Challenges to Otaku Culture: Racial Erasure

This is an entry of a 5-part series on the threats to the cohesiveness and health of the Otaku community.

Top Five Challenges to Otaku Culture:

  1. Bullying of Adolescent Otaku
  2. Deletion of Racial Differences 
  3. Body Shaming
  4. Reinforcement of Anti-Social Behaviors and Social Withdrawal: NEETs, Boomerangs, and Shut-in Hikikomori 
  5. Misogyny and Madonna-Whore Complexes 


Deletion of Racial Differences (i.e. “White Washing):

This is an issue for Otaku who consume visual Japanese popular media: manga, anime, and video games. Characters rendered in these media generally are highly stylized with pale, white skin, and hair colors ranging from flat black to red frizzy curls and from blonde spikes to knee length blue pigtails. The characters are not ethnically diverse because Japan isn’t ethnically diverse. According to the CIA factbook, Japan’s ethnicity breaks down into 98.5% Japanese, 0.5% Korean, 0.4% Chinese and 0.6% Other. For comparison, in the US we have a population that is 80% white, 13% black, and 4% Asian. Americans who consume Japanese media become comfortable with a strictly white cast. For whites, this results in increased blind privilege, inhibited socialization with minorities, and further estrangement from the other 20% of the US population. For blacks and other minorities, it is one more example of erasure and invisibility from global media.

The absence of depiction of ethnically diverse characters has varying impacts. As always, for those empowered, healthy Otaku, it is a non-issue. Many anime cons have ethnically diverse staffs, and minorities hold positions of power. For Otaku who are less healthy and feel disempowered, it is easy for the seemingly all-white casts to reinforce previously-held, negative racial stereotypes.


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