Japan is the home of anime; however, some famous anime characters do not consider Japan as their home. Anime characters don’t look Japanese because they represent other ethnicities. They were not born in Japan or didn’t have any Japanese blood in them. Many fans of the anime community assume that because Japan is the heart of all of the anime they love and binge-watch, all characters are also Japanese. However, many authors or creators have expanded their imaginations beyond Japan and even the real world. But is it still called anime even when the characters are not Japanese? Read on to find out!
Anime has been popularized globally and has enticed the hearts of many fans from different walks of life. Many anime series and films have been released non-stop, making them more available and popular in the anime world. Japanese animation’s captivating way of storytelling, engaging plot, relatable themes, and genres have set them apart from other forms of entertainment. But, aside from these things, the anime characters are the ones that first capture the attention of the audience.
Anime or Japanese animation is recognized for its diverse and unique character designs. Numerous popular anime series are set in Japan with Japanese-born characters. However, creators and illustrators have diversely included non-Japanese characters to make their works more notable from the others.
All About Non-Japanese Anime Characters
The simplest answer to why some anime characters don’t look Japanese is that they are not Japanese at all. They were actually designed based on another race. As mentioned above, the touch of diversity that creators and illustrators have put into their work has led them not to limit the setting, themes, and mostly their characters within the Japanese community.
Throughout the years, Japan’s economy has continued to rise because of the remarkable achievements of Japanese entertainment, mainly anime and manga. From left to right, mangas have been selling out, and anime series or films have been streamed across the world. The people behind this, including the authors, illustrators, animators, and voice actors, have supported the industry in creating appealing and exceptional type of stories. Therefore, it is understandable why anime has become a massive part of Japan’s cultural identity.
Why Anime Characters Don’t Look Japanese?
Anime fans across the globe have made Japan their dream country of destination because of their love for Japanese animation. In fact, anime has played a vital role as a global ambassador of Japan. It has helped in introducing Japanese culture to the world. But, even with the intense amount of fame it has received, authors and creators have dived more into their creativity.
They have widened their scope in creating their stories and designing their characters. Finding out that you’re favorite anime character is not Japanese might surprise you a little, but one should be aware that creators do this for several reasons.
First, some anime characters don’t look Japanese due to their artistic choice. It should be highlighted that, like other stories in TV series, films, and comics, anime creators do not confine their artistry solely to Japan. Many Japanese anime creators have decided to embrace diversity, incorporating diverse physical appearances and traits that may reflect people belonging to other races.
Furthermore, non-Japanese characters are a must in fantasy-themed animes. One thing that made anime stand out is because of the popularity of fantasy theme series. In connection, creators have designed the worlds and characters in their stories by intentionally using other races and countries as inspirations. This is done to ensure that the story is not limited only to references based on Japan. Moreover, this is done in order to successfully narrate the stories through the richness of the anime in terms of visual diversity.
Additionally, gaining inspiration is also common in the world of anime. Japanese anime might be popular, but it isn’t the only well-known form of entertainment. American comics, cartoons, series, and films have also been around for decades. Thus, it is not impossible for Japanese creators to utilize them as inspiration for their work. The success of other forms of entertainment from different countries, such as the United States of America, has also influenced some aspects of Japanese animation.
Lastly, anime characters are intentionally created to be non-Japanese to make them and the series they belong to globally appealing. Series and films being relatable can also boost their power to attract fans. Animes expanding outside Japan and being recognized in different countries have also pushed anime creators to include universal themes and globally relatable characters. Characters that transcend beyond Japanese appearances and characteristics have allowed them to deepen the connection between the characters and their stories to the audience. Most importantly, by including non-Japanese anime characters, the anime series, and films also promoted inclusivity.
Making all anime characters not limited to Japanese as inspiration is actually an advantage, especially with the growing popularity of Japanese animation. Making anime characters that are British, American, Latino, Filipino, and other ethnicity can genuinely give non-Japanese anime fans a sense of belonging and a massive amount of happiness for having characters like them.
