“Why do the Japanese draw themselves as Caucasians?”

Japanese Happa Loli

Funny thing is, they don’t. The belief that anime characters “look white” is all based on a narrow perception that people tend to have when they are brought up in countries that have a large European influence.

Take it easy

Breaking It Down

Firstly, let’s look into things from the standpoint of a person that believes that the typical anime character possesses more European traits, as opposed to other races. Here’s a rough list of why they believe so:

  • Anime characters have big eyes.
  • Anime characters have hair and eye colors typically not thought of as natural for an Asian to possess.
  • Anime characters have pale skin.

Now, let’s deconstruct these points one-by-one, shall we?

...M..me? Slanty eyes? ):

Anime Characters Have Big Eyes

A common stereotype applied to Asian people is that they generally have slanted eyes, much more slanted compared to races such as Africans and Caucasians. While this assertion is a tad bit offensive, it is indeed understandable. However, let’s look at the characters in Clannad, who are intended to be Japanese teenagers. You look at those eyes and see how big they are.

Now, why is it that the first thing that registers in your head is a white person? Europeans don’t have abnormally large eyes and abnormally large pupils. In fact, no human being without a birth defect has eyes like that in real life! So what’s the deal? Having large eyes isn’t a white stereotype, so why is that a reason to assume that an anime character is intended to be drawn as if they were white?

This is my natural hair color!

Anime Characters Don’t Have Asian Hair Colors

The natural hair color for an Asian person is black, unless he/she is mixed or had their hair dyed to a different color. Yup, a naturally blonde Japanese is extremely rare to come by.

But so is a naturally blue-haired Japanese or a naturally green-haired Japanese (screw the rules!). Are you trying to convince me that being a white person gives you the privilege of having the magical green hair gene? Those are some strange genetics there, yo.

Sexy Tan Loli

Anime characters have pale skin.

The most idiotic assertion out of all the three, mainly because it’s a hasty generalization. Just as black people can be brown and white people can be tanned, Asian people can be pale-skinned instead of yellow. People tend to forget Asian people come in all sorts of colors: tanned, yellow, and white. In fact, a lot of real life Asians are more pale-skinned as opposed to the more yellow Asians (plain yellow would make them look horribly diseased). Even then, the normal lightly yellow-colored Asians are hard to distinguish from a pale-skinned one.

Point of the matter is, in order for this assertion to have any merit, it must be agreed that me accusing the artists of The Simpsons for drawing themselves as Asian would be as equally valid… because there is essentially the same reasoning behind it.

Conclusion = Kobato is a hot loli

Conclusion

During this analysis, there is one single recurring theme: Anime characters don’t typically look like any single race. They’re just simply drawn as… people with no definite equivalents in real life in terms of appearance. Most of the Japanese artists that draw their characters with flamboyant hair colors and big eyes simply just choose to draw Japanese people like that, not because of any kind of self-hating mindset white supremacists would like you to believe. Take anthropomorphic characters like Mickey Mouse, for example. If you were to ask an average American to choose a race they would most identify Mickey Mouse with, it would probably be a white person. That’s just how the human psyche works when it comes to stereotyping every race except for their own.

That psyche comes into play a lot when it comes to mediums such as anime/manga and cartoons/comics. While the typical way of drawing an anime character isn’t a representation of a white person, the Japanese do indeed draw white people in a certain way. A person with wavy blonde hair, blue eyes, a semi-realistic facial structure, and a tall nose. This is only to insist that the character is a foreigner, whereas anime which take place in western settings like Baccano! return to the token anime art style.

Similarly, Americans usually can’t draw Asian people without giving them slanted eyes or a pointed beard. When they look at anime characters – who sometimes have black hair, wear Asian-styled clothing, eat Asian cuisine, and live in an Asian-styled home – that do not have slanted eyes, there are moments where it does register to them that the character may not look as “white” as they think they do, but definitely don’t look Asian because they lack the slants. Ironically, Takeshi/Brock from Pokemon is widely thought to be a Mexican character due to the fact that his skin is tanned, despite having slants for eyes.

In the end, people just like to trick themselves into believing that everyone wants to be like them due to some sense of nationalism…er, or something…

45 thoughts on ““Why do the Japanese draw themselves as Caucasians?””

  1. yeah, i think they just draw what they think is cute
    speaking of cute, what anime is that girl with red and blue eyes in?? XD

  2. Hmm, interesting… Let me make a rant of my own about the first topic.

    When Japan lost the war against the Allies, the gap between the nation and the West was starting to diminish. At this time in the West, Disney had achieved huge mainstream popularity with the release of works such as Snow White, Fantasia and Bambi. Each of these works featured large-eyed characters. Now, Osaku Tezuma took notice of this and decided to implement this in Japanese animation. He used these Disney influences to create the iconic Astro Boy. This created the basic look for anime characters as we know and love them today. So, it never really was about the people: the eyes take inspiration not from Westerners, but from Western animation. As you’ve said already, no one in real life has eyes that big and if they did, it would look absolutely horrid. Various artists and studios experimented with the size and shape of the eye later on, but the trend was to increase size because they believed eyes expressed emotions best. I agree with that, but they really did go overboard in Clannad.

