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The Pioneer

Another anime remake gets whitewashed

Photo courtesy of Fox

Photo courtesy of Fox

Earlene Mary Escobal,
Contributor

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“Alita: Battle Angel” lacks ethnic representation

Anime and manga remakes are difficult for me to watch.

Japan, where anime and manga are from, does a good job of portraying and casting characters close to the original. The United States is not as successful. The live action  “Death Note” adaptation chose to stay close to the characteristics of the anime, while the US version made the characters not as intense or creepy that the original anime showed.

Whitewashing isn’t necessary to do when there are Asian actors available to play Asian roles. It’s not okay that Hollywood continuously gives Asian roles to white A-list actors.

In Dec. 2017, the trailer for “Alita: Battle Angel” was released. It is based on Yukito Kushiro’s best known manga, “Battle Angel Alita.” The story revolves around Alita, played by Rosa Salazar, a cyborg who has lost her memory and is rebuilt to become a bounty hunter. The film, directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, comes out in December.

In the trailer, Salazar’s eyes are edited to look larger than her normal eyes, much like an anime character. Salazar isn’t Japanese, let alone Asian, but large anime eyes gave me the impression that they were trying to give her an Asian characteristic in a movie where Asian characters are minimal.

“It was always Jim [Cameron’s] intention to create a photo-realistic version of the manga eyes that we’re so accustomed to seeing,” Rodriguez told Empire about the choice to give Salazar’s character CGI eyes. “We really wanted to honor that tradition and see that look standing next to any human character. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, we have some pretty big windows. You can see a lot going on in there! When it gets to the emotional scenes it’s really uncanny and striking. And captivating!”

The US has dipped their toes in creating anime remakes before. From “Speed Racer” to “Ghost in the Shell,” an issue that comes up in these adaptations is whitewashing. From the anime remakes made in the US, the main cast are almost all white and are styled to have Asian characteristics and quirky dialogue that make better sense in Japanese culture.

In anime adaptations such as “Dragonball: Evolution” and “Ghost in the Shell,” characters didn’t have to be edited to have anime eyes to look Asian, but had makeup and style choices to depict the Asian character. In “Ghost in a Shell,” an anime remake released in 2017, the film casted Scarlett Johansson to play the Japanese lead character, just like Salazar.

Johansson was styled to dress and look like her anime character, Major. She is styled with a short bob hairstyle like her anime counterpart, along with eye makeup to make her look Asian. The fact that an A-list white actress was chosen for the part and not an actual Asian actress shows Hollywood’s priority in films.

“Dragonball: Evolution” is another victim of being a whitewashed remake. Some roles went to Asian actors, but the main role of Goku went to Justin Chatwin, a white actor. Fans and viewers alike expressed their disapproval and disappointment with the directors because of their casting choices.

It’s problematic because Asian Americans like myself feel represented if we see our own ethnicity represented on the big screen. It creates a powerful feeling that people of color can make it in the world of film and television. It’s also disrespectful to misrepresent or stereotype an ethnicity, especially on a platform where the world can see it.

Whitewashing is still common in film today, and anime adaptations are one of the many areas where white actors play characters of different ethnicities.

There are many Asian actors out there, but they are often overshadowed by white actors in Hollywood. Whenever an Asian actor does get casted, they aren’t used for the main roles. This applies to other ethnicities as well. White actors would be casted as the main characters, while people of color are casted as the side characters or the stereotypes of their ethnicity.

Sorry US, but the anime remakes should be left to the region of anime itself. The Japanese culture doesn’t always match up with American culture, but the US has yet to make a remake that doesn’t face whitewashing backlash. The US is still working on its diversity in films, with releases such as “Black Panther” gaining success thanks to its majority African American cast. If fans want a proper live action remake of their favorite anime or manga series, then the US needs to stop trying to make a quick buck and let Japan do the job.

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California State University East Bay
Another anime remake gets whitewashed