Tag Archives: bleach

Criticisms (not the constructive kind!) of anime

WARNING: once again showing my age, and this’ll probably come off as a bit of a rant…

Yes I admit it. I like animes. Not just one or two, but a good few more. Ones I like to varying degrees are:

  • Digimon (except seasons 3, 5 and especially 6)
  • Naruto and Naruto Shippuden
  • Bleach
  • DNAngel
  • Blade 2012
  • Toriko
  • Baka & Test
  • High School DxD
  • Kokoro Connect
  • Death Note
  • B Gata H Kei
  • Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
  • Code:Breaker

and others. Despite my youthful need for exuberant audiovisual stimuli, however, I have some criticisms. Some of these are specific to certain toons, others are general.

  • The protagonists are rarely older than 16.

Why am I bemoaning this? Because it gives the impression that that’s the only important period of people’s lives. In fact, in the documentary No Sex Please We’re Japanese, some of the men interviewed reported that the happiest time of their lives were when they were about 15.  Fair enough that’s their experience but it’d be nice to see a greater variety of age groups.

Examples: too many to list so I’ll list exceptions instead – Death Note, Chobits, arguably Naruto Shippuden (though he’s 16 at the start), …

  • Though the protagonists are “of that age”, they’re so damn squeamish and shy about actually interacting with the opposite sex. Despite this, however, the boys often have a (not very well) hidden “curious” side – which girls get angry at but forgive them for.

So one-sided and unrealistic – not to mention morally unedifying.

Examples: Naruto Shippuden (despite his mocking of Jiraiya’s peeping habits, Naruto does some himself), Mysterious Girlfriend X (see below), Chobits (Hideki has to turn on the persocom by pressing a button between her/its legs), Rosario + Vampire (the werewolf boy sticks his camera everywhere!)

  • Many of them have a flat-chested girl and an unusually busty girl, with the former visibly conscious or even jealous of the latter.

It has been said (Toriko reference!) that men pay more attention to women’s breasts than women. So this trend is an example of the male gaze; these toons are made especially to be seen through men’s eyes even when the protagonists are girls.

Examples: Naruto Shippuden (Sakura vs Hinata), High School DxD (Koneko & Asia vs Rias & Akeno), Baka & Test (Minami vs Mizuki), Nyan Koi (Nagi vs Kanako)

  • Many of the protagonists claim they’re in love with another character.

Why is this a problem? Quite simply because they’re usually no older than 16. What do 14/ 15/ 16 year olds know of love, especially before the object of their affections even knows they exist?

Examples: Mysterious Girlfriend X (Akira “falls in love” with Mikoto after tasting her drool from her desk! WTF?!?)

  • Despite being Japanese, very few characters (protagonists even fewer) look like real Japanese people.

(covered in another post)

  • In the more adult-oriented ones, sex scenes make the woman’s consent (or lack thereof) ambiguous.

Obviously I don’t want to see rape scenes. My point is that when they do show them, they could be easily mistaken for good consensual sex and vice versa. The woman could be having consensual sex and look scared! Or she could be snogging her rapist! What?!?

Examples: Berserk, Wicked City, The Rapeman (yes this cartoon exists)

  • Right-handed = hero, left-handed = villain.

It’s an extremely old stereotype in most world cultures. Right is good, left is evil. However, Japanese anime haven’t outgrown that mythical bullshit. In fact, creators seem to have a genuine problem with even contemplating reversing this trope, especially with the idea of a left-handed hero.

Examples: Naruto & Naruto Shippuden (Naruto is right-handed, his rival-turned-enemy Sasuke is left-handed. To make it worse, when they both lost their dominant arms Naruto had his regenerated [thus becoming right-handed again] while the newly-reformed Sasuke didn’t [thus forcing himself to become right-handed]!), and too many other examples to mention.

The only exceptions I know of are D.N.Angel (the hero Dark is ambidextrous while the villain Krad is right-handed) and High School DxD (the hero Issei is left-handed but sacrifices it to the red dragon to get strong enough to rescue Rias).

  • The amount of girls who fall for the main guy is ridiculous!

LOL, I probably sound like one of the jealous left-out guys. Teenage boys’ fantasy (ie. male gaze) gone amuck! And the boys don’t have to do anything special to get girls liking him, they just come flocking even if he doesn’t want any of them! There’s often no proper reason for the girls to like him; he was nice to them some years ago or something. Sometimes even his own sisters and underage girls are trying to hump him!!!

Examples: Rosario + Vampire, Naruto (Sasuke didn’t give a damn that almost the entire female student population was fawning for him!), Code:Breaker, Nyan Koi

  • There are pretty much no unattractive light or pale-skinned characters, while unattractive brown or dark-skinned ones are seldom far away. No need to explain.

Examples: Naruto & Naruto Shippuden (Kagero – first appears as ugly wide-bodied dark-skinned man then is revealed to be an “attractive” skinny pale woman, Banna – even looks quite yeti-like, Sasuke & Sai – pale-skinned guys whom almost all the girls like, Haku – so good-looking everyone thinks he’s a girl at first, Sakura – pale-skinned girl Naruto likes, Hinata – pale girl Naruto marries), Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, High School DxD, damn near every female character in Fairy Tail is fair/pale & pretty, Dragon Ball Z (Mr Popo – drawn like a damn golliwog)

(Note – this criticism doesn’t apply to dark-skinned characters in general. There are many attractive brown & dark-skinned characters, eg.

