Racism and Discrimination in Anime

The place to discuss anything relating to anime or manga.
User avatar
Compass
Posts: 1054
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 1:29 pm

Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Compass » Tue May 27, 2014 1:57 pm

I'm curious as to why so many anime series feature this type of issue as one of their main themes. I didn't realize it at first, but heck, even a lot of Gundam animes deal with stuff like Coordinators vs non-Coordinators, Newtypes, Innovators, etc., not to mention a lot of others that are strictly not Gundam.

A lot series make it a major point of contention as well, where main character A is prejudiced against because B.

Compare to say, Western cinema and shows, and we really see a very small proportion of our media dealing with that. Not sure if it's taboo (doesn't seem to be that way from my perspective).

Can anyone help me shed some light on this?
Watching: Black Bullet, The World is Still Beautiful, Brynhildr in the Darkness, Captain Earth, The Irregular at Magic High School
Quick Picks that ended Last Season: Gundam Build Fighters!!! Buddy Complex

User avatar
Raikoh
Posts: 489
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:42 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Raikoh » Tue May 27, 2014 2:33 pm

Personally, I think a lot of it is likely a cultural thing. Japan has a long history of ethnocentrism, some might argue xenophobia. Up until the 20th century, they were almost entirely isolationist. To put it bluntly, the Japanese were the racists. They had all the power, and were able to express that in various ways (the most memorable I find is the systematic persecution of Christians).

But then came the two World Wars, where things got turned around and Japan realized that remaining in their little happy box wouldn't cut it in the modern world. Ever since, they've been vying to be a global power. However, directly after World War II, there was the issue of American occupation. Suffice to say that the Japanese were not (and to this day still criticize) the soldiers who occupied Okinawa (mainly) at that time. I'd say the American occupation is the main reason why we see all these issues of discrimination.

Racism isn't as major a topic in Western works because, let's face it, the producers of these works are in the majority and probably not that familiar with the feeling of being discriminated against. That's just the way it is. I'm speaking more from an American standpoint, but most major movers and shakers in Hollywood are white men, who have never had their place in American society overturned. Many times, the most that racism will be talked about is in a somewhat ham-handed and melodramatic manner (NOT ALWAYS, I'm aware of more than a few Western works that I enjoy that cover issues of prejudice). I'm sure there are probably more reasons as to why our culture doesn't cover racism as much.

...Of course, there's also the fear that they might be seen as hypocritical if they tried to do something like... Say, Code Geass, which is all about racism being bad, but it made the most amoral members of the Black Knights be the non-Japanese ones (Lelouch notwithstanding), had the Brittanians completely amoral with no redeeming qualities (especially in season 2), and of course their portrayal of the Chinese Federation...
THE WORLD IS NOT SQUARE

User avatar
wielder
Posts: 303
Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:14 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by wielder » Tue May 27, 2014 3:47 pm

To answer the original question, I wouldn't say it is a core issue for most anime. I think it's actually more prevalent in mecha anime than in other genres, at least far as I can tell.

Given that, I would imagine there is a certain amount of criticism of extreme racism and discrimination by a number of anime and manga creators, including those of various mecha series, perhaps because they've either experienced discrimination on a national or sub-national level or at least have a degree of interest in history, both global and regional, that might influence their views. Conversely, some of their fellow industry folks seem to have a series of thoughts that run in the opposite direction, but I don't think we need to elaborate on that too much here.

Ideally, it would be interesting to read interviews and look at the biographies of anime creators who have dealt with this sort of topic in order to reconstruct where their views might have come from. There's a lot of information about famous people like Hayao Miyazaki and his opinions, for instance, but maybe we should attempt to look beyond that. Not everyone grew up during the immediate aftermath of World War II, which is clearly going to be a huge influence on those who were alive back then.
Raikoh wrote: ...Of course, there's also the fear that they might be seen as hypocritical if they tried to do something like... Say, Code Geass, which is all about racism being bad, but it made the most amoral members of the Black Knights be the non-Japanese ones (Lelouch notwithstanding), had the Brittanians completely amoral with no redeeming qualities (especially in season 2), and of course their portrayal of the Chinese Federation...
I wouldn't say the show is all about that, but it's certainly a relevant topic of discussion. For that same reason, however, I think you're being rather heavy-handed and a bit sloppy with that last description. There are more elements and nuances in Code Geass that should be properly considered before calling the series hypocritical or whatever.

All sides had a combination of good and bad people, even if in different degrees and with a varying emphasis depending on the context. But then again, it's not like all the factions and countries are in exactly the same situation to begin with.

Britannia had Suzaku as a former Japanese who tried to make the most of a corrupt system and reform it from within. He acknowledged that the status quo was bad, but figured he could change things in the long run for the better, rather than fight it with more violence. There were certainly many Britannian characters who just obediently followed orders and oppressed the Japanese without any desire to change anything, such as the nameless soldiers and most Knights of the Round, but Euphemia, Nunnally and the high school students were generally shown to be good people at heart. Others would qualify as being gray rather than necessarily amoral or evil.

