories where the majority of the characters are Black, it’s fair to say that anime as a whole is becoming more progressive with its representation and inclusion. It will be interesting to see if and how new shows will portray and include characters that aren’t Japanese, but Ogun Montgomery will forever be the first anime character that I truly resonated with.

This is the first 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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