Now we’re not saying we’re anime weebo trash, but here at BNP, we love us some anime. Watching anime is a favorite pastime for many of us. And you know what’s better when you’re watching anime? Finding characters who just may share some of your features and/or skin color that really go to town and stand out amongst the rest. We thought we’d share just a few of some of our favorite people of color from anime that stole our hearts, inspired us, and straight out floored us with just how badass they turned out to be. These are few of our favorite anime characters with a little more melanin than most. -Carrie
“Act like I ain’t had a belt in two classes /
I ain’t got it I’m coming after whoever who has it”
Chace: Consider this my official petition to replace the logo of Black Nerd Problems with the face of Mr. Black Boy Fly himself — Kilik “If I’m Putting My Hands Up It Means I’ve Serving You This Ole’ Fashioned Two Piece To The Jaw” Rung — of my top 5 favorite anime Soul Eater. Blasphemy, you say? Well, let’s go’ne head & break this all the way down. In a show with more protagonists than a Game of Thrones episode, Kilik is 3rd in his class of potential Meisters. To do the math here, there are 3 main heroes and their weapons that the show follows and one of em ain’t better than young lord Rung, who’s just chilling as a supporting character, pulling A’s, ya card, and ya girl all in about 1 minute of screen time. In a world where mofos are rocking scythes and legendary swords and dual-wielding D’Eagles, Kilik is punching fools in the mouth with pots. Yes. Pots. Pots that he wears like boxing gloves. Pots that can summon fire & lightning while he’s yelling Worldstar fresh off knocking you out. FAM, HE IS BOXING YOU WITH P… never mind, y’all don’t hear me.
Favorite Bar: “Who cares whether it was pretty? We won…”
There are only two people in his class who possess the soul wavelength to dual-wield weapons in battle. One is the son of Death (yes the Grim Reaper, breh). Know who the other is? Yep — Kilik, the Palindrome Deity! It’s like Steph Curry dribbling two balls the entire game and still dropping 30 while everybody else rocking one — just to make it fair. Of those two, Kilik is the only one who can almost seamlessly adapt to using other people’s weapons regardless of type. Know what happens when the average kid tries that? The equivalent of trying to fight fresh off a Jagermeister bender! Style-wise he’s untouchable. He secretly brought back the twisty-fade haircut everybody’s rocking now, his spectacles game is on that ’06 Lupe and you can’t tell me he ain’t sitting on a moleskin full of BARS & a hella flames Soundcloud account on that ass. Look breh, bottom line: Kilik for the new masthead of BNP!
“I’m livin’ with the devil, it’s a deal I made / I told him he can stay here until he got paid”
: Shout-out to the flyest Afro-Latina in anime to ever do it! Brown skinned, immaculate fro’ wearing, serious but playful with a chance of I-can-still-whoop-your-ass…here’s your introduction to Atsuko Jackson. Atsuko is the law, the voice of reason versus titular character Michiko, the infamous criminal in the anime Michiko to Hatchin
. While familiar with her growing up because they both came from the same orphanage, she chose a life of upholding the law and serving swift justice instead of being behind bars. This anime is such a slice of life genre of people looking for things: for other folks, for acceptance, for family, for redemption, while watching I had to wonder what Atsuko was looking for. Initially responsible for Mitchiko’s arrest some 12 years ago, she was praised and heralded for her efforts.
Favorite Bar: “I know you better than anyone in this world.”
Throughout the anime she’s foiled again and again to recapture her and even takes steps to let Mitchiko get away on several occasions. She finds that selfish, immature Mitchiko has a reason, a real reason for escaping and it’s a legit one: to help a kid find her one remaining parent and soon can’t fault her for that. She’s cut throat. She’s absolutely ruthless
. But, Atsuko Jackson has a heart of gold. While not the main character she’s still paid homage in fanart (Thank you AsieyBarbie
!) and a rare cosplay to be seen but one welcomed anytime
. And I mean anytime
. Anytime. Is it lost on anyone that her voice actress was a BLACK WOMAN
. ONE WITH NATURAL HAIR, MAY I ADD. Like, how often does that happen in anime?! Atsuko forever!
