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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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…