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Racial traits in cartoons across cultures

Racial traits in cartoons across cultures

by David Veksler

I noticed an interesting difference between the racial traits of American and Japanese cartoon characters today. Japanese cartoon characters do not have racial distinctions as American carton characters do. Americans viewers often assume that the large-eye style and varied hair and skin color of anime characters refers to Caucasian traits, but this is not true.

Cartoons represent the human body in a highly stylized form, and racial differences are insignificant compared to the relatively dramatic stylization of cartoons, such as four fingered hands and exaggerated body proportions. In other words, racial differences are optional in animation. (This is not universal – Chinese cartoon characters generally assume Asiatic traits.) The difference is that American cartoonists choose to emphasize racial differences, while Japanese ones do not. This might seems counterintuitive, since Japanese society is culturally and ethically homogenous relative to America, and therefore differences would stand out more.

My hypothesis is that there are two causes for the actual trend. Foremost is the influence of the dogma of multiculturalism prevalent in the U.S., which demands a kind of racial determinism, and shapes characters accordingly. The fact that American cartoons market to children (rather than a much wider age spectrum, as in Japan) feeds the demand to smuggle in multiculturalism brainwashing.

By contrast, Japanese culture is both cosmopolitan and proud (something that America was once best known for) and thus avoids the tribalism of multiculturalism. For example, foreign characters are identified explicitly or by cultural rather than racial traits. Everyone speaks fluent well-mannered Japanese and eats with chopsticks, and mixes traditional and Western dress. Stereotypical token actors are common, but they represent distinct social rather than ethnic roles, perhaps indicative of the relative social rigidity of their society.


  1. What do you have to say about early American cartoons such as Looney Tunes and Disney?

    Would you consider these cartoons more inline with the American way(I’m speaking 1950’s and earlier)?

    It would be an interesting followup to your hypothesis.

  2. the site can become better if you put more colors and designs..more info about the japanese people; emphasizing their traits and culture..
    but your site works pretty well..keep it up!

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