  3. @anime adik: The girl is from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. I get a lot of my pictures from Safebooru, so if you click on them, you usually go to the page where I found the image and you can find the series name in the tags. ;D
    @TRazor: Very much agreed. The art style for anime took its roots from Disney and it stuck.

    I actually like how Clannad did the eyes. The character designer for Key is known for drawing her characters in a way that makes you feel their psychological troubles just by looking into their eyes.

    That’s why one of the other reasons why I think Japanese cartoonists, like Osaku Tezuma, took inspiration from the large eyes seen in Disney characters is that it’s a great way to have their characters express emotions, in a way a realistic-looking art style wouldn’t. It’s also one of the reasons why I like drawing in this style to begin with. As an artist, I feel that it’s a very flexible style to work with, not because of anything related to race.

  4. Japanese have this fascination with western eyes especially.

    I had quite a few friends from japan back in SG and they were always telling me they wished to have this and that feature, its very common.

  5. Not exactly a fascination with “western eyes”, a lot of Asian cultures view big eyes in general as being very pretty. Don’t forget that East Asians can naturally have big eyes without having a lick of western blood.

  6. the cute anime chick with pigtails blond hair and red and blue eyes is from an anime called “I DON’T HAVE MANY FRIENDS” and is a romantic comedy

  7. I dont see that you answered the question as far as the eyes. When an anime story takes place in Japan, the eyes of characters rarely appear characteristically Asian, even when more realistically styled. Why arent they drawn with an apparent ‘epicanthal fold’ distinction or ‘cat eye’ shape? Somehow I suspect that Asians want to blur racial distinction and dont consider this eye trait as apparent as caucasoids do.

  8. @Exergon: Or probably because eye shape isn’t used to distinguish race and ethnicity much compared to skin color, eye color, hair color, or what type clothes they’re wearing. Epicanthic folds are commonly seen within people of Asian descent, but it’s commonly seen in a few European countries as well. Dunno about completely blurring racial distinction in terms of more realistic art styles in anime, but it’s certainly less exaggerated than in western animation. Moreover, from an anime artist’s standpoint, keeping eye shape distinguishable by character archetype is much more simple than taking into account that and race.

  9. @a: Not all Asians have epicanthic folds, and the fact that it’s a common generalization that’s often subject to racial jokes makes it a given that it will offend some people. Just implying that Asian people can’t have an eye shape other than “small and slanty” can be offensive to some, which is what I was getting at.
    I personally don’t find it offensive unless it’s purposefully taken to such levels of hostility (“chinky”, “widescreen vision”, etc.) My point is that it’s irrelevant when it comes to the typical anime art style.

  10. I think they choose big eyes and pale skin because that is what is considered beautiful in Japan/Asia. A tiny face and long limbs is also part of their preferences.

  11. I think you could argue that they typically find white people very exotic as a result that they are more likely to have varying eye and hair colors, not to mention non-Asians tend to have larger eyes. But at the same time, many Japanese are very prejudiced against foreigners so if they do “draw themselves as Caucasians”, it’s only because they find some of their genetic tendencies attractive, but that’s as far as it goes!

  12. @Xel: That doesn’t explain the use of multi-colored unrealistic hair colors though (it’s possible to dye your hair in real life, but neon green? Silver?). It’s safe to say that it’s just a stylist choice and has nothing to do with race.

  13. What I meant is that they like those things anyway, and white people just happen to embody some of them. I’m neither white nor Asian and I like all of those things, so I figure it’s the same for them anyway.

  14. Yeah, it’s just a coincidence that they draw themselves closer to what white people look like, and as far away as possible from what Asian people typically look like.

  15. @derpyderp: Did you actually read the post, or did you come here only to make a failed attempt at being a smartass?

    I don’t know what world you live in, but where I come from, white people don’t “typically” have albino, green, blue, or fucking rainbow hair that defy gravity… or have big bug eyes. Pale skin? Asians have fucking pale skin too, *especially* East Asians. I’m the palest person in the entire world and *I’m* fucking Asian.

    These are white people: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Festuva.jpg
    This is not: http://i.imgur.com/17q7z3s.png

    So derpity derp to you too.

  16. you may have a point, but if exotic was the look they would be after there would b a lot more african looking japanise charters.
    the real answer i think is that the military wins of the west and media impact of the west (i.e. white folks) has impacted on the cultural mind of japanise in the love / hate mode.
    and to a large extent the japanise have adopted the anti black mind set of the white americans, perhaps unconciously.

  17. @Thomas Smith: Well, I never said they were going for something exotic in that sense. It’s the same with most western cartoons. They’re not meant to look like real people. But when they ARE meant to be super-realistic, Japanese characters often more than not look like actual Japanese people. And are probably more accurate than say, the restrictive American depiction of an Asian person in western media.
    As for the Japanese view on blacks, that’s kinda of a touchy subject that I won’t go into too much. Yeah, western media does pretty much influence their views on black people, as it does for other Asian nations. I’d blame the west more for that though, for obvious reasons, and at the very least, education fixes that if there is an opportunity for it.

