ANIME NYC WEEK ’23! Darius Washington Celebrates Anime Oldies Featuring Melanated CharactersBy Caroline Cao | November 21, 2023 | Entertainment
Darius Washington is a curator of Black anime characters and wants to share them with you all. He returns to Anime NYC with his popular panel on “Classic Black Anime Characters.”
When I attended last year in 2022, I learned that the late Sidney Poitier may have been a large influence in the redesign of an anime character Pyunma, who originally had a Blackface minstrel design (this info is difficult to fully verify due to its Wiki presence rather than a known original source, the point stands that the Japanese animators evolved Pyunma away from the unfortunately common Blackface design of the early aughts).
Fascinatingly, Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride of Revolutionary Girl Utena, appeared on Washington’s list. Part of me wanted to point out that Anthy hews more Indian/South Asian-coded due to her bindi, but I realized that to a young viewer, Anthy and her brother, Akio, might have come off as Black-coded to many eyes. While Washington wouldn’t have time within 45 minutes for deeper dives, Anthy’s victimization throughout Utena is an interesting study in the unintentional way the anime depicts how colorism targets and scapegoats her.
Washington introduced many of the forgotten, including Kiddy Phenil of Silent Moebius, “Littlejohn” Jonathan Jordan Jr. from Thunderbirds 2086, and Rakhan Dakaran in Gundam ZZ. There were cheers for Pirotess, the dark-skinned elf. Also making their appearances were Storm of the X-Men and daywalker vampire hunter Blade. That’s right! They both hail from the 2011 Madhouse-animated X-Men commissioned by Marvel.
photo credit: Caroline Cao