I feel one of Bleach’s defining features is the fact it actually has black characters that have actual relevance to the story and what characters they are! Kaname Tousen is actually one of favourite manga characters of all time – his amazing Zanpakuto, his cool visor…what’s not to love?! But something has been in the back of my mind for a long time – is there racial prejudice towards the ethic characters in Bleach. Does Kubo poke fun at the stereotypical views held of people that have coloured skin?
The first black character we come in contact with in the Bleach universe. He has so much going on for him but at the same time he has a lot against him. First of all he’s blind. Out of all the characters he could have chosen he picked the black guy to be the blind one. Coincidence? So that makes him Kaname Tousen: the blind man looking for revenge – this oxymoron is actually hilarious but why Tousen? And on top of that he might not even be blind. Remember this?
The man, who at one time was the pinnacle for justice and righteousness, is demoted to a mere lackey who wants to take out the law enforcement agency that did wrong by him…definitely living the thug life.
Lastly he’s a thief. Suzumushi is an amazing Zanpakuto but it’s not his, it was his lady friend’s. And if it wasn’t bad enough that he stole, try adding the fact that he took it from her coffin during her wake!!! Really Tousen? Really?
Next up we have the Septima Espada, Zommari. Apart the fact his nose and lips were ENORMOUS, Zommari had the level of arrogance that seems all too common in the young male black community these days. And, like a lot of ‘gangsters’, this arrogance is a front as we see when he pleads for his life when he knows he is beat.
Next we have his Resurreccion, Brujeria (which by the way means ‘witchcraft’ in Spanish…). If this isn’t a representation of black magic I don’t know what is. I mean his head turns 90 degrees for this form to be activated for crying out loud. It also shows the materialistic nature of black people that we see every time we watch a rap music video. ‘Taking ownership of whatever he sees and wants’ pretty much sums up the type of black man Zommari is being made to portray.
And the whole “WHY WON’T YOU ACCEPT MY LOVE?!” thing…-___-….
To put it bluntly, Harribel is a prostitute and not a classy high society escort type either. Was it too much to ask for a jacket that completely covered her breasts instead of finishing half way up? To make matters worse, the only way she thought she could get the upper hand during her fight was to flash a pre-pubescent (gotta admit I’ve been watching a lot of Big Bang Theory lately) boy.
And like a prostitute, she was discarded once her usefulness was over. Harribel was the only Espada not killed by a Gotei 13 Shinigami/Vizard and the only one of the top three Espada not to get any sort of backstory chapter. Surely such a powerful character should be treated with more respect? But then again she is at least part black so could we really expect anything more?
Poor poor Baraggan. I can’t even find the words to express how sorry I feel for this guy. He started at the bottom and worked all the way to the top and became God of Hueco Mundo. He was actually living the life and rightly he should. Then what happens? Aizen comes along and steals the empire Baraggan worked so hard to create. It seems, even in the world of manga, not only can the white man come and take whatever the black man has, he can then go on and enslave him. Where’s Martin Luther King Jr when you need him? And it seems Aizen (more precisely Kubo who created Aizen) isn’t above rubbing salt in Baraggan wounds. Abilities-wise Baraggan would DESTROY Starrk any day of the week (just to say I love Starrk just as much as I love Baraggan) and yet Starrk is the Primero Espada. Just another example of how no matter how superior a black man is, his white colleague will always be put ahead of him. And was it really necessary to make his breath so bad it killed people?! The indirect insults go on and on.
Well folks, these are just but a few examples of how the ethnic community has been portrayed in Bleach. Is this manga racist or is it all just coincidence? You decide.
[P.S. Just to point out I am black and I don’t actually believe Bleach or Kubo is racist in any way shape or form. This is all in the name of banter ^_^]