  18. Excellent article!
    I’m always shocked with people’s limited knowledge of Asia! Do you know how many countries there are in Asia? The different nationalities and range of looks is huge! Asia is NOT China, Japan, Korea…

    The eyes of people in Lebanon, Bangladesh, Qatar, Pakistan, and many other “Asian” countries often have large, incredible eyes, long lashes and not always brown or black. Remember the cover of National Geographic with the incredible greenish blue eyes of a lovely Afghani girl–Asian!
    wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl

    So I agree with the writer. Japan draws people in their anime. The J-people know the characters are Japanese…and anime! Not real…

  19. i think there is a lot to your argument, butlots of people see charters as basically white with some mods, especially the eye thing, i have never seen any with slanted eyes.
    I have seen 1 or 2 charters that were distinctly African American

  20. Came across this article because I want to know why so many white characters appear in manga and I’m sorry, but your argument is a bit silly and completely false. While some characters are exaggerations of a mix of human traits, the reality is a large percentage simply look very European. It’s most obvious when the characters are every day people and even more so when the cast of characters represent a mix of ethnicities. I have seen way too many mangas depicting what are clearly Caucasian characters living in Japan to buy what you are saying. The number of blondes alone shows you something is going on and you pretending everyone who’s noticed it is just a racist is ridiculous. Japanese artist DO draw a lot Caucasian looking characters all the time and in many cases it’s obvious. As far as why…I have my theories, but I doubt the author of this article is willing to face reality long enough to consider them.

  21. @elle: “The number of blondes
    clearly Caucasian characters living in Japan

    There are plenty of characters that have black, blue, purple, pink, dark brown, and green hair colors. How on Earth do *they* look Caucasian? They could be anything. They’re cartoons. Any argument boils down to “IF THEY’RE NOT STEREOTYPICALLY SLIT-EYES SMALL YELLOW ASIAN OR BIG SCARY GORILLA BLACK MAN they must be white”. I could say that Homer Simpson is Asian using a bunch of equally racist as fuck arguments but then you’d tell me, “but they don’t have small eyes and black bowl cuts.” Japanese manga artists utilize different hair and eye colors to make it so you could easily tell apart Character A from Character B. Would you be willing to imply that only Caucasians are easy to tell apart, but every other race are the only ones that look the same? You people should get over yourselves. “If cartoons don’t have slit-eyes then they’re not Asian. If cartoons don’t have slit-eyes and brown skin, they’re not black. Everything, by default, is white.” Wow. Just wow.

    There are characters that are meant to look European and stand out as a “foreign character” because they ARE European. Edward Elric was designed to look extremely European because all of the Amestrian characters are supposed to be fantasy-Europeans. And the Xingese characters in that series are supposed to be Chinese and guess what? They pretty much look like every other “Japanese” anime character out there, only they actually conform to only black hair and black eyes because *GASP* it’s one of those rare occasions where the artist chose to align their fantasy races with reality..

  22. Mikoto, you want to point out select examples like they prove something…they don’t You can cry racism and cultural bias, but the reality is there are many manga character who do not have pink or purple hair, nor do they have gigantic eyes, but most importantly of all THEY DO NOT LOOK ASIAN. The last three series I read focused on everyday people living in Japan and in every single case there contained more than one character that in no way shape or form resembled anyone of Japanese ancestry. The thing everyone wants to talk about, which you seem intent on denying, is that their are a plethora of characters in manga/anime who are portrayed as Japanese, but who are overtly Caucasian in appearance. There is nothing about asking why that implies one race is better than any other, it’s simply an very obvious and strange disconnect. You can rant about unrelated issues like the fact that the Simpsons do look like any human beings anywhere (they have four fingers for goodness sake, that’s not white or Japanese that’s just silly), but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a rare occurrence, which is why people talk about it. There are an awful lot of blond haired, blue eyed people in anime who are depicted as being Japanese and some of use are interested in discussing the phenomenon, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.

  23. @elle: “Mikoto, you want to point out select examples like they prove something…they don’t

    As opposed to you not providing any examples at all?

    The last three series I read focused on everyday people living in Japan and in every single case there contained more than one character that in no way shape or form resembled anyone of Japanese ancestry.

    In what way do they look specifically Caucasian then? You act as it’s a common occurrence that entire casts of anime characters all have blonde hair and blue eyes like they’re as white as my pasty Asian skin.

    Seriously, the whole manga coloring style is like a color wheel turned into a roulette. Out of a bunch of Japanese characters with random-ass hair styles/colors and eyes, suddenly the character that lands on the magical yellow and blue is suddenly white? Oh boy. It’s not some “amazing phenomenon”. Why is it suddenly strange to call THOSE fictional characters Japanese when we have green-haired genetic mutations running around Tokyo? Anime characters have different hair and eye colors to make them unique as compared to everyone looking more or less the same. My point is that it shouldn’t be issue of discussion at all. It’s fucking stupid. THEY’RE CARTOONS. With art styles that are more stylistic than realisic.

    You want realistic? Read/watch a gekiga manga/anme. THOSE tend to use realistic art styles and all the characters look like real people. You’ll get your 100% realistic Asian-looking population there.

    their are a plethora of characters in manga/anime who are portrayed as Japanese

    And there are a plethora of anime characters that look Asian and anime characters that look like aliens and a bunch of anime characters with fucking different hairstyles and colors. Until a specific manga/anime/visual novel depicts the entire country of Japan as blonde-haired blue-eyes muhricans, that’s a veeeeery moot point that doesn’t “prove” anything either.

