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It’s an unfortunate fact that there hasn’t always been the best representation of black characters in anime. In the early days of anime, black characters were stereotyped and generalized instead of being represented as fully formed characters.
However, in recent years, different animators and studios have put the effort into creating more of these non-stereotypical, three-dimensional, and fully fleshed-out characters. They are, simply put, downright awesome.
With this representation now becoming more prevalent in anime, our favorite shows are finally more robust, inclusive – and yes, even more entertaining – because of it. While we still have a long way to go, it’s safe to say that this representation is definitely very welcome and a step in the right direction.
Black Representation in Anime
When we tend to see black characters in anime, they are often associated with being throwaway criminals or useless side characters in the plot. Despite this trope still unfortunately holding some truth, it doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some progress over the years.
Today, we can see quite a few incredible, three-dimensional black characters (complete with an array of different personalities and quirks!) in some of our favorite anime shows. Let’s go ahead and take a closer look at some of them, shall we?
My Bottom Line Up Front:
This wide array of amazing black characters in my favorite anime shows makes it difficult to decide who the top black anime character really is. However, Carole & Tuesday’s Carole Stanley is my pick for the top black anime character.
This is largely thanks to her refusal to take any negativity that comes at her in life. She strives endlessly to reach her dreams and doesn’t give up, making her a true inspiration. That said, my runner-ups include:
- Afro Samurai’s Afro Samurai (Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson… need I say more?)
- Hunter x Hunter’s Canary (Fearless and loveable!)
- Black Lagoon’s Dutch (Smooth, calm-headed, and downright brilliant.)
Who Is On the List?
In alphabetical order, here are my favorite black anime characters of all time:
- Afro Samurai – Afro Samurai
- Andrew Gilbert Mills (Agil) – SAO
- Bob Makihara – Tenjou Tenge
- Canary – Hunter x Hunter
- Carole Stanley – Carole & Tuesday
- Casca – Berserk (1997)
- Claudia Lasalle – Macross
- Coffee – Cowboy Bebop
- Dutch – Black Lagoon
- Killer B – Naruto Shippuden
- Kilik Rung – Soul Eater
- Michiko Malandro – Michiko to Hatchin
- Miyuki Ayukawa – Basquach!
- Muhammad Avdol – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
- Simon Brezhnev – Durarara!!
- Yoruichi – Bleach
In this list, we are looking at the best of the best. You’ll find characters from older anime (such as Claudia Lasalle from Macross), as well as those from more modern animes (like Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure’s Muhammad Avdol).
#16: Claudia Lasalle – Macross
Starting off the list, we have Claudia Lasalle from the classic mecha series, Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Though she isn’t one of the show’s main protagonists, she is an integral officer running the SDF-1 Macross. Her character has an immense amount of loyalty to the crew aboard the ship.
She showed exemplary strength throughout the series even with the death of her boyfriend, Roy Focker. The relationship between Roy and Claudia was one of the earliest interracial relationships shown in anime. The love that Claudia had for Roy alongside her willingness to live on after his death makes her deserving to be a part of this list.
Catch Claudia by streaming Macross on Amazon and Vudu.
#15: Simon Brezhnev – Durarara!!
When you first meet Simon in this anime, he is gentle, friendly, and calm. But when push comes to shove, he is easily one the strongest characters in Durarara!! Born and raised in Russia to African-American parents, Simon had a very unique character background.
In the show, he is one of the owners of Russia Sushi, where he is often seen outside the shop handing out pamphlets to attract more customers. Because of his sheer size and voice, he often frightens potential customers. However, this doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves, which is running his beloved sushi shop with his friend Denis.
Simon is on this list because he isn’t a stereotypical black character in anime. He is gentle and kind, despite being strong and powerful. Coming from the hardships of living in the Soviet Union, Simon has fled to Japan for a better life. He understands the importance of living harmoniously, despite differences.
Stream Durarara!! on Netflix, Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation.
