1. Alexia Blair says:

    As someone who has asked this question among my circle of friends time and time again, I am so happy that you have addressed it! Why do some anime characters appear to be white rather than Japanese, despite the fact that the anime was created in Japan? I think it depends exclusively on which anime. For example, while Kuroshitsuji is a popular manga drawn by Yana Toboso, the main character Ciel Phantomhive lives in Victorian England as the earl of his household. But what about anime that does not exclusively state whether or not a character is white or Japanese? This is where the difficulty lies. I am prone to agree with the idea that anime characters are Japanese unless otherwise specified. Either that, or that producers have designed their characters to appeal to a broader audience as a result of anime’s growing influence globally. Do you think the reason changes depending on the medium (e.g. games or anime)? It really is a complicated issue, and I am so glad that you brought it up! An awesome read!

  2. Hi McKnight, this is a fascinating post and I really enjoy reading it.

    I believe most asian countries, including China, Japan, and South Korea, all share this skin-whitening fashion style. As far as I know, this beauty standard applies to both male and female and has long been chief among Asian traditional aesthetic values when it comes to judging appearances. I think one possible explanation behind this beauty standard is their traditional tendency to symbolize white as purity, virtue, and righteousness.

  3. Jordan Cheresnowsky says:

    I, too, have talked about this topic with my circle of friends who watch anime. It is almost natural to see a character with blonde hair and blue eyes and immediately assume that they are white. Of course, we also realized that the character that stands out the most tends to be important. Sometimes it is very simple to look at the classic school classroom shot and tell which person is the main character with their bright hair sticking out in a sea brown and black hair. Though I suspected it was for the narrative and aesthetic purposes, I did not know that whitened skin was still viewed as more beautiful.

    Though the skin-whitening trend obviously goes back very far, is there any record of when it began? Is there any main indication as far as why whiter skin is considered to be more beautiful?

  4. I think that the skin color trend and the “whiteness” of characters aren’t necessarily connected. On the one hand, perhaps we can attribute the popularity of light skin to a Eurocentric standard of beauty. But on the other hand, as Jordan has mentioned, the association of light skin as feminine and beautiful extends back historically. I understood light skin to be reserved for feminine aristocrats because they did not have to work and take care of themselves, whereas men are darker to show how they toiled in the fields or in battle. But I don’t have citation for this, and please don’t take my word as fact.

    As for racially ambiguous characters in exported video games, it would be interesting to look at Final Fantasy VIII. In that game there was some controversy because people felt the main heroine’s relationship with the hero reflected a trend (anxiety?) of Japanese women marrying American/white men.