    You can rant about unrelated issues like the fact that the Simpsons do look like any human beings anywhere (they have four fingers for goodness sake, that’s not white or Japanese that’s just silly)

    News flash.

    THEY’RE ALL CARTOONS. They’re related. You know what’s separating them?

    One is animated in Japan. One is animated in the United States. Different cultures. And therefore culture is relevant.

    Why is it suddenly that Americans are allowed to draw anatomically incorrect yellow-skinned white people without friggin’ self-hate psychology being directed towards themselves whereas it’s suddenly strange for the Japanese to draw anatomically incorrect Japanese people with multi-colored hair and eyes?

    Oh that’s right, because Japanese people are only allowed to draw people with every color from the damned rainbow, but blondes and blue-eyes are straaaaange. Why can’t they just draw everyone with black hair and black eyes? Hell, make them all look the same while they’re at it. That should make character designing easier. :/

  24. You want examples, fine. Although, honestly, it seems a bit silly because the list is endless. Here are the three I was referring to, but again they are a drop in a very large bucket.
    ISSHOU TSUZUKERARENAI SHIGOTO
    Yume Musubi, Koi Musubi Manga
    OMAIRI DESU YO
    What I love about these concrete examples is that the characters not only look Caucasian in the black and white drawing, but on the covers you see in living color that they are the least Asian looking Japanese people possible. The one thing I don’t understand about your willful blindness about this phenomenon is that you equate accepting this aspect of manga as proof of some sort of self-hatred on the part of the authors, which is pretty strange and narrow minded. I honestly don’t know precisely why so many Japanese artists choose to draw Japanese characters as Caucasians, but I suspect there are a myriad of reason. Do I think they have anything to do with self-loathing, not really. Again, why do you choose to psychotically deny the existence of what is clearly a common motif in manga/anime, rather than simply exploring it? You seriously need to reflect on why you take this all so personally.

  25. elle: >ask for examples of manga with Caucasian-looking characters
    >gives me yaoi manga with josei J-Pop-looking males
    [spoiler]why am i greentexting in my comments section[/spoiler]
    Searched up all three of those at work (thanks). Those characters… don’t look specifically Caucasian. Heck, the black-haired dude in “Yume Musubi” reminds me of something straight out of a Japanese boy band, imo.
    What exactly WOULD make the characters look “Japanese” to you, anyway? Those are tall, slender, and handsome anime-styled human beings. So I guess that makes them white? Because I’m seeing less blonde and blue-eyes compared to your previous assertion.
    willful blindness about this phenomenon is that you equate accepting this aspect of manga as proof of some sort of self-hatred on the part of the authors, which is pretty strange and narrow minded
    They. Are. Cartoons. Japanese cartoons that are not going for “racially correct” or sometimes even human features, they just design whatever the hell they want. They think a cartoon character would look pretty with yellow hair? They give them yellow hair. And sometimes an anime adaptation would prefer, say, green hair on the character, so they change it to green hair.
    You say these “examples” are just a “few drops in a very large bucket”, but I can say the very same shit on my end too.
    So the only questions to be answered are:
    “What would make a cartoon character look a certain race to you? Do these traits actually exist on that certain race? Does this trait exist on people of the other races as well?”
    (The fact that we’re even arguing about this SAYS something about what most of these characters actually are in the end. Japanese Cartoons. If they’re in Japan, have a first and last Japanese name, eat Japanese food, speak Japanese, then the character is probably fucking Japanese even if he has a tentacle growing out of his ass.)

  26. There are several clearly Japanese characters in those series, but that is not what we are discussing. I never asserted that manga/anime do not portray Japanese characters. That’s actually what makes the presence of Caucasians characters that much more noticeable. In all three series, including “Yume Musubi”, there are prominently featured blonde characters who in panels with facial close-ups have distinctly European features. There are of course also close-ups of characters who have Asian features, which is what makes it even more bizarre. It’s not like these artists are not capable of representing Japanese characters in their work who look truly Asian, but they choose to insert character who in no way shape or form resemble any person of Japanese descent I have even met or seen anywhere. In the context of the storyline these characters with Caucasian features are portrayed as Japanese without question which is the disconnect you do not seem willing to acknowledge. These series, along with literally hundreds of others I have read, contain characters who, physically, do not resemble individuals of Japanese descent, despite the fact that the artists are clearly capable of drawing Asian characters. The fact that the authors choose represent Japanese characters as these Arian archetypes is worthy of discussion. If they were Japanese characters with tentacles growing out of their bums it would be weird, but it wouldn’t pose the same type of question. Think of it this way, I’ve seen American cartoons portray a wide range of ethnicities, white, black, Asian, Native American…, but I have never seen a case where a character’s appearance did not match their ethnicity as it was portrayed in story itself. In contrast to that, I rarely run into mangas that don’t contain at least one character who is Japanese in the storyline, but drawn in such a way that they look Caucasian. If you can’t see that as a very significant difference, then I submit that you are choosing not to see it because you don’t like what you think it might mean.