A “The 4th Raikage”
“Fuck you and your tough talk /
When I monopolize I throw your ass off the boardwalk“
Omar: When we discovered in Naruto that the atmosphere in the Hidden Cloud Village be so black?! I was crying real tears of celebration. We got black ninjas baby, we goin be alright! I had to draft in A The 4th Raikage into this list cause dude is so fucking beast. We seen him come on the scene and just be fucking brutal and relentless in his decision making. He is commander of the Shinobi alliance and ready to make the tough calls. Which isn’t to say he’s overtly strict. We got to see the compassionate side as he looks out for his younger brother B as well as his subordinates. He does have a humorous side (always breaking walls as an exit) but he is a leader bout his business. He puts a lot of faith in those he trusts and is appreciative as well. Now when it comes to the fisticuffs? Oh myyyyyy wooooooooord.
Favorite Bar:”I don’t need my strong hand, all it takes is my off hand.
That’s more than enough to defeat any man.“
A is second in speed only to Konoha’s Yellow Flash, Minato, the 4th Hokage [later on Naruto] and that’s without the use of any seals. A uses lightning to speed up all his synapses as well as his strength. The dude fucking goes super saiyan yall, the corn rows come undone, and his hair is a straight homage to Goku and Vegeta. His fighting style is straight up wrestling techniques with blunt force trauma taijutsu and strength. Dude was able to crack the ribs of Sauske’s Susano as well as punch through it. B is also considered his tag partner, that’s how deep in the WWF these guys roll. A is an amalgam of so many things I love via homages to wrestling, DBZ, his composure, and the fact that he happens to look like my friends and I. It was incredible to see this guy come out as a leader and important figure in the series. He learns to let up on being so stubborn during key points in the series but stays being the older brother figure to a B and his crew.
“You’ve got to be the best, you’ve got to change the world”
: My favorite POC in Anime definitely has to be Avdol from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders.
He’s an Egyptian Stand user with a lot of love and wisdom to give. He has a tough exterior but inside he’s just a big ol’ softy. He often times wears his heart on his sleeve but is level-headed and the type of guy you’d often look up to. His dedication to his comrades are out of this world as he’s willing to die for them and that’s before they become very close friends.
Favorite Bar: “Yes, I Am”
I was immediately drawn to him because he was clearly different from the others. Not just in character but in skin color. Maybe it’s because I’m Puerto Rican and am often taken by POCs, but what I love most about this character is that he isn’t given the short end of the stick just because he has dark skin. He’s full of knowledge, full of love, and chock-full of badassery. Never underestimate him because you just might regret it. Well not “might.” You definitely will regret it. His smile warms up my heart and when he gets together with Joseph Joestar (the grandfather of the main character) he will have you in tears from all the laughter.
Avdol is a big asset to his team and they know it. Not only because he’s strong but because as a person he’s amazing. I adore this character with all my heart and he’s definitely one of the reasons why I love Stardust Crusaders so much.
“I am the stone that the builder refused /
I am the visual, the inspiration that made Lady sing the blues.”
: Afro from Afro Samurai
is hands down one of the greatest characters in anime period, lemme tell you. Afro Samurai has no name, all he is known by is Afro. He witnessed his father get brutally murdered in a duel when he was a little boy and swore revenge. As a little kid Afro survived getting stabbed and pierced by swords but while on the brink of death he carried on. Afro grew up to become known as the second greatest swordsman in the entire god-damn world with everyone trying to take the throne from him. He just brushes his shoulders off (usually brushing the blood of his enemies off, too) and keeps on keeping on. Afro becomes an urban legend because most of the people who cross his path don’t live to tell the tale.
Favorite Bar:”Nothing personal. It’s just revenge.”
