If you’re living in America right now, it’s impossible to ignore the importance and prevalence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Currently focused on police brutality in the wake of unlawful killings and abuse by police on specifically Black Americans, this movement has gained international attention. Countries like Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, Iran, and even Japan have protested against the US’s treatment of its citizens. What could that have to do with anime, you ask? Several celebrities and even anime/manga characters have made their support for BLM known! Let’s look at how they’ve spoken out in support of equality.
Crystal Kay – Born in Yokohama to a Korean mother and African American father who were both musicians, Crystal Kay is extremely talented and very aware of perceptions of different races. She provided the theme song and voice of Lucky for Pokemon: Giratina & The Sky Warrior as well as ending theme songs for Full Metal Alchemist and Nodame Cantabile (Motherland and Konna ni Chikaku de… respectively). She’s also performed at Anime Expo alongside TeddyLoid and YUC’e
Crystal Kay understandably supports BLM as it affects her on a personal level. Unfortunately, anti-black sentiments are not exclusively found in the United States. She’s taken to twitter to specifically call attention to the sad killing of George Floyd which was the tipping point of protests in America. She’s retweeted both a petition calling for justice for Mr. Floyd and former President Barak Obama’s thoughts on his death.
TeddyLoid – Most known for his music for Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and pervy internet sensation MeMeMe, Teddyloid has enjoyed acclaim abroad and at home. Along with his own compositions, he is known to create danceable remixes of popular anime songs.
TeddyLoid has posted his general support for Black Lives Matter movement and even participated in Black Out Tuesday, a move for non-black people to refrain from posting to allow more visibility to black voices. He also participated with KillScreenDJ on Twitch as one of many DJs collecting donations, Teddyloid specifically for BLM Los Angeles.
Utada Hikaru – Everyone knows the iconic singer of the Kingdom Hearts franchise giving us such timeless hits as Simple and Clean, Sanctuary, and Don’t Think Twice. Whether singing in English or Japanese, Hikaru has garnered an international audience for her more mainstream music as well as her anime and game theme songs. Evangelion fans may recognize Beautiful World and Sakura Nagashi.
Having lived in America and Japan for a number of years, Hikaru can see quite well the differences between America and Japan’s population. She knows that something like racism so deeply ingrained in America’s political and judicial systems would be a foreign concept to the mostly homogenous population of Japan. Hikaru used her twitter platform to try to explain that it goes far beyond some people just thinking negatively of someone based on their skin color. She tweeted that this is an important time not only for America but for the rest of the world as well and encouraged others to try to learn about it on their own.
Miyavi – Miyavi is an international rock star/philanthropist and seems equally devoted to both these roles. While also balancing family life, Miyavi is an ambassador for UNHCR and a very successful musician who has traveled all over the world either for performances or relief work. Miyavi focuses much of his time raising money and awareness for refugees in numerous countries while trying to inspire people with positivity and music. His songs Other Side and Samurai 45 were used in the Winter 2020 anime Id:Invaded as the ending theme and insert song respectively.
It’s no surprise someone as obviously passionate about humanitarian rights would speak up about Black Lives Matter. Miyavi has been fighting for years to bring understanding, protection, and rights for refugees and speaks often about equality and bringing the world together through music. On Twitter, Miyavi specifically said Black Lives Matter and said he and his family stand with those in America fighting for equality and on Instagram more broadly posted that racism, discrimination, and xenophobia are unacceptable and go against the core values of the United Nations.
The Pokémon Company International – A nostalgic game and anime franchise for some and an ever-expanding universe for others, Pokémon is a huge phenomenon across the world. Even those who don’t consider themselves anime fans have the original games, cartoons, clothing, and Pokémon-themed smart-phone apps. Running more than 2 decades, Pokémon shows no signs of stopping.
The Pokémon Company International has gone beyond tweeting in favor of BLM. They say that friendship, inclusivity, and equity are what unite the Pokémon community and these themes have become more prevalent in the games and seasons as time goes by. Furthermore, they pledged $100,000 to both the NAACP and BLM to help not only spread awareness but to enact real change. For a billion-dollar company, they probably won’t be hurting from that but it’s no doubt there’s a lot of good that can be done with $200,000.
Square Enix – One of the kings of JRPG companies, Square Enix has brought us such impactful game series as Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest. While not all of their games are gold, Square Enix has many games that reach incredible popularity such as Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X, and Dragon Quest XI. Boasting worlds rich in detail and well-fleshed characters, new releases from Square Enix are met with great anticipation.
Square Enix is another company to put its money where its mouth is. Donating $250,000 to Black Lives Matter and other organizations was just the start as the company also pledged to match all employee donations as well. They also participated in Black Out Tuesday but instead of staying silent, they refrained from posting about their products and instead provided numerous resources for others to learn about the movement. They included links to the well-known Black Lives Matter website but also the lesser-known Equal Justice Initiative and Antiracism Center websites.
Menhera-chan – Created by artist Bisuko Ezaki, Menhera-chan is a pink-haired schoolgirl that challenges the discrepancy between cuteness and mental illness. In Japan and many other countries, mental illness is often written off if the sufferer doesn’t ‘look mentally ill’. Together with her friend Sabukaru-chan and occasionally Yumekawa-chan, they become the magical Wrist-cut Warriors that protect humans from suffering. Menhera-chan fights the image of mental illness looking like outward sadness and tired, uncaring aesthetics to cute and brave magical girls fighting against bad feelings.
This is not the first time Bisuko has shown his zeal for activism though, usually, it is more centered around mental health. He too participated in Black Out Tuesday and while Menhera-chan is usually drawn with pale skin, Bisuko posted a picture of three different skin-toned versions of Menhera-chan. With a noticeably black Menhera-chan among two lighter-skin ones, Menherachan_offical on Instagram also hashtagged BlackLivesMatter. The inclusion of black girls in media about mental health is good for increasing awareness about intersectionality as it is not uncommon for black girls and women to be overlooked in discussions of mental illness.
Chiitan – The beloved yet unofficial mascot of Susaki in Kochi prefecture has been known for her hilarious internet stunt videos. The ‘eternally 0-year-old’ baby fairy otter has brought a lot of interest to her tiny town of origin. She was almost given her own anime but plans fell through after only releasing a 15-second promo video. Susaki has since tried to distance itself from the adorable Chiitan due to her propensity for violence.
Chiitan’s video on June 5th touched on Black Lives Matter and specifically on George Floyd. Chiitan talks about how sad they are that people are hurt and killed because of racial discrimination. Keeping to a similar formula, Chiitan whips out a bat as if to demonstrate how angry they are which adds a bit of comedy to the otherwise somber video. Going back to a more serious tone, Chiitan talks about how fairies see humans as usually very kind creatures and how sad it is that lives would be taken so easily. Chiitan also makes a donation to Black Lives Matter, mentioning how due to Covid-19 they don’t have much money, but still wants to do what they can.
Even from the land of the rising sun, it’s clear that such a serious problem in America resonates with people all over the world who believe in equality and justice. Even in an industry that is historically lacking in black characters, to pretend that anime and the community behind it should remain unpolitical is an insult to the art we love so much. Anime has often used themes of fighting for justice and even going against a corrupt government to create a better life for people everywhere. With Japan’s first black-owned anime studio, D’ART, which has worked on Gintama, Tokyo Ghoul:re, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, perhaps we’ll get to see more creators, voice actors, and characters talking about the importance of BLM.