  27. @elle: That’s the thing. Did they really intend for them to look Caucasian or are you just looking at a “default human being” (in this case, a generic anime/bishounen design, this post explains it better than I did on my blog) and assuming that it’s Caucasian? High nose ridge and round eyes? Whites don’t have a monopoly on that feature. Blonde hair, blue eyes (so-called “Aryan Race”)? Again, already established that Japanese 2D fiction likes to give a variety of colors to their humans (plus, plenty of Japanese people dye their hair and wear color lenses anyway…). I have not read any of those josei yaoi series nor do I have any interest in doing so, so I can’t really say this as a cumulative for every human being in those series (maybe those features make the artists wet or something, again, I don’t know – I tend to draw petite females because that’s personally what I find attractive), but from things I’ve seen of them on image search, none of the blondes look any different from the black-hairs besides the hair and eye color. . . They’re all idealized bishies.
    Typical anime art style =/= real human. I can’t stress this enough. For most anime characters, the Japanese people see as Japanese. Only white people think they look white. Because their default human being is different from Japan’s default human being. Japanese manga artists aren’t pressured to draw themselves “looking Asian” for the same reason white Americans creators aren’t pressured into making their main characters “Blonde White Guys With Giant Schnozzes”. That’s why hardly anyone here gives a shit if the animated incarnations of Bruce Wayne doesn’t resemble an actual white person.
    Racist caricatures of every other “race” besides “default human being” are another thing entirely. That kind of thing exists everywhere, and they’re not exactly right either.

  28. You are seriously in denial. I did not see a default being. Anyone looking objectively can see they are not Japanese. As I said before, it is most obvious when the Caucasian drawn characters are juxtapositioned with characters who have been drawn with Japanese features. And your discussion of idealized forms does not negate the fact that the examples I provided depict realistic, non-exaggerated human forms. These are not caricatures of human beings; they are simply depictions of everyday people, yet they contain one conspicuous disconnect; namely that they portray Japanese individuals as being physically Caucasian. And again, I challenge you to find examples of this same phenomenon outside manga/anime. If you can I highly doubt you going to be able to find even one tenth of the examples I can find within minutes. What I can’t understand is why you refuse to acknowledge this. I also find it strange that you immediately interpret the characterization of race as racist. It sounds at times like if you had your way all characters would be drawn as racially ambiguous, just so you wouldn’t have to deal with the questions that some depictions of race bring up.

  29. Also, I love how you are so worried about race, but you have no problem owning your misogyny. How does that work? We have to pretend that Japanese artists don’t draw Japanese characters as looking distinctly Caucasian, even thought it is pervasive in all genres of manga/anime. (And FYI I don’t only read yaoi, so I know this is not something novel to those stories). Even though that is so upsetting to you that you act like anyone who notices it is just a racist imagining things, but at the same time you seem pretty into objectifying women. So I guess that mean giant freaky boobies is a big thumbs up, but a Swedish looking Japanese guy is something we can’t even talk about… Seriously?

  30. @elle: And you’re in denial that anything that doesn’t have stereotypical features that Americans portray Asians with in media (or any other race for that matter) is automatically Caucasian. If you actually read my comments you’ll see I already gave a few examples from American cartoons. The animated incarnations of Bruce Wayne don’t look like white guys. The humans in the Simpsons and Family Guy don’t look like real human beings. White Americans don’t feel the need to caricaturize white people the same way Japanese people don’t feel the need to caricaturize Japanese people. How hard is that to friggin’ understand? You line up a bunch of animated characters with a bunch of different unrealistic or otherwise hair colors, all of whom are from Japan, and then pick out the blonde one as a white person because YELLOW HAIR???? How does that logic work outside of “if so-and-so has/doesn’t have [insert trait] they are always most definitely white EVEN IF EVERYONE ELSE HAS WEIRD HAIR COLORS ANYWAY“? And the characters in your fujoshi manga series don’t look like real human beings either.
    This is a realistic art style: http://www.pxleyes.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/50-ultra-realistic-female-portrait-drawings/3.jpg
    This is not: http://www.citymanga.com/files/images/yume_musubi_koi_musubi/10/9.jpg
    They all have anime eyes, the sameface syndrome, and the only thing that allows you to even tell the characters apart are their friggin hair colors which in anime THERE ARE MULTITUDES OF. Guess what, that’s the beauty of fictional cartoons and art, YOU CAN DRAW WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT. They’re cartoons. The artists are most definitely females that love attractive men getting it on. Said male characters definitely remind me more of the shit Asian boy bands try to look like rather than an average white human being. The artists can draw whatever the fuck they want and if they want to give all the males in that world a “boy band” feel then they fucking could.
    The racist caricature part of my comment was that, like us, Japan has had racist caricatures of other races besides the “dominant” native population. It exists everywhere. Whatever. It’s a psychology that I don’t agree with, I admit to having it too, sometimes my Americanized upbringing makes me think “white person” when I see a simple drawing of a standard human being with no racial identifiers. Sometimes even Asian because I am Asian. Doesn’t make it right. There are stereotypical ways to draw European characters in anime/manga and the examples from your yaoi manga ain’t one of them.
    Common racial traits DO EXIST. Hence why we’re categorized into races to begin with. If they are accurately and respectfully incorporated into a character design then it’s not a racist caricature. When it gets to the point where you have to have racial features fucking exaggerated and made up to be more common than they actually are and generalized throughout an entire race of people in order for you to tell the fucking difference is when it’s racist. In Fullmetal Alchemist, the author clearly based the fictional races and countries off of real life equivalents. But when a typical anime series is set in Japan, what’s the fucking point of the viewer picking out races when it’s clearly just Japan with non-realistic human beings? Also, it’s clearly fucking racist when people say dark-skinned characters like Takeshi/Brock are black when naturally tan Asians friggin exist. “NO Asian can be dark eeeeever.”
    Also, I love how you are so worried about race, but you have no problem owning your misogyny. How does that work? We have to pretend that Japanese artists don’t draw Japanese characters as looking distinctly Caucasian, even thought it is pervasive in all genres of manga/anime. (And FYI I don’t only read yaoi, so I know this is not something novel to those stories). Even though that is so upsetting to you that you act like anyone who notices it is just a racist imagining things, but at the same time you seem pretty into objectifying women. So I guess that mean giant freaky boobies is a big thumbs up, but a Swedish looking Japanese guy is something we can’t even talk about… Seriously?