The only goal for Afro is to get the number one swordsman spot and no matter how wounded he gets or how many battles it takes, that’s all that’s on his mind. Afro is the strong and silent type for the most part and let’s his bomb as shit swordsmanship do the talking. His Afro flows in the wind unlike any Afro you’ve ever seen before. Dude can cut a bullet shot at him in a way that BREAKS APART THE BULLET INTO PIECES SO THAT IT CAN KILL LIKE 10 OTHER DUDES SON! AFRO SAMURAI IS ONE OF THE MOST SKILLED SWORDSMEN EVER ANIMATED. He’s also voiced by Samuel L. Jackson in the English dub, so that right there makes him one of the best Black characters to ever slash through the page or the television screen.
“I like to keep my issues strong / it’s always darkest before the dawn.”
: Let. Me. Tell. You. About. Sailor. Pluto. This woman makes your favorite space warrior look like stellar trash. First, not only does she appear to be the only dark-skinned senshi in the (Sailor Moon
) solar system (Sailor Lead Crow, thankfully, holds it down across the galaxy), but she gets burdened with as many unfortunate life events as possible: out doing hard labor guarding the Space-Time Door from childhood on a floating ice rock all by herself, playing surrogate mother for her eternal boss’ child, and struggling with the unrequited love for said boss lady’s husband for centuries. Did I mention the part where she finally escapes from her soul-crushing job, only to sacrifice her life more or less immediately? If that doesn’t inspire you to embrace the life you’re living right now with its probable lack of lonely space rocks, I don’t know what will.
Favorite Bar: “I am the keeper of the time door.
The guardian of the underworld. Sailor Pluto!”
And that’s not even her positive traits. Home girl wields an ancient magic staff shaped like a key (which may or may not be the original keyblade) and can stop time at will. As a person, she’s super intelligent (majoring in theoretical physics, anyone?) as well as warm-hearted and kind despite all the difficult life circumstances she’s endured. Even though there’s been a lot of controversy about her ethnic origins ranging from Okinawan to Romani roots, there’s no doubt that this brown Plutonian got something suspiciously close to Black Girl Magic in her aura. Also, the fact that Naoko Takeuchi intentionally created this picture based on Naomi Campbell’s dress can’t be a coincidence either
“Project shit, ain’t no mansion over here,
Just murder on the strings, Charles Manson on a snare”
: The most gutter gawd of the samurai sword is Mugen, bar none. I remember the first time I watched Samurai Champloo
– a friend gave me the entire series Blu-Ray and told me to thank him later. Five years later it’s still the only Blu-Ray I own and, really, the only one I’ll ever need. Mugen’s is the story of every person who was raised crass and underprivileged, way out of his or her element when they first learned to rub shoulders with the pretentious and privileged upper class. But here’s the thing about Mugen – dude stayed grimey, no matter who he came up against. For better or worse he stayed true to himself and not giving a fuck about others’ approval.
On a personal note, as a kid who grew up fairly poor but who later rubbed shoulders with countless rich White folk throughout my education and career, Mugen is a fucking hero off the strength of his self-worth alone. And no matter what people thought of him, they had to respect him. Take it from Jin himself: “Your stance leaves you wide open, and your moves are totally inefficient. All in all, your fighting style is a mess. I swear, you are the most undisciplined fighter I’ve ever known…”
Favorite Bar: “I don’t understand a single word of that shit you’re spewing. But there’s one thing that I do understand: I don’t care how many damn dogs you got. It don’t amount to jack if they ain’t tough enough to bark when they’re out alone.”
If you ever need to see the greatness of dude’s swordplay – and the beauty with which Samurai Champloo
blends itself with hip hop – just watch this
, easily my favorite AMV of all time, mixing Mugen and Jin with Gang Starr’s “Battle.” Mugen is the poor kid from the block who made it with nothing but attitude, heart, and a skill. He’s Shaft mixed with Rocky mixed with Afro Samurai, and he’s one of the coldest in the game. Underrated? Maybe not by viewers… but he sure as hell was by every swordsman he came up against. Too bad they never lived to pay their respect.