10 Best Anime Characters Who Are Not Japanese
Animes that emphasize other cultures and ethnicities have existed for a long time. Many of the well-known and loved characters today who bring entertainment to fans are not exclusively born and raised in Japan. From British to Latino characters, here are 10 of the best and most popular non-Japanese anime characters that have excellently represented different cultures and ethnicities in the world of anime:
10. Izana Kurokawa – Tokyo Revengers (Filipino)
The Philippines has one of the biggest anime communities in the country and probably plenty of Tokyo Revengers fans, too. Therefore, when Izawa’s character entered the series and was announced as Filipino, many Filipino fans rejoiced. Izana Kurokawa has a tan complexion with an average height and big purple eyes. Although he is half-Filipino and half-Japanese, based on his appearance, his Filipino blood is more prominent.
In Tokyo Revengers, Izawa is the founder and the one who led Tenjiku, the largest group of gangsters in Yokohama, Japan. He is the antagonist of Tokyo Revengers Tenjiku Arc. He degrades and belittles those around him. Izana is known to be a ruthless person and believes that his people are nothing more than disposable tools.
9. Killer Bee – Naruto Shippuden (Black American)
The world of Naruto involves different villages or continents where the characters live. Aside from Konoha, where the main characters were born and raised, there were other villages that the series featured, including Kumogakure, a.k.a Village Hidden by Clouds. This classic series had a touch of diversity in it by including characters who were Black Americans, and among them is the iconic Eight Tail jinchuriki, Killer Bee.
Killer Bee is one of the most loved shinobi from the Naruto series. This is because of his easy-going and cool personality. Unlike most of his fellow jinchuriki, Killer Bee was able to master the eight-tailed beast and become good friends with it. However, in spite of his responsibility to protect the Village of Hidden Clouds, Killer Bee also desires to be a famous rapper someday. This is the reason behind his rap-style speaking, ending almost all of his sentences with Bakayaro! Konoyaro!
8. Ash Lynx – Banana Fish (American)
Ash Lynx is the main character of Banana Fish. He greatly resembles the looks of Western men with his muscular build, tallness, and blond hair. He is the leader of an infamous gang in New York City. His charismatic personality, combined with his intelligence, has allowed him to easily influence others to join and support him under his influence as a gang leader.
Ash was born and raised in the United States of America, specifically in the state of Massachusetts. One of the main characters of the series, Eiji Okumura, is a Japanese student whom Ash will fatedly meet. Ash will gradually form a relationship with Okumura and will become the only person he can trust.
7. William James Moriarty – Moriarty the Patriot (British)
William James Moriarty and his younger brother Louis James Morarity were presumably born in Britain, where they became orphans. The series did not delve much into the background story of William and Louis before they got acquainted with their step-brother, Albert James Moriarty. However, since the series revolves around Great Britain during the late 19th century and with William and Louis’s physical features, they are certainly non-Japanese characters together with their brother.
William James Moriarty embodies an English gentleman’s appearance through his tall, slender man with medium-length, oblong, stringy hair. In order to better hide their identity as the Lord of Crime, William blends himself well into society. He is frequently seen wearing a three-piece suit and is a recognized professor of mathematics.
6. Loid Forger – Spy x Family (European)
Spy x Family is an anime-inspired by Western Culture. The series takes place during the 1960’s culture. Game Rant even highlighted the series taking real-life inspirations in terms of geography and the current state of Spy x Family’s society. Loid Forger’s real name or past has yet to be unveiled in the series because of his job as a spy. He still remains a mystery in many aspects; however, it is obvious, based on his physical appearance, that he is not Japanese.
Loid is a well-built and tall man with clean-cut blond hair. Although the way he actually dresses outside his job as a spy is unknown, his preferences in tuxedos support him being a European. He always dresses in a very stylish and sophisticated way, which is also done by many European men in the real world. Comic Book Resources also claimed that the excellent spy is one of the most popular non-Japanese anime characters in history.
5. Eren Yaeger – Attack on Titan (European and German)
Eren Yaeger is one of today’s most popular characters and is considered to be one of the greatest characters in anime history. The award-winning Attack of Titan is clearly not set in a world where the creator used Japan as his basis. The world of Attack on Titan resembles a Western culture, specifically European and German. One should notice that the character’s names, namely Eren Yaeger, Levi Ackerman, Jeanne Kirstein, and Reiner Braun, are all Western-inspired names.