#14: Andrew Gilbert Mills (Agil) – Sword Art Online
Andrew Gilbert Mills, also known as Agil, is one of the recurring characters throughout the Sword Art Online Series. In-game, Andrew is a merchant. In Sword Art Online (SAO), he owned a shop on the 50th Floor of Aincrad. He also wields an axe and is highly proficient in combat.
Throughout the anime, we see his character grow – and even get to know him in the real world. Though Andrew is of African descent, he was born in Ueno, Japan. In the two years that Andrew was trapped in SAO, he had long believed that his coffee shop would have been shut down by then.
However, we find out his wife took responsibility and managed the shop while he was gone. We also find out he manages the Dicey Cafe along with his wife to support his family. Being older than Kirito, he gives him advice from time to time. He is a wise and capable leader as shown in the fight against Illfang the Kobold Lord.
Catch Agil by streaming Sword Art Online on Funimation, Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix.
#13: Killer B – Naruto Shippuden
This character pretty much needs no introduction. He is the jinchūriki of the Eight-Tales, Gyūki, and the best rapper in all of Naruto Shippuden. Killer B is a master in the ninja art of Kenjutsu. A master swordsman in his own right, he is able to hold seven blades in total.
Apart from being able to move and fight flawlessly with the seven blades, he raps all the while overwhelming his foes. Even without the power of his jinchūriki, though, he can hold his own against the strongest of ninjas. He has fought against members of the Akatsuki, Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki.
On top of that, he has used or has possessed two of the blades of the Seven Swordsman of the Mist. He is, without a doubt, worthy of being a part of this list!
Catch Killer Bee from Naruto Shippuden on Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Amazon.
#12: Coffee – Cowboy Bebop
While Coffee wasn’t a predominant character in the Cowboy Bebop series, she left a lasting impression on fans with her gravity-defying afro hair and sleek attire. The bounty hunter rode on a black convertible and used rockets as her weapon of choice. What’s not to love about her?
Since the legendary ‘90s anime was heavily influenced by western culture, the creation of Coffee was no different. Design-wise, her character was inspired by the protagonist of a 1973 American classic, Coffy. Though her appearance in the show was short, Coffee was easily one of the highlights in the episode which featured her.
Stream Cowboy Bebop on Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Amazon.
#11: Kilik Rung – Soul Eater
As part of the top three student fighters in Death Weapon Meister Academy, Kilik Rung is not someone to mess with. He is loyal to his comrades and is the type to put himself in the line of fire before his friends. Though he is hot-headed and blunt, we learn of his more compassionate side later on.
With his weapon of choice, Demon Pots, he is able to manipulate the elements of fire and thunder to his advantage. This puts him at the top of his class, easily having a higher power level than some of his peers such as Ox Ford, Kim Diehl, and Maka Albarn.
The creation of Kilik Rung as a character is special. The creator of Soul Eater, Atsushi Okhubo, specifically intended for Kilik to be a proper representation of an African character in anime. Every part of Kilik was designed with the intention of creating the best representation of African culture, so much so that even his name was derived from African origins.
Watch Soul Eater on Hulu, Amazon, Crunchyroll, and Funimation.
#10: Bob Makihara – Tenjou Tenge
Being one of the few characters in this list to rock dreads, Bob Makihara is an excellent example of black representation in Tenjou Tenge. Born in South Africa, Bob is referred to in the series as “the foreigner.” However, this doesn’t deter him from being proud of where he came from.
Throughout the anime, he uses a martial art style called “Capoeira.” His style is unique from the other fighters in the show because of his use of rhythm. As a fighter, he thinks of his fights as dances. This allows him to follow the beat in order to destroy his enemies with style and grace.
His skills in fighting are complemented by his passion for martial arts and his love for his girlfriend. He is also quick-witted and aware of his surroundings. In one instance, he was able to recognize someone having a higher power level than Maya Natsume around the area.