    >reads manga where men plow each other
    >talks people down for “objectifying” women

    WOW A TUMBLR FEMINIST SJW. I’m not allowed to be a fan of FICTIONAL CARTOON girls because it’s “objectifying them” yet you get to read manga where fictional cartoon men fucking fondle each other. That’s real fucking funny. I’m not a misogynist. I’m a fucking heterosexual male that finds female characters endearing. How in the flying fuck is that “woman hating”? Get. The. Fuck. Out of here.

    (Also I like how you mention big breasts as if I talk about big breasts regularly, if at all, on my blog. Let’s play Make Shit Up On The Spot! If you haven’t noticed, most of the girls on my blog pictures are either flat-chested or modestly endowed, which doesn’t really fucking matter BECAUSE I TALK ABOUT THEIR CHARACTER RATHER THAN THEIR CHESTS ANYWAY. Much like I’d rather talk about character personality/development rather than debating about their racial categorization. There was literally 0% reason for you to have played the misogynist card.)

  31. Japanese anime DO portray characters as Europeans. Their face is an European shape, and never flat. Their noses poke out of their face, in a typical European manner, and never flat like all Asians have. They all have pale white skins akin to Europeans – Asians aren’t as pale as Europeans. Their hair is usually blond, red and eyes blue and green. Never, almost never, the hair is black or the eyes black. There is no use in denial, pretending its not there. I would like to see an open frank debate about this.

  32. “Their face is an European shape, and never flat. “
    So unless you’re white, you’re going to have a “flat face”? What the hell is a European-shaped face? We’re all homo sapien sapiens, dude. Our faces vary within every race, not just white people. Physically, if there are any differences between the bones structures of skulls that can identify race, you shouldn’t be able to tell that kind of difference within a friggin’ cartoon with exaggerated facial structures unlike that of actual humans.

    “Their noses poke out of their face, in a typical European manner, and never flat like all Asians have. They all have pale white skins akin to Europeans – Asians aren’t as pale as Europeans.”
    >all

    I’m an Asian with a high nose bridge and pasty-ass skin, plenty of East Asians do as well, so I can automatically tell that this is bullshit. Furthermore, the way noses are drawn in anime varies. In this very fucking post, there are pictures of anime humans with DOTS drawn as their noses.

    White people think all Asian people look the same. Asian people think all white people look the same. It’s not rocket science. It’s easy-to-understand psychology.

    “Their hair is usually blond, red and eyes blue and green. Never, almost never, the hair is black or the eyes black.”

    Son Goku. Tohsaka Rin. Nakano Azusa. Lupin. Shana. Suzumiya Haruhi. Chihiro. The list is endless.

    It’s funny how amongst a rainbow of hair colors, the fact that there are blonde characters in the mix automatically makes everyone white. That’s real hilarious. I’ve literally been repeating this point, but I guess everyone’s a broken record when they’re talking to people with super paperwhite-tinted glasses. If cartoons don’t fit into the stereotypical racist caricatures that the redneck societies of old created for propaganda, the default is automatically white. Right.

    Okay. Look. Differences between races exist. But at the same time, people have fucking tunnel vision. B-but green-haired characters are probably just white people who dyed their hair. The eyes? Color lenses! Wait, whaddya mean everyone else can do that too?

    “There is no use in denial, pretending its not there. I would like to see an open frank debate about this.”
    There will never be an open frank debate about this because 1) the people that are more socially aware of the world as a whole will just see them as cartoons and 2) people living with tunnel vision will continue with their comments about how the blue, purple, yellow, black, and green-haired characters are all white because the middle guy is blonde and they don’t look like Uncle Chan.

    Super duper tunnel vision. It’s like arguing with the so-called feminists of today like the one who commented before you, who accused me of being misogynist because I’m a heterosexual fan of Japanese media. Yet reading manga where men fondle each other is totally A-OK for her. Jeez, I really hate people sometimes.

  33. Yup. All manga-artists portray their characters as japanese. Japanese and other asians can be white, peach/fair, tan, brown..

    The only exception is if the manga artist says that the character is from a different nationality or creates their own nationality.

    Some people complain how Anime Characters don’t look Japanese, it’s not like they look european now do they. Japanese have had yellow/blond hair ages ago but this has died out.

    Green hair, blue hair – don’t look japanese?
    Heck it is more japanese than american.

    If an artist draws a foreign/non-japanese character they would change the art style of the character to look different to show that they are different.

    #Unless a whole manga/anime was based on say Europe then the anime can have the normal japanese-style design.