Moreover, the characters’ appearances were also designed with European features. Eren’s facial features greatly resemble his mother, who is probably the European one in their family. In addition, since his last name ‘Yaeger’ is German-inspired, it is possible that it was his father, Griesha Yaeger, who is German. This makes Eren half-European and half-German.
4. Lelouch Lamperouge – Code Geass (British)
Lelouch Lamperouge, the protagonist and antagonist of their own series, like Eren Yaeger, is a non-Japanese anime character. He is also one of the most popular anime characters of all time. Lelouch is the 11th prince of the Holy Britannian Empire and son of the 98th Emperor of Britannia. His background does not only imply that Lelouch is part of the Royal family in the world of Code Geass but being born in Britannia also shows that he is not Japanese.
It is likely that the Holy Britannian Empire is inspired by real-life Britain, making Lelouch Lamperouge a British man. Furthermore, the setting in Code Geass is very Western-inspired. Lelouch has maintained his popularity throughout the years, even if the series has ended for a long time now. This shows that remarkable characters who have genuinely captivated the interest of fans will forever be considered as one of the best anime characters in history.
3. Goku – Dragon Ball (Chinese)
Son Goku is the character that has been a part of the childhood of many anime fans today. Until today, Dragon Ball is considered to be one of the biggest anime franchises. Although it may seem like the series and its characters are based on Japanese culture, it’s actually not. This is because Son Goku is a character inspired by Sun Wukong. Sun Wukong is the protagonist of an ancient Chinese novel, the Journey to the West.
Plenty of the characteristic of the powerful Saiyan has a touch of Chinese origins. This makes Sun Goku one of the greatest non-Japanese anime characters that have transcended time. Until today, many anime fans, regardless of their age, still consider Goku as their favorite character and, of course, one of the most heroic characters in anime history.
2. Edward Elric – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (German)
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the greatest anime of all time, with its amazing plot and characters. In fact, its main character, Edward Elric, is one of the best non-Japanese anime characters in history. The series’ settings, as well as the appearances of the characters, are largely based on German history and culture.
Edward Elric, together with his brother, father, and the other characters in the series, do resemble German features. Furthermore, like Eren Yaeger, Elric is also a name that originates in Germany. Edward might be short for a Western man, but his long golden-blond hair is what emphasizes his German features more. Like all other anime characters, Edward Elric and his brother, Alphonse Elric, might not be Japanese, but this didn’t affect how the fans priced them, and it is still currently one of the best anime.
1. Monkey D. Luffy – One Piece (Latino)
This fantasy-adventure series may be fictional, but it is the anime that truly represents diversity through its characters. One Piece centers on the journey of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew as they sail the vast sea to find the greatest treasure. And this crew, known as the Straw Hat Pirates, is not made up of all Japanese characters. Eiichriro Oda has revealed that if the characters existed in real life, Monkey D. Luffy would be Brazillian.
True enough, in One Piece Live Action, a Latino actor was cast for the lead role of Luffy. There aren’t many Latino anime characters, but Luffy being one of the greatest characters in anime history proves that he is indeed a rare gem. Additionally, Roronoa Zoro is the only Japanese among the Straw Hat Pirates. Nami is Swedish, Sanji is French, Franky is American, Usopp is American, Chopper is Canadian, Robin is Russian, Brook is Austrian, and Jinbe is Indian. One Piece is not just one of the greatest anime of all time but is also one of the richest anime when it comes to representing the beauty of the different ethnicities in the real world.
Is It Still Considered Anime If The Characters Are Non-Japanese?
Definitely! The term anime or Japanese animation is not merely confined to characters that are Japanese or stories that are set in Japan. Anime originated in Japan, and it is the country known to be the heart of all the manga that otakus are obsessed with, as well as the animes they binge-watch. But as explained above, incorporating other cultures and races into the anime doesn’t make it less of an anime.
In fact, non-Japanese anime characters are ideal, appealing, and relatable for all fans, especially those who are not Japanese. Therefore, whether the anime features non-Japanese characters or not, as long as it adheres to the structure and elements of Japanese animation, then it is still considered as anime.