“I never asked to be born and death’s no question /
The sun’s still shining off the same old lessons”
: Kambei, a samurai wandering the land as a drifter with no clear purpose or ambition after being on the losing side of a war that ended not too long ago, makes this list for sure. He’s a righteous man who wields a sword in an age where samurai are seemingly no longer needed and some even go to the extreme by trading their bodies of flesh and bone for mechanical ones. Until one day a water priestess from a farming village comes in search of samurai to defend them from bandits that steal and intimidate them. Her water dousing crystal chooses Kambei as the first to aid them and the rest is history. Samurai 7
is the anime adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic film, but with the anime adaptation we’re given a steampunk twist. Kambei Shimada, the leader of the assembled men, is transformed into a brown skinned man with thick hair almost resembling dreadlocks at different times. He’s resourceful, reads people well on and off the battlefield and really, really knows how to utilize the people under his command to their full capacity.
Favorite Bar: “I am in love…with your skills, that is.“
At the end of the day, he fights for those who need defending, mourns those who fall under his command and stays true to his word. Seeing him as the leader of such a ragtag group of heroes as a person of color, someone with brown skin was so amazing. The implication that a dark skinned character was essential to posing a threat to the corrupt system of power in place and helped set off a revolution that swept throughout the land left me awestruck. Bonus points: he managed to do so with not just relying on his sword–he used his wits, hs battle stratgey eqipped mind and faith in people to get the job done.
What are some of your favorite POC from anime? Did any of these make your personal list? Share with us in the comments with what POC stole the show for you from the anime series you love.
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Pyunma from the 06 reboot of cyborg 009. The character was a nasty stereotype and vehicle for blackface through the long lineage of the 009 series but the 2006 version gave him a respectable design, an heartfelt backstory, and his own specific pain in becoming what he was. As a Congolese kid who honestly is more a product of the states than the Kin, it meant a lot to see him on the screen struggling with fantastic versions of the questions I often asked myself.
He also gets another redesign in RE: CYBORG 009 as well as a bit more backstory and a job as a cultural anthropologist…unfortunately he doesn’t get to do any combat in the feature, disappearing under mystery circumstances at one point. ^_^;;;
What no April From Darker Than Black?
Canary from Hunter X Hunter? She was very obviously Black, complete with her natural hair in gravity-defying braids! T_T
But what about Simon Brehznev from Durarara!!! Though?
I hate to be That Guy, but to title this “POC in anime” ignores the fact that MOST anime characters are POC… because they’re Japanese.
Most Japanese manga illustrators and animators make their characters look more white: lighter skin, larger eyes, no epicanthic fold, long thin nose and thin lips.
Characters with typical Japanese features often end up being perceived as evil. The Japanese have always valued light skin and large eyes even before significant contact with Europeans, so it’s not surprising that their characters resemble Europeans.
Jessica Ross (@deathweasel)
How did Yoruichi from Bleach not make this list?
And what about chad?
Chad is not black, he’s Latino and Japanese.
… That’s black lol
I’d like to add a few of my favorites (most of my top picks are already on this list, which is pretty much the cream of the crop).
Miyuki Ayakawa from BASQUASH! is both likable and active in the plot; a mechanical genius living in her grandfather’s junkyard, she builds custom Big Foots out of scraps of archaic technology she finds. Big Foots are multi-purpose mecha mostly used for labor in the Earth of BASQUASH!, but during downtime they’re also used to play world-shaking games of streetball. MIyuki is integral to the series and very charming and enthusiastic.
Liz Ricarro from the tragically underated and ignored mecha-racing anime IGPX is hot tempered but finds her center in the martial arts. She is her teams striker, driving the strongest mech, which is used to attack or block the oppositions mecha during the race. She doesn’t take anyones ish, including the constant drama of her teammate (and later romantic interest) Takeshi, driving him to become the person she believes he can be. I have sort of a huge crush on her because she was voiced by the incomperable Michelle Rodriguez in the english dub.
Dutch from BLACK LAGOON; shrewd and intelligent, he stays calm no matter how crazy @#$% gets, always has a plan, and seems to always ‘know a guy.’ He owns the missle boat the BL crew uses for their mercenary jobs, and is the contact that gets them their greasy work. Wears a really dope jacket!
Nadia from NADIA THE SECRET OF BLUEWATER. At first the star acrobat of a traveling circus in 19th century Europe, Nadia is at the center of an undersea comspiracy that, and later revealed to be the daughter of Captain Nemo himself. She has an adorable grey lion named King as her companion. Nadia is tempermental and stubborn, but also resourceful and agile.
