This image is from a manga called Peepo Choo and has been making the rounds quite a bit. What I find perturbing are the rather strange knee-jerk reactions to it that’ve been flooding my dash. Some things to consider:
1. The author of this is Felipe Smith, a man from the West (listed as Argentinian, Jamaican, and American). He was a part of Tokyopop’s OEL manga maketing drive back during the anime boom and was published in the States in a compilation called “The Rising Stars of Manga”, nevermind that the term manga is a publishing distinction and by definition cannot apply to comics originally published outside of Japan.
2. The entire point of this marketing campaign was to ride off the Cool Japan sentiment that had come with the anime boom wherein Japanese cultural products were immensely popular in the West in general and the United States in particular. A common and nearly overwhelming sentiment among anime and manga fans at the time was exactly what’s reflected in the comic above, namely that Japan is some sort of wonderland for Otaku, anyone anywhere could draw “manga” (which I must reiterate is NOT an artistic style), that everyone in the Far East is exceedingly courteous and into nerdy things, and so forth.
3. Felipe Smith eventually went to Japan and trained to be a published manga author, ultimately resulting in the publication of Peepo Choo. Peepo Choo is semiautobiographical, meaning that many of the sentiments and traits of the characters in this manga are derived from Felipe Smith’s personal experiences, though there are obviously many fictitious elements. You want to know why the main character Milton is Black? That’s because Felipe Smith is too and Milton is a self-portrait of sorts. That’s it. That is literally the only reason so those Tumblr-ers reading racism into the choice of race can find something else to nitpick.
4. The theme of disillusionment with the reality of Japan is a response to both the unquestioning and superficial Western Otaku infatuation with Japan during the anime boom and his own experiences living what many of his peers would have considered “the dream” of becoming a legitimate manga-ka, only to realize the grueling, merciless schedule and competition among those in the profession.
5. Consequently, the manga in question deals with a lot more than just “hurr durr American Otaku are fucking dumb”. At minimum, it also accounts for the exoticization of things like American gangster culture in the form of an American-obsessed Yakuza member who runs around speaking in broken Ebonics, mashing random gang signs together because they look cool, and whatnot. In essence, the reckless generalization of foreign cultures is portrayed as a two-way street. I bring this up in particular because at least one person has complained that the above panels are equally as bad as a walking caricature of American stereotypes, which is clearly and definitively dealt with within this manga.
May I humbly request a signal boost on this so we can derail the indignant train of people who see this one image and interpret it as an unmerited attack on Otakudom? If you see something on your dash, guys, don’t just accept the statements as fact without regard for context and don’t use other people’s mindless reblogging of “rageworthy” subjects as an excuse to get angry and fly off the handle.