    Basically point is anime and manga characters look more japanese than any other culture.
    Blond hair used to be a part of natural japan.
    It only takes one gene to shut off to turn a brown eyed jap. to a blue one.

  34. When the bleep was blonde hair a part of natural Japan???
    The fact is there are a whole lot of Caucasian looking characters in Japanese manga or else no one would ever ask this question in the first place.
    And it’s not simply westerner’s applying their Eurocentric viewpoint to the art.
    You see enough blonde or light brown hair and Caucasian features on characters depicted in stories that also feature distinctly Asian looking characters to know there is more to it than that.

  35. I find it the most racist that you refuse to acknowledge the fact that some of the characters may be portrayed as anything other than Asian. Is there really anything wrong with wanting a character you’ve created to be seen as European? For you to focus on the green hair and not say anything about the blonde, or to say they’ve used colored contact lenses (in a cartoon!) Instead of saying the artist wanted them portrayed as having green eyes, it says more about you than it does about the artists. Anime is its own subculture and to sit here and make up your own OPINIONATED beliefs that are close minded and racist in itself, as well as bash anyone who has their own, opposing opinions, is immature.

  36. @BermudaSquare: Um, if a blonde character is named Oliver or EDWARD ELRIC or something, and especially if the setting is in Europe, then the character is obviously European.

    If you have characters named Kaede, Takeshi, Shizuka, or Kanata with brown, blonde, green, and blue hair respectively, but for some reason you automatically cherrypick the blonde one as white, then you are fucking stupid. Period.

    Woohoo, one more person that completely missed the point of this post… There’s nothing wrong with Japanese writers acknowledging their characters as European, Mario the Motherfucking Jumpman is fucking Italian, holy shit, the problem is when fans assume that characters are intended to look white for culturally biased reasons. How is a character named Takahashi Haruka intended to look white just because she is drawn with yellow hair and blue eyes, when everyone else has a myriad of hair and eye colors to begin with? If you’re going to go out of your way to make cartoon designs and real biology seem completely indistinguishable like an ignorant prick, then okay, the only explanation is that all the characters dye their hair or use colored lenses, or else why does a Japanese person have naturally blue hair and purple eyes???? … OR it’s a fucking cartoon and the characters aren’t drawn with any specific race in mind. Wow, there’s a thought. So racist!

  37. All of this and the article writer still failed to explain why people in classic-equivalent era Japanese art clearly look ethnically Japanese and there is a totally remarkable difference between that and how Japanese are depicted in anime – they literally look worlds different.

    Watching Japanese animation without the audio, you will genuinely be surprised when you visit Japan and see actual Japanese people. Blue hair and wide eyes aside, of course. If you watch anime and then go to Europe on the other hand you won’t be so surprised. The issue here is their actual faces. The OP’s “default human” argument is belied by the fact that the “default human” in anime looks surprisingly European. But in classic-equivalent Japanese art “default human” looks clearly Japanese.

    Any argument that says traditional art must somehow look different than anime is a dishonest copout.

  38. @jacquelope: Please tell me you’re trolling. Obviously traditional Japanese mark making in general is different from typical manga art, especially considering the latter has its Tezuka Osamu roots inspired by Disney (which also has big expressive eyes for its characters and varying hairstyles regardless of the characters’ supposed ethnicity). I don’t see how that’s a “dishonest cop-out”, they are completely different art styles for largely different mediums that orginate from completely different contexts. That’s also not taking into account that different artists and/or art directors also have varying styles, and some particularly artsy anime productions such as Mononoke take on the traditional ukiyo-e paintings as inspiration to stand out. But it’s ludicrous to suggest that all contemporary anime art should bare a close resemblance to Japanese Edo-period classical art (and that’s oddly specific at that). Just the same, it’s ludicrous to suggest that western animation should take on the styles of classical eighteenth century art.

    If we absolutely have to discuss the race card in regards to a clearly cartoony, and at times surreal, art-style like a bunch of annoying politically correct millennials, okay then, I’ll humor you. Let’s take a look at the modern moe anime style. Apart from the pronounced eyes, impossible hair colors (setting aside the disregard that hair dye could ever be a thing in Japan), and other anatomically ludicrous body proportions, it’s not that hard to connect them with actual Japanese people rather than European people, especially if you are Asian yourself. For one, they tend to be drawn with small noses, and commonly are drawn with no nose bridges at all. They also have softer facial features and jaw structure that emphasizes the characteristic of neoteny that is often associated with Asian youth. It’s not uncommon to see some characters that are drawn with rather petite and/or small body builds especially compared to actual foreign characters, Europeans are stereotypically giants while Asians tend to be stereotypically on the short side of the height spectrum. When colored with black hair and black eyes, they look more in common to an Asian compared to what a “Japanese” anime character colored with yellow hair and blue/green eyes has with a European. With dark skin, they also look just as Okinawan as they do Hispanic.

    This is how an Asian person is usually portrayed in an anime/manga.

    THIS is how a European is portrayed in Japanese anime/manga, very chiseled.

    And there are obviously exceptions to the broad examples.