As the show progresses, we get to see the full story of Bob Makihara. Later on, we see him have a daughter with his then-girlfriend, Chiaki Konoike. Seeing full character progressions for black anime characters is just such a rare sight to behold.
Stream Tenjho Tenge on Amazon, Crunchyroll, and Tubi TV.
#9: Miyuki Ayukawa – Basquach!
Miyuki Ayukawa is a special character because she isn’t your typical loli. In Basquach!, she breaks stereotypes by being a top-tier mechanic for the team. She’s a perfect example of how black women can be portrayed in anime for the better.
Many times throughout the anime, we get to witness her skills as a top mechanic. We even see her put a lot of the other team members in their place by teaching them how to pilot a Big Foot. Even if she isn’t a Basquacher, she is an irreplaceable member of the team.
She constantly works hard in having to repair and upgrade the different Big Foots of the team. Having one of the most unique backgrounds for black female anime characters, Miyuki is an excellent addition to this list.
Catch Miyuki by streaming Basquach! on HIDIVE.
#8: Casca – Berserk (1997)
If you’ve watched Berserk, then you would know the complexity of Casca. Born as a peasant girl, Casca would later become the unit commander of the powerful Band of the Falcon. In the early parts of the anime, we are shown her strength as a fighter.
The members of the Band of the Falcon did not even really see her as a woman. They had respect for her despite being of the opposite sex. To them, she was strong and independent. That’s why they had entrusted their lives with her during battles.
Because she has a hardened appearance and stern attitude, members of the group such as Judeau have stated that she has given up her “womanhood.” In reality, she still holds this side of her close to her heart. Wanting to be accepted as a strong yet feminine character, Casca yearns for acceptance for who she truly is.
Unfortunately, Berserk (1997) isn’t available for streaming. Instead, you can stream Berserk (2016) on Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Amazon.
#7: Yoruichi – Bleach
Let’s start off by saying Yoruichi can transform into a cat. Yes, you heard that right. Yoruichi isn’t just the former commander of Onmitsukidō or the former captain of the Gotei 13, but she can also turn into a black cat. Apart from her feline transformation, she has unimaginable speed holding the title of “Flash Goddess.”
In Bleach, she became one of the allies and companions of Ichigo early on. She helped train him in honing his own powers. She was an integral part of the team in the early episodes as she trained not only Ichigo but Orihime Inoue and Yasutora Sado in order to save Rukia Kuchiki from the Soul Society.
Though she is of noble birth, she doesn’t act like a nobility. She prefers not to be addressed with honorifics. Despite her attitude, she is a very easy-going character that becomes serious when she needs to be.
As a fighter, she utilizes the techniques of Kidō and Shunkō on the battlefield. On top of that, she is an expert swordsman and master assassin – so don’t you dare let this feline scratch you!
Stream Bleach on Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix.
#6: Muhammad Avdol – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
A character of Egyptian descent, Muhammad Avdol is a memorable ally of the Stardust Crusaders. First introduced as a friend of Joseph Joestar, we quickly get to know of his responsible and level-headed personality.
Fully dedicated to his mission in stopping DIO, he has constantly shown that he is willing to die for his comrades. Perhaps one of the most sensible and calm characters in the anime, Avdol’s resolve to defeat DIO is shown numerous times.
For instance, even when Jean Pierre Polnareff accused him of fleeing DIO like a coward, he still held his ground in responding with violence against him. Though his time on the show was short-lived, he is often regarded as one of the fan favorites.
Wielding the fire-handling Stand, Magician’s Red, his strength was a spectacular sight to behold. In addition, his calm and collected demeanor will always be something fans will remember about him.
Stream Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.
#5: Michiko Malandro – Michiko to Hatchin
Other female characters in this list – such as Miyuki, Casca, and Yoruichi– all have characteristics of being counter to that of what is being expected of black women in anime. These characters are shown to be more independent and free-spirited. Michiko Malandro from Michiko to Hatchin is no exception.