My last character is a bit of a stretch, and may just be my bias because of the English voice actor, but Jet Black does not come off as white as his complection would have you believe. Particularly when you see those flashbacks where he’s dressed like Denzil from INSIDE MAN (https://timeentertainment.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/insideman.jpg VS http://static.zerochan.net/Cowboy.Bebop.full.1166887.jpg). It’s always hard to strictly tell with anime what someones ethnicity is meant to be, but I sincerely feel like Jet Black is not meant to be read as caucasian. Other opinions may differ. ^_^;;;
Great list and great summaries! Thank you so much!
Casca from Berserk and Alex Benedetto from Gangsta. !
I’ve always loved the complexity of Scar in Fullmetal Alchemist. What could’ve been a standard villain was instead deeply flawed and torn and sympathetic, not to mention the racial connotations of how he survived an entire genocide of his people, the Ishvalans, very much an intentional nod to Muslim bigotry during the Iraq war when the 03 original series was airing (though Brotherhood and the original manga definitely still carried themes of bigotry in Japanese culture post-WWII.
Excuse me? Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena?
Casca from Berserk. 2nd commander of the Band of the Hawk. .
Orilonise Jade Fox Adeoju
I know right?! I still want to cosplay as her.
Junko Saotome from Nana. Hachi’s no-nonsense best friend. In the anime, she is darker than the rest of the characters, but still light skin. Her experiments with her hair (afro and dreads) were what stood out about her, visually, but her attitude was what made me admire her. When they made Nana into a live-action film, I was disappointed to find that Junko was not black.
yoruichi from bleach???
Anthy from Utena and Nathan Seymour aka Fire Emblem from Tiger and Bunny- who are also both queer characters (Anthy being bi and Nathan being gay and gender queer).
How could y’all forget Dutch from Black Lagoon? He was the baddest mother fucked in that show.
Orilonise Jade Fox Adeoju
Umm, Caska? Yoruichi? Bob Makihara? Chad/Sado?
Kamali Derek Senior
THANK YOU! Bob Makihara is one of My favorites.
I love this list. Galahad and Doug from Gangsta are also great characters.
Yoooo, if y’all ever read manga check out Billy Bat. The protagonists switch from the half-japanese half-white Kevin Yamagata to about halfway through the series to a young black man known as Kevin Goodman. Great story, too.
i’m no anime expert so I’ve not seen any black characters in any other than Afro Samurai and a suspicious character in dragonball z. I once saw some black characters in a episode of cowboy bebop with way too many watermelons in it for my tastes
Jonah from Jormungand
Hey Michiko us also afro brazilian
Why are dissertations deleted? That’s wack guys. Sometimes people are prolix, and for good reason. Anyways. And I see ya’ll didn’t go past like 2000, because Claudia Lasalle from Macross is the fucking DEFINITION of Black Girl Magic.
Azuma from Fairy Tail and Sousuke from Full Metal Panic?
Dimension W has bounty hunter K. K. reminds me of Will Smith for some reason but he looks like a proper black character. Requiem for the Phantom has Lizzie a tough hit woman. I won’t say more, see for yourself.Plus one for Claudia and Dutch. Cowboy Bebop has the guy that hands out the bounties can’t find/think of his name and a bunch of others Bebop was super progressive with characters.
What about Bobobo from the series of the same name?
What is the anime for the cover photo look cool I’ve been looking all over for it
What about Chocolove from Shamen King my boy was hella tight.
Does Ussop from one piece count? Or Brook before he became a skeleton? (he said his afro had roots so deep in his skull he still has hair even after his body decomposed)
There’s also Trafalgar Law.
Hi there! I wanted to ask about SAILOR PLUTO! Where did you get the picture of the drawing form Naoko Takeuchi based on that Black Girl?? If I only could get the source I could easy talk about it on my bachelor’s thesis!! I know most of the outfits form Sailor Moon are actually based on fashion from that moment… if you now something, please, reply to this comment!!