Japan wasn't limited to the Black Knights. Suzaku's late father was...well, not exactly a good person. He, Kirihara and another Japanese politician whose name I forgot were just as capable of playing dirty political power games as any Britannian. The Japanese Liberation Front was mostly made up of aging military men and terrorists, with only Tohdoh and his team being more or less decent. Lelouch as Zero also makes a point of trying to turn the Black Knights into an international organization, not just one exclusively centered in Japan, through the UFN.

The Chinese Federation had a bunch of corrupt Eunuchs calling the shots, but Xingke, his military comrades and the Empress herself were never portrayed as being racially inferior or bad people. It was also Xingke who actually gets to kill the Eunuchs, after Zero discredits them publicly. Certainly not the most sophisticated or enlightened of portrayals, sure, but also far from being virulently anti-Chinese.
Soul Eater, the True Rune

User avatar
HellCat
Posts: 1491
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:24 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by HellCat » Tue May 27, 2014 4:46 pm

I find Geass and Gundam seem to be odd cases because they seem to get more 'racist' via spin off works. We've talked alot about how non-Tomino creators seem to love to reinterpret Zeon to appeal to Imperial Japan leanings and Geass has stuff like Tale of an Alternate Shogunate, which is basically 'Big mean European men come over in boats and subjugate the poor Japanese'.
Gundam AGEs Forum- Three destinies will form discussion.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

User avatar
zerogradius
Posts: 351
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:24 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by zerogradius » Tue May 27, 2014 9:13 pm

I think that using racism also blurs that line of good and evil. If everyone hates everyone else, it makes it harder to identify any one person or group as protagonists or antagonists. Hence the area of grey.

Kratos
Posts: 1100
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:57 pm
Location: BC

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Kratos » Tue May 27, 2014 9:35 pm

I think it CAN blur the lines, but it can also draw them pretty stark, especially when the heroes lack any racist tendencies themselves or if one side is so cartoonishly racist that it makes the other side's dislike of them seem at least somewhat justified.

SEED had the latter problem, but it didn't need to - Natural dislike of Coordinators is one of those things that could have easily had blurred lines because, well, it would be pretty easy for feelings of hatred to grow from jealousy, especially when the other party is inherently your undisputed better. It's also kinda topical! But no - that particular angle is never explored and the EA slowly morphs into said cartoonish racism (and, of course, the kind-hearted accepting heroes get an entire FACTION to themselves that neatly puts them beyond the issue).
"The beast of opportunity finds its master and soars through a shaken cosmos"

User avatar
zerogradius
Posts: 351
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:24 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by zerogradius » Tue May 27, 2014 10:05 pm

The EA was ridiculous but Patrick Zala and Rau more than made up for it. They were as genocidal if not more than the blue earth crazies.

And yeah, having the three ships alliance be the only non racist ones is a bit silly.

Kratos
Posts: 1100
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:57 pm
Location: BC

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Kratos » Tue May 27, 2014 10:21 pm

Rau is a wild card playing both sides, so he doesn't really affect the whole faction, but yeah, Patrick Zala puts ZAFT on the same level for sure. Still though, the use of racism and prejudice in the series makes the morality lines pretty stark, and that's such a shame.
"The beast of opportunity finds its master and soars through a shaken cosmos"

User avatar
HellCat
Posts: 1491
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:24 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by HellCat » Wed May 28, 2014 8:25 am

The Natural vs Coordinator conflict is one of my issues with Destiny. I know overall we're supposed to respect that the two sides aren't so different and are both human, but the Coordinators of PLANT in Destiny might as well have just been spacenoids. In SEED there was a sense this was an advanced splinter society of humanity and that it's population reflected that. In Destiny....they just come off as panicky and knee jerky with little of what made them stand out in the first story.

Plus pairing Athrun with Meyrin over Cagalli seems to ruin the subplot from the first show that the genetic tampering of Coordinators had produced humans who couldn't breed and thus needed to unify with Naturals to produce future generations.
But who needs that when you can make Meyrin a dream self insert for mousey girls in the audience?
Gundam AGEs Forum- Three destinies will form discussion.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

excalibur2008
Posts: 135
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:36 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by excalibur2008 » Sat May 31, 2014 9:00 pm

Compass wrote:I'm curious as to why so many anime series feature this type of issue as one of their main themes. I didn't realize it at first, but heck, even a lot of Gundam animes deal with stuff like Coordinators vs non-Coordinators, Newtypes, Innovators, etc., not to mention a lot of others that are strictly not Gundam.

A lot series make it a major point of contention as well, where main character A is prejudiced against because B.

Compare to say, Western cinema and shows, and we really see a very small proportion of our media dealing with that. Not sure if it's taboo (doesn't seem to be that way from my perspective).

