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Get to Know Tony Weaver, the Black Nerd Who Proves That Your “Weirdness” Is Your Greatest Strength

"I've always wanted to cultivate a community that is representative of the wide depth of beauty that anime as a medium is capable of having."

Tony Weaver and the Uncommons

I wish I could say that I heard of the immensely talented Tony Weaver through his incredible series, The Uncommons, or through his ed-tech company Weird Enough Productions or the TikTok for Black Creatives initiative.

Unfortunately, I discovered him the same way I, and many other Black geeks, discover each other: through combating online harassment.

Granted, the way he dealt with comments like “you sound white” or “you’re not a real anime fan unless if you fulfill these requirements I made up on the spot” were spectacular. There was always a comedic, upbeat flare in the way he responded to the same ol’ garbage Black geeks hear every two and a half months.

@tonyweaverjrReply to @belfy.jpg some good news at the end :) ##anime ##weeb ##myheroacademia ##naruto ##blackcreatives♬ You Say Run (Orchestral Arrangement) – Cloudjumper

I just kinda wish we all didn’t share this same “being harassed because we like Japanese cartoons” thread of destiny, but since we do, it’s nice that there’s someone like Tony Weaver out there.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being able to chat with Weaver, the two of us discussing his relationship with anime, his work as a creator, and how he’s working to make his space a source of comfort for those who are struggling.

Anime is something that a lot of Black geeks bond over, and Weaver took the time to thank Toonami for opening the door for Western fans. Even so, he didn’t quite grasp that he was watching animation from a different culture. “I think that like a lot of people that love anime, I didn’t know that I was watching anime at the time. You’d get home after school and you watch Dragon Ball Z and you watch Sailor Moon, you watch something that comes on Toonami and you go, oh, this is cool!”

This is a common experience for a lot of anime fans from a certain generation since, back then, it wasn’t nearly as common as it is now with streaming services like Crunchyroll and even SimulDubs that air shortly after an episode airs in Japan. Back then it could take years to get new content, but these days, the likes of Funimation will have a dub available within a week or two—maybe even faster than that.

For Weaver, it was the Toonami night block that made him realize that this was something different. “All right, I am in middle school, but I’m gonna stay awake,” he said. “But you would inevitably fall asleep with the TV on, and maybe two hours later, at the chorus of ‘Fukai Mori,’ the Inuyasha ending, her voice wakes you up.”

“Fukai Mori” is performed by the Japanese pop band Do As Infinity. The her Weaver is referring to is vocalist Tomiko Van.

“You’re like, oh, what’s going on? What’s happening?! It’s like I was asleep and now there’s this singing Japanese woman! Sesshoumaru’s like smoldering, walking across the screen, what is this, what’s happening?!”

The Toonami night block would air different series from the afternoon block or air “uncut” versions to what was in the afternoon programming. Toonami at night was where Gundam Wing’s Heero Yuy would say I’ll kill you instead of I’ll destroy you.

Eventually, Weaver would get introduced to the anime series Eureka 7 and credits its themes for making him realize you could tell more complex stories through animation.

Promo art for Eureka 7

“I watched the first episode of Eureka 7 and the themes in that show, the music, the color grading, the score, the character arcs. In the first episode, there’s a very clear quote that’s said. ‘Don’t beg for things, do it yourself, or else you won’t get anything.’ I remember in middle school thinking to myself, ‘This is so different than the type of stories I’m accustomed to.’ And it’s really that underlying theme in depth that’s kept me engaged and in love with the anime. There’s so many things being explored about the human condition that for me as a person that’s always growing, or trying to, anyway, that’s been a place of inspiration and encouragement for me.”

As we talked about the growth of the anime industry here in the U.S., Weaver linked it to the work he’s creating today.We are in a time where anime is more mainstream than ever,” he said. “That’s why in my content I’m really focused on making sure that everybody feels welcome when they step into this community. As the community grows, as more people find out about what anime is and join fandoms and start engaging and watching these shows, there is a tangible opportunity for a lot of the negative things in our community to take root and become the face of this thing.”

See my earlier notes about the Black geek backlash that occurs every two and a half months. Weaver goes on to say, “There is an opportunity for the gatekeeping and for the racism and for the misogyny to become the thing that people associate anime with when they think about animating fans. So for me, when it comes to my content and the type of things I like to create, I’ve always wanted to cultivate a community that is representative of the wide depth of beauty that anime as a medium is capable of having.”

