Thank you everyone for reading all the wonderful OWLS posts that have been coming out this month. As many of you know, this month, our theme is ‘Colours’, where we aim to celebrate ethnic diversity in anime! If you haven’t already, please check out the lovely Crimson’s post that focused on her personal story and how she feels about representation in media and anime. You can check out a full list of tour stops here, and later today (8pm CST 29 April) there will be a recap livestream over here!
We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this monthly topic, we will be discussing how people of color or characters of different “races” (a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.
Much like Crimson, I wanted to incorporate my own story into this tour post. So I present to you~ ‘Growing Up Biracial with Anime’!
Growing Up Feeling Like a Half and Not a Whole
Growing up I didn’t really notice anything ‘different’ about me. I have a Chinese mum and an Australian dad, and I really inherit my father’s looks. To the point that people are more likely to guess I’m Russian or Italian than even begin looking at Asia. I never really saw my family dynamic as anything strange or unique, it was just my family. The first time I realised I was out of the norm was at a church group event. They had a mothers day event, and of course I invited my mum. I was about 7 and the entire church was filled with Caucasian people. No one knew whose daughter I was, and when I explained to the other children that my mum was my mum, they didn’t believe me. For the rest of the day they teased me saying I was adopted and that there was no way that I was Chinese. In fact this ‘joke’ about being adopted has followed me throughout my life, just last week a ‘friend’ said “are you sure you’re Chinese? Maybe you should get DNA tested.”
I’ve mentioned before that I really struggle with the way I look, and I can definitely see it stemming from these incidents. I want to join a group, that I belong to, but I feel automatically disqualified because of the way I look. I feel that I have to constantly ‘validate’ myself and being Chinese. This is added on to the fact that I don’t speak Cantonese nor Mandarin, a comment a friend once made in response to this was “If you can’t even speak the language, what’s the point of being a halfie?” To make matters worst I never saw anyone ‘like’ me in media, on TV shows and films, people always looked like their parents. I began to feel uncomfortable about my own identity, and that I didn’t belong anywhere. It was around this time that I discovered anime.
My Anime Representation
One of the first anime I ever watched was ‘Ouran High School Host Club’, and I instantly fell in love with it. What inspired me even more about it was Tamaki Suoh, the French-Japanese co-founder of the host club! While his story was more focused on his family and being an ‘illegitimate’ child, it was still refreshing to see someone who had a similar background to me. To see how it was a part of his identity that he could enjoy with pride. Many MANY years later, I got to see Mikasa from Attack on Titan, the last ‘Asian’ in the world, who was also biracial. Again, another character whose ‘biracial’ identity isn’t the focus of their story, but always great to see someone like you kick some serious Titan butt!
It’s interesting that to see someone similar to me in anime, has somewhat quashed many of the doubts I had about my identity. Seeing characters such as Tamaki and Miakasa take on their identity and go about their lives unapologetically has inspired me. In saying that, I still believe anime has a way to go in representing biracial characters. I would love a series that explores biracial identity, and how to connect to the cultures that one belongs to. Overall watching these anime has made me proud of my identity, and while each step is difficult, I’ll be happy if I can get at least half the confidence that Tamaki has.