    On a personal note, I think characters such as DC’s Bruce Wayne remind me of an Asian person depending on the version apart from his typical blue eyes, but his character is obviously intended to be American and I rarely consider bringing that up, ever (and lo and behold there’s context there, such as coloring expenses being an issue). Roy Mustang in Fullmetal Alchemist is also in a similar position where he looks more Asian than European despite being an Amestrian, a fictional European, whereas every other character in the same series looks obviously European when put against the Asian (“Xing”) and Middle Eastern (“Ishvalan”) characters.

    Point of the matter is, unless the art style and/or is meant to be super realistic and undoubtedly indistinguishable to real life, it’s generally futile to argue about race if it even matters to begin with. We as humans tend to be egocentric. Anyone with knowledge in the production of comic/cartoon art will know that often times studios will try to give characters as many neutral traits as possible so a wide range of audiences can associate with, Japanese comics and cartoon media is no different. The standard of character designs in Japanese animation in particular is so generalized that what may look European to you may look Asian to someone else elsewhere. Again, obviously there are exceptions, because every artist is one individual, they aren’t a hivemind. Even the popularity of using unnatural haircolors comes from artistic experimentation. In the early days, this developed when manga artists partook in creative experimentation with different colors in their illustrations regardless of the characters’ canon hair color (whether it be black or brown, or whatever), this evolved into a standard of manga artists choosing to make these surreal hair colors canon. Some choose to stick with black hair, stylizing it with some dark blue or brown. Whatever.

  39. I feel really sorry for the blog owner to deal with all the racist commenters who can only post nationalistic remarks, and didn’t realize what’s wrong with THEIR thinking.

    In a better way to reply this problem that is completely nationalism-free, I’ll rather explain it in this way:

    Really, the race/ethnic of anime characters are neither Japanese nor Caucasian, not any Far East Asian nor Middle East Asian nor African nor North/South American nor European, nor I would say they are any Earthlings according to our Real-Life dictionary.

    Anime characters, is a race of their own, where I personally named them “Animesian”.

    So, what is this race of “Animesian”?
    It is a race that lives in another universe, where they had physical features of whatever one may imagined of. There is no limitation, there exists as many as one may think of, and exists as much as one can’t even think of.
    Their eye color has colors of not only black/brown/blue, but it may also be green/red/purple/pink/gold/silver/multi-colored/odd-eye/change according to time or viewing angle.
    Their hair color may not only be black/brown/gold/gray, but it may also be red/orange/yellow/white/silver/purple/blue/green/pink/multi-colored/change according to time or viewing angle.
    Their eyes may come in different shapes, not only big/small almond/slant eyes, but it may also be round or oval-shaped, rhombic or square or even polyhedron-shaped, as simple as one single dot or as complicated in abnormal shape as it can be.
    Their hair style may come in different natural form without using hair gel, not just straight long hair or up-grown short or afro, but there can be literally pointy and stingingly sharp hair, seemingly hard hair like a plastic helmet, super-fluffy hair like a overgrown sheep, etc. And with the different decoration and hair treatment, it may comes in so many different style that goes beyond one’s imagination.
    Their skin color comes not only in usual pale/yellow/tanned/brown/dark, their even exist Animesian with skin in pink/sky blue/light brown/light green color. To be fair, those Animesian with such “unusual” skin colors normally have traits of non-human beings.
    Their body shapes comes in different shape and size. There exist both small and large-sized Animesian, has both short and tall ones, has slender body to bulky body, thin to fat, no breast to over-sized breast, etc.
    And to a more extreme level, some Animesian has non-human traits. Animal ear and tail grown on the head and at the bottom, with a pair of wings at the back, antenna grow at the top of the head, no legs but something like lower body of other animals, etc.

    As long as the setting didn’t specify the race of a character, ALL ANIME CHARACTERS ARE ANIMESIAN. Even they happened to live in Japan (more correctly speaking, the Japan in alternate universe, not our Japan in our Real-Life), with Japanese names and living in a very Japanese lifestyle, they are not ethically Japanese, they are Animesian with Japanese as their nationality.
    Though, to be more fair, even the setting did specified the race of an anime character, he/she/it is still not any of the races we Real-Life people had categorized. They are at best an Animesian happened to have some specific stereotypic traits of the Real-Life ethical archetype, but even that it is not 100% guaranteed to have at least one of such specific traits.

    It is utterly pointless to bring in Real-Life racism/ethical issue to fictional work, when the fiction is, well, FICTION!!! Aka non-real imaginary stuffs set in a non-Real-Life alternative universe. If race/ethic of a fictional character must be justified, then I would also like the Americans to assign a race to those ETs in the District 9 film. They lived in South Africa Johannesburg, do you think they are African then?

  40. I have to agree with the author here. Anime characters aren’t “modeled” after Europeans. And traits like big eyes, straight noses, and pale skin aren’t exclusively Cacausian. For instance, my sister and I both have straight noses, despite being 100% East Asian, and no we did NOT get plastic surgery. My sister has natural brown hair and my own skin is as pale as a white girl’s.
    I also think it’s hilarious how some people think anime characters are automatically “Cacausian” because they “look” white, when there are people with blue hair running around in fictional Tokyo. Is blue hair a Cacausian thing now or am I missing something?
    On another note, I think the reason anime characters don’t look stereotypically Japanese is this concept called Mukokuseki, meaning “stateless”. Anime characters are, in a way, supposed to be “without race”. Look it up.

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