Bleach: Yoruichi, Chad, Kaname, Tia Haribbel and Franceska;

Naruto Shippuden: Mabui, Karui, Darui, Omoi and other ‘black’ characters in the Lightning Nation;

Gokudo: Prince Niari, Jinn (in his female form!), Magic Queen “Granny” Mora (in her true form);

Fairy Tail: Cancer, Elfman, Azuma and Tempester (in his human form);

Basquash!: Miyuki;

Michiko to Hatchin: Atsuko Jackson;

Nadia – the Secret of the Blue Water: Nadia;

Pokemon B&W: Aloe and Iris;

various characters in Plastic Little; 

Code Geass: Villetta Nu;

Toriko: Kopuriko, Ichiryuu Wabutora;

Berserk: Casca;

[check here, here and here for more]

My point is for all the unattractive characters in anime, few if any are light or pale-skinned. The only ones I know of are Andre from Prison School and Kain Hikaru from Fairy Tail)

  • It looks so easy to get over missing bodyparts!

How can anyone lose an eye or an arm without flinching in pain or any significant blood loss?!? And be totally used to it straight away?!? The hell???

Examples: Naruto & Naruto Shippuden (Obito – gave Kakashi his left eye as a token of friendship, Kakashi – had that same left eye pulled out of the socket by Madara & he wasn’t sure it even happened!, Shisui – after Danzo stole his right eye he pulled out the left one to give to Itachi, Deidara – lost both arms, didn’t even bleed and was still fighting!, Orochimaru & Zabuza – both lost the use of both arms, could still fight a horde of ninjas, 4th Raikage – cut off his own left arm in a fight against Sasuke, Hidan – got his HEAD cut off but was still getting smarmy & rude to Kakuzu, Madara – had right leg taken off by Onoki’s attack but still jumped away). Could mention other toons but that suffices.

Oh wait. Last episode of Akame ga Kill, Esdeath cuts off her own left arm and carries on sword fighting Akame.

I’m sure other complaints will come in time.

Statelessness – really?!?

A while ago Abagond made a post about mukokuseki, the drawing style of modern Japanese cartoons (anime) that makes the characters “look ‘white'”. Mukokuseki means statelessness, ie. having a phenotype that doesn’t belong to any particular nation or group. In it he argued that anime doesn’t make characters look ‘white’, that’s just how Japanese people see themselves. Anyone who believes they look ‘white’ are (wrongly) assuming that ‘white’ is the racial default.

As much as I respect Abagond’s writing and accept he’s entitled to his own opinion, I think that one particular post was bollocks. There is no such thing as mukokuseki; modern anime is blatantly trying to make Japanese people look ‘white’. Yes, even the ones where characters can have unnatural hair and eye colours.

(Now I’m revealing how much anime I actually watch)

For one thing, this style of drawing only became predominant in Japan after WWII. In and of itself that’s not an issue, but it’s around the time of the World Wars that Japan came into contact with the Western world. The original artist of the modern style, Osamu Tezuka, was inspired by Disney’s Bambi, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and others. Ancient Japanese used to be drawn more like this (Shunga style):

(blanked-out breasts mine)

(blanked-out genitals mine)

(Ainu hunters, not the Yayoi-descended Japanese we’re used to

but the drawing style’s still the same)

Now Japanese cartoon characters look more like this:


All jinchuriki & tailed beasts from Naruto!!!

Digidestined + digimon partners from Digimon Adventure 01!!!

This style comes under the heading of kawaii, most often translated as ‘cuteness’ which has since become a prominent feature of general Japanese culture. Are you seriously trying to say both styles look just like real-life Nihhonjin (Japanese people)? Or that they honestly believe they look like Naruto, Ichigo, Ash Ketchum or any other anime character? Come on.

Different ethnic phenotypes (what Abagond referred to as facial profiling) are very obviously portrayed in many anime too. They have no problem marking out different hair textures, skin tones (some having literally white skin: Orochimaru & Sai in Naruto, some with literally black skin like Mr Popo from Dragonball Z), and the rest. Unlike what Abagond said, Japanese do not (always) stereotype ‘whites’ as blond, blue-eyed, big nosed; many ‘white’ characters are completely indistinguishable from the Japanese ones. Examples: Patricia “Patty” Martin from Lucky Star, Tina Foster from Ai Yori Aoshi, Cecelia Alcott from Infinite Stratos, the representatives of European countries in Hetalia: Axis Powers. Funnily enough there are the odd characters that look much more similar to real Nihhonjin, and they do look different to the other characters. I would even go so far as to say they look somewhat out of place.

Tezuna, Naruto Shippuden episode 129
E.g. Tezuna from Naruto Shippuden episode 129 (ignoring the blonde hair & big bosoms)

Furthermore, cartoons from other countries could easily be accused of facial profiling because their characters use features that exist on real-life people from their countries. Examples: Kirikou and the Sorceress (Senegalese), Bino and Fino (Nigerian), Burka Avenger (Pakistani), Tell Me Who I Am (‘black’ American). Are the makers of those toons supposed to alter their characters to make them look “stateless”? No, it makes more sense to say they’re exemplifying ethnic diversity in the kind of heroes/ protagonists non-‘white’ children see on their screens, ones to reflect children’s different backgrounds and give them role models who look like them. Does modern anime do that? Rarely.

Considering all of those points, it seems fair to conclude that modern anime is trying to make Nihhonjin look ‘white’. Why? Can’t say for sure but my guess is to make anime (and by extension Japanese culture and people) more pleasing to ‘white’-majority countries, and judging by the prominence of so-called ‘yellow fever‘ it seems to have worked.

Update: On Narutopedia it explicitly states the creator of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto, gave him blond hair and blue eyes to make him appeal to Western audiences. In other words, he was purposely made to look ‘white’ rather than Japanese. How many other characters was that done to…?