Sunday, March 21, 2010
The manga known as One Piece is currently my favorite in reading series. The illustration style draws a lot from early 20th century drawing and possesses a zany caricature element in its characters and enviornment. But I'm writing about toady is that in the 313th issue of One Piece the characters discuss the great prowess of a blacks at fighting.
The character Luffey is preparing for a boxing match and his mate Ussop informs him that an Afro wig will increase his strength. Ussop also says scientically it is a mystery why blacks are champs of fighting. Luffey even talks more ethnically as a black American saying "Hell Yeah!" While it is a ridiculous plot point its a little strange to think about.
Now I don't know much about how Japanese view Africans but author Oda Eichiro clearly seems to be making some point that black people are inherently athletic and he probably is drawing the boxing idea from great fighters like Joe Louis, Ali, and Tyson. An era in the 60's of the 70's when black Americans began dominating sports is shown in the prized Afro wig too.
Reading this reminded me of the past text on characterising the Irish as nasty and brutish created by Thomas Nast. Whether Oda's images or supposed to be celebratory or insulting doesn't seem to be clear. It could either be an exaggerated comedy or misinformation based an exterior view of America culture. Similarly Nast viewed the Irish as invaders and barbaric, they would disintegrate the nation. He only viewed from within his own American heritage and the Irish were aliens. Even the Yellow Kid is hard to pin down as a negative depiction or a play on native assumptions of immigrants in America.
Writing about foreign cultures can complicate authors because of the ignorance they may have of the culture they are studying.