The Black Man’s Guide to Anime
Thought you’d watched everything out there? Time to broaden your horizons.
Bet you didn’t know streaming platforms had a bottom. Not a quality bottom, like the social media muck where White supremacists and Tory Lanez apologists congregate, but an actual bottom. Like, you’ve officially seen it all. At least that’s how it feels almost 11 months after the first shutdowns began; we’re all still inside watching the same hodgepodge of warmed-over crime dramas or the umpteenth episode of 90 Day Fiance. Don’t worry, there’s an entire universe of shows out there waiting for you: anime.
While so many other genres seemed to fall flat this year, 2020 was glorious for stylish Japanese animation, both in its origin country and abroad. Thanks to its WFH-friendly development and wild production schedule — over 150 anime series were produced in the last year — there’s always something new and unexpected. And between Netflix’s ongoing development splurge, other major streamers getting in on the action, and anime-only platforms like Crunchyroll, VRV, and Funimation, the medium has never been more accessible.
Sure, all of that material can be daunting for any newcomer, but that’s where we come in. Read on for everything you need to know about anime’s migration to the West, the most fascinating themes and ideas coming out of modern anime, and a few recommendations for anyone looking to dip a toe into this gorgeous and eclectic artform.
Japanese anime has been a part of American TV programming for more than 50 years — an English-language adaptation of Speed Racer hit syndication in 1967 — but it took decades to catch on. Through much of the ’90s, movies like Akira and reruns of shows like Astro Boy were relegated to terrible time slots on basic cable, sulking in the doldrums of the midnight hour. But in 1997, executives at Cartoon Network tapped anime fans Sean Atkins and Jason Demarco to create an evening programming block specifically to showcase high-energy, propulsive action cartoons.
The result, Toonami, ignored the silliness that predecessors like Fox and had SyFy…