Can anyone help me shed some light on this?
And yet ironically enough the X-men Anime has mutants being less discriminated against than usual.

Which was kind of a weird thing to see in an X-men adaptation.

User avatar
Darkerangel
Posts: 355
Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:47 pm
Contact:

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Darkerangel » Sun Jun 01, 2014 9:04 pm

Isn't this a key concept for the Dragon Age franchise?

Besides the Grey Wardens vs the Darkspawns, you also have the humans against Elves who at one point were and in some areas still slaves and then you also have people against magic users.


Magic users are pinned up against the wall to the point that they have no choice, but to use unlawful magic just to protect themselves.
Mobile Suit Gundam Rebirth A rogue space team called U-FEA is in search for the Beacon of Hope for the future of humanity. They will have to use the blueprints of the Mobile Weapons before them as part of their arsenal to take down the Xen-Dominion.

User avatar
Compass
Posts: 1054
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 1:29 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Compass » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:06 am

Well, it's a lot easier to use mages vs non-mages as an example in any regard. Wizard Barristers and The Irregular at Magic High School both discuss the implications of mages in society as either outcasts or people to be suspicious of.

Maoyu no Yuusha, on the other hand, examined humans vs demons, and the very essence of how both sides didn't understand each other.
Watching: Black Bullet, The World is Still Beautiful, Brynhildr in the Darkness, Captain Earth, The Irregular at Magic High School
Quick Picks that ended Last Season: Gundam Build Fighters!!! Buddy Complex

User avatar
Powerman293
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:28 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Powerman293 » Sat Nov 15, 2014 12:46 am

The thing I always got confused in with SEED is that how people could tell from a glance if someone was a coordinator while others couldn't tell a natural or coordinator apart.

monster
Posts: 767
Joined: Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:45 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by monster » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:02 am

Powerman293 wrote:The thing I always got confused in with SEED is that how people could tell from a glance if someone was a coordinator while others couldn't tell a natural or coordinator apart.
You can't tell from a glance, but you can guess from their actions and accomplishments. There are probably also false/mistaken accusations as well.

latenlazy
Posts: 1223
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2006 1:30 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by latenlazy » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:18 am

Raikoh wrote: Racism isn't as major a topic in Western works...
Uhhh....excuse me? Django Unchained? 12 Years A Slave? Crash? Schindler's List? Lincoln? Fruitvale Station? I could go on and on and on...

User avatar
Raikoh
Posts: 489
Joined: Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:42 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Raikoh » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:50 am

Powerman293 wrote:The thing I always got confused in with SEED is that how people could tell from a glance if someone was a coordinator while others couldn't tell a natural or coordinator apart.
I think it depends on the person. Some are blatantly obvious, like Lacus, Yzak, or Nicol (I think the weird hair colors being genetic modifications is canon, since that's also the explanation why Kira has different hair and eye colors than his identical twin). Others would be harder to spot (like Gai).
THE WORLD IS NOT SQUARE

User avatar
Brave Fencer Kirby
Posts: 1309
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2007 3:14 pm

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Sat Nov 15, 2014 11:07 am

Kira and Cagalli aren't identical twins -- identical twins have identical DNA, meaning (among other things), they're always the same gender. So unless they decided to switch Kira's gender for some reason while they made him a Coordinator, he and Cagalli are fraternal twins.
Fighting evil so you don't have to!

teslashark
Posts: 554
Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:40 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by teslashark » Mon Nov 17, 2014 3:30 am

The Galactic Empire in Star Wars is more disposable when it is made clear it runs on very real chauvinism and white supremacy - it is easy to see all the officers are human men, then you realize they are mostly white. You can explain it as casting logistics, but the best handwaver tunes up their evilness.
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Human_High_Culture

If I was the casting director of The Hunger Games I'll make the Capital whites only, and look like roaring 20s/noir villains/Tennessee William play rejects. I didn't watch the movie because they are too diverse to have an oppressive image.
Junior mod at forum.spacebattles.com

excalibur2008
Posts: 135
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:36 am

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by excalibur2008 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 3:46 pm

teslashark wrote:The Galactic Empire in Star Wars is more disposable when it is made clear it runs on very real chauvinism and white supremacy - it is easy to see all the officers are human men, then you realize they are mostly white. You can explain it as casting logistics, but the best handwaver tunes up their evilness.
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Human_High_Culture
I never really got the whole humans only vibe from the Empire seeing as until Return of the Jedi the Rebellion was just as lacking in aliens of the Empire.

User avatar
ShadowCell
Moderator
Posts: 5834
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 12:59 pm
Location: California
Contact:

Re: Racism and Discrimination in Anime

Post by ShadowCell » Tue Nov 18, 2014 4:54 pm

it's an effort to make the Empire that much more evil, by making them racists on top of everything else

Post Reply