To give a bit of background, Michiko has escaped a supposedly inescapable prison four times. She’s the type to give the likes of El Chapo a run for their money. Despite being in prison numerous times, she isn’t as cold-hearted as she may initially seem.
In the anime, she has a slender and curvy figure, which she unabashedly uses to her advantage. She sports long, straight brown hair all the way down her waist. She is confident and proud of her body, and she would regularly wear revealing articles of clothing to flaunt it.
She is a complicated character that would go about certain things through a not-so-legal route… albeit with good intentions, of course. Instances in the show, such as stealing to help a friend or to give presents to an orphanage, are just some of her “Robin Hood” like examples of doing what she believes is right.
Her relationships with the different characters in the show are complex, as well. Early on, she rescues Hatchin from abusive foster parents in her home. From then on, we follow their adventure together as the series progresses.
Watch Michiko to Hatchin on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Amazon.
#4: Dutch – Black Lagoon
The leader and founder of the Lagoon Company, Dutch is easily one of the most badass characters on this list. Towering over pretty much any character in Black Lagoon, Dutch’s height is 6’4” ft. and he weighs in at just a little over 220 lbs. Though he is very much capable in combat, he primarily negotiates contracts with different clients.
His calm and cool-headed demeanor is similar to that of Muhammad Avdol. However, Dutch places higher on this list because we get to witness his character progression more (since he’s part of the show’s main cast).
He is always seen wearing sunglasses and traditional military articles such as boots and flak jackets. He is also completely bald, but has facial hair and appears to be in his mid 40’s.
According to Dutch himself, he was a former United States Marine who had fought in the Vietnam War. Though, it’s suggested by Shane Caxton that this was a manufactured lie by Dutch… a very mysterious character, indeed!
Personality-wise, he is very careful and tactical with all of his decisions. We even see him as a big fan of philosophy. On his bookshelf, we can see books from great philosophy writers such as Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Sartre. Who doesn’t love someone who’s educated?
Catch Dutch from Black Lagoon on Hulu, Netflix, Funimation, and Crunchyroll.
#3: Canary – Hunter x Hunter
As an apprentice butler to the Zoldyck Family, at first glance, Canary would seem like a forgettable character. Yet, there’s so much more to her than that. Her job as an apprentice butler is to be loyal – and loyal only – to the Zoldyck family. That said, there have been many instances where she has disobeyed these orders of her own free will.
Canary is more than capable of combat despite her occupation. She sports white long sleeves with black pants and shoes. Being an expert fighter, she has shown exemplary prowess by defeating 100 henchmen trying to invade the Zoldyck Estate. She did all this without breaking a sweat with her weapon of choice, a cane.
At face value, Canary isn’t just a ruthless butler who brainlessly serves the family. Though it is true that this is her duty, her bond with Killua has shaped her to become a person of her own free will.
Despite having an honorable role as butler to house Zoldyck, Canary is just a kid like Gon and Killua. Throughout Hunter x Hunter, Canary was faced with many roadblocks where she had to decide for herself instead of blindly obeying orders on command.
Stream Hunter x Hunter on Hulu, Netflix, Funimation, and Crunchyroll.
#2: Afro Samurai – Afro Samurai
Now, now. While this inclusion shouldn’t come as any surprise to diehard anime fans out there, Afro Samurai’s Afro just had to be here. The show itself was intended for an American audience, for crying out loud.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about why he deserves to be here. The story of Afro Samurai is a story of revenge. Having witnessed his father be decapitated in front of his own eyes, he swore vengeance on the killer of his father. On the path to vengeance, he has become the second strongest swordsman in the world.
Having borne witness to such traumatic experiences. Afro Samurai’s personality has turned cold, quiet, and serious. Only rarely is he shown laughing in the anime. On the rare occasions where he does laugh, it is only in flashbacks of his childhood and adolescence.
Afro Samurai was born into a cruel world. Yet, this has not stopped him from wanting to avenge his father’s death. Did I mention, Afro Samurai is voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson? Yes, the Samuel L. Jackson.