While it’s commendable that Weaver is working to create a positive space, he made sure to talk about something that a lot of influencers fail to mention in regards to positivity: it requires work. It’s easy to say that you want your space to be safe and welcoming, but to actually make sure it feels that way, you have to put in the effort. To Weaver, this means that you have to be willing to face the negativity. You can’t just ignore it or will it away by saying your space is positive, you have to do something.

“I think that’s something that doesn’t get brought up a lot, especially if you talk to people that consider themselves content creators or influencers. What they say a lot is, ‘I just want to spread positivity. I just want my page to spread positivity.’ For me, what I know is in order for you to be positive, you have to be in opposition of the negative. You have to look in the face of the discrimination that people are enduring. You have to look in the face of these systems that currently exist that don’t allow people to be their best selves and say, ‘I am going to make an active decision to stand in opposition of that.’

As a creator, the community that I have is the community that I wish I had when I was getting bullied when I was a kid. I’m building the space that I wish I had to move to. One of the things I take a lot of pride in as a creator is that I get the privilege to cultivate that space.”

Weaver went on to say how he goes live three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for two hours just to talk with his audience. “The thing that really makes me feel happy about it is that I get to make sure that that space exists. I get to use visibility as a way to allow other people to be vulnerable.” He added that the negative words (like the comment I referenced in the beginning about sounding white) don’t hurt him, and he’d rather they throw shade toward him instead of someone – particularly, younger fans – who would be affected by those words. “I’d much rather they throw it at me so that you can go and explore your fandom, explore your hobby, explore your identity as a writer in a way that makes you feel good so that you can grow and get to this point.”

Weaver may not have always been supported as a writer of color, but that didn’t stop him from dreaming. “I want to become mangaka of the West,” he said. “I wanna develop the pipeline that is required for a Western author to consistently write, create, develop their ideas into manga and then get them adapted into anime and animation. That’s my dream and what I’m moving towards.”

That’s where The Uncommons comes in.

The cover to Uncommons vol 1

The synopsis is as follows:

Iris is a West African teen gifted with Second Sight, a mystical ability that lets her see energies, details, and outcomes. She thought she’d seen everything until, one day, her eyes showed her a vision of a calamity that threatens the entire world. Determined to fight fate, she travels to the futuristic tech hub of Delta City to stop the threat before it begins. Will Iris and her new allies prove uncommon enough to change the fate of everything?

To Weaver, The Uncommons is a love letter to people that are growing up in the 21st century. “People that are growing up today are experiencing things that nobody else has had to deal with. So when I write The Uncommons and I come up with these characters, what I really try to do is relate to those struggles and those issues.” This is especially prevalent in the main character, Iris, who is able to see the future. “Iris sees energies, details, outcomes, and there are a lot of really cool things that we can do with that visually, right? But if you look at it from the perspective of a young person, there are a bunch of people right now that sees things in their communities that nobody else sees.”

Here, Weaver spoke about Iris’ vision of the world coming to an end which, mild spoiler, is our introduction to her in the story. There’s beautiful, scenic imagery of Delta City, then Iris informs us that she sees it all coming to an end. It gave me Sailor Moon S vibes where, in the very first episode, Sailor Mars has apocalyptic visions of the world. This sticks with me to this day because this is exactly how Toonami kicked off their advertisement for that season.

What hits me with Iris’ vision is how Weaver links it back to the real-world horrors that young Black girls bear witness to, something that doesn’t occur to many people because those girls are heralded as champions, even if they faced such terrifying circumstances at a young age – and their cries often go unheard, or rather, they are heard, but the necessary changes aren’t being made. “If you look at Amariyanna (Mari) Copeny in Flint, Michigan, literally five years ago she was like, ‘We don’t have clean water! It’s been years, we don’t have clean water!'”

And they still don’t, even if Little Miss Flint is hailed as a phenomenal activist … at age 13.

Then there are those who completely miss the point, misinterpreting what young Black girls are saying and how they are feeling.

“Youth are the most vulnerable people in the communities that they live in. If you look at any community, young people are always going to be the ones that are most vulnerable.” Weaver continued with, “The solutions to problems are almost always developed by the people that are closest to it and that are most vulnerable to it, so I think young people have a unique point of view that allows them to develop solutions to the sorts of problems that the world is dealing with.”

He ended with this, “The question is, are we going to listen to them or are we not?”

You can check out Tony Weaver, and his incredible work, at all of the following links:

Splash page for The Uncommons

(Image: Team Weird Enough)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)