For the 1000th Time, Stop Pitching White Actors to Play Japanese Anime Characters
My Hero Academia is part of the modern Big Three when it comes to shonen manga popularity (One Piece is still there, despite all hopes to the contrary), and that means, of course, there are talks about a live-action adaptation—three words that put the fear of god into fans of animation, but especially anime. It’s a fear for multiple reasons, but for me, whitewashing is the biggest one.
During the L.A. premiere of My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, Justin Briner, who voices the lead character, Izuku Midoriya, in the English dub told Nerdist that his pitch to play his character is … Tom Holland.
Tom Holland should play Deku.
— Nerdist (@nerdist) February 21, 2020
He says in the video, “Spider-Man, it is super close! They’ve both got that awkward energy, [and] we both kind of sound similar. So I think it’d be great!”
Now, I don’t begrudge anyone’s fan casts, and I think when you’re talking to dub voice actors, of course, they are going to have a different pool of actors and references to pull from than a Japanese actor or SEA actor would. Still, Western media has a longstanding, bad habit of whitewashing anime to make it more “acceptable” to American audiences, despite the fact that anime is super popular in the States, and internationally, while still being Japanese. But I’m not the one making these choices.
I’ve spoken about race in anime before, and while the issue of hair color and eye color always comes into play, my rule of thumb is using the standards that have been set in anime. There’s plenty of anime in which there are white characters and more diverse casts, like Fullmetal Alchemist, Carole and Tuesday, Attack on Titian, etc. However, most of the time, a lot of these characters Japanese in name, cultural signifiers, and other markers, despite the fictional setting.
You know, the same way we know it’s still white-based/European fantasy even when it’s in a different universe.
Most of the names in MHA are Japanese puns, which led to that whole controversy from a few weeks ago, with one character having a name that seemed to reference WWII war crimes.
I even understand that, as a result of making the movie in the U.S., we might need more diverse casts, but why does it always have to be the lead (with the exception of Cowboy Bebop)? Why does it usually end up that there is only one Asian person, and that’s it? I don’t like the expectation that we need to separate the Japanese identity from the work in order to sell products to an audience that isn’t familiar with anime.
We don’t need Tom Holland for this role (Alphonse Elric … maybe). We need young Asian actors like Forrest Wheeler to be getting these opportunities, as well as unknown actors.
My Hero Academia is strong enough to stand on its own brand. Spend more time worrying about an amazing script than trying to cast the hot white kid of the week.
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