Watch Afro Samurai through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Funimation.
#1: Carole Stanley – Carole & Tuesday
Our pick for the top black anime character of all time isn’t some powerful sorcerer or undefeated swords(wo)man. In fact, she much more closely resembles any of us than the previously mentioned characters on this list. Though, to be fair, she was born on Mars – which I’m pretty sure any of us weren’t.
Carole & Tuesday’s Carole Stanley is easily my pick for the top of this list. Just like any of us, she has her own dreams. Being orphaned at a young age, Carole learned to be independent and not have to rely on anyone. Although she’s a struggling artist, she aspires to become an amazing musician one day.
She has faced different challenges such as being bullied in school and being harassed at work. Her rough upbringing has only strengthened her to be relentless in following her dreams. In early episodes, she takes on multiple jobs and basically lives her life from paycheck to paycheck.
With an overall nice, outgoing, and bright personality, she acts as an older sister towards the more sheltered Tuesday. Despite not having the best hand of cards dealt to her, she continues to have a positive attitude while living her best life.
One of the few shows that include a black anime character’s name on the title, Carole and Tuesday does a great service to anime fans all around the world by creating a strong black female lead. And no doubt, anyone would be easily able to look up to Carole Stanley.
Carole & Tuesday can be streamed only on Netflix.
Here are some of the characters that didn’t quite make the cut but are a step in the right direction for the future of black representation in anime.
- Alex Benedetto – Gangsta
- April – Darker than Black
- Darui – Naruto Shippuden
- Kaname Tosen – Bleach
- King Bakura – Yu-Gi-Oh!
- Kuzan – One Piece
- Nils Yajima – Gundam Build Fighters
- Rock Lock – My Hero Academia
- Villetta Nu – Code Geass
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: One can argue Japan’s homogeneous society is the main driving force for few black characters in anime. That said, it is important to spotlight the lack of creative diversity within the industry.
To this day, anime still suffers from pumping out stereotypical black characters. However, with the creation of more and more characters like the ones on this list, that is sure to change in the future.
Answer: Following up on the previous question, the lack of diversity in anime is part of a racial bias within Japan. No country is perfect, as there have been many examples of stereotyped and exaggerated black characters that have come out of anime.
Though things are changing with characters like Carole and Kilik, where creators have consciously made decisions to create better represented black characters, we have a long way to go to see a change in the industry.
Answer: Because of the not-so-perfect representation of black characters in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Nadia Ia Arwall of Nadia: Secret Blue Water was a breath of fresh air for anime fans. Having been created by the same studio as Evangelion, Nadia was the first black lead of an anime show, as far as I know.
Answer: To put it simply, you can’t really determine a character’s ethnicity unless the creators of the anime specifically say so. Without this information, we have only their skin color to rely on.
It’s also important to point out that tan characters are not black characters. Therefore, we can only assume characters are persons of color if their skin color doesn’t turn darker because of sunlight.
Answer: To those who haven’t watched the anime, you would be surprised to find out that the same person who wrote and directed Cowboy Bebop is the same person who created Carole & Tuesday.
The legendary anime director, Shinichirō Watanabe, masterfully crafted widely different anime – with one involving what it’s like to be a starving artist and the other about being a bounty hunter in space.
My Final Thoughts
Black representation and anime have always had a rocky relationship. The characters weren’t perfect, and their portrayal could have been better. It was especially bad in the early years of anime, as black characters were often villainized and portrayed in a stereotypical fashion.
As decades have gone by, there has definitely been a shift towards more diverse and inclusive anime portrayals. A great example of this shift is with the Soul Eater creator, Atsushi Ōkubo. Specifically designing Kilik Rung with black representation in mind, Ōkubo sets an example to the anime industry by creating these types of black characters.
As of now, we continue to see more of these beautiful characters evolve in the anime world. And with that in mind, I strongly implore you to support anime with these black characters. That way, we can show producers we all care and truly showcase how great these characters can be.