Many Black kids like me fondly remember the days of staying up late to watch anime and getting up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons featuring characters of literally all colours. But did you know that some of these characters are actually members of the diaspora because us Black boys and girls had to make up for the lack of representation in animation with something? So allow me to show you some examples of cartoon characters who don’t look, but indeed are, Black. With proof!
1. Piccolo (Dragon Ball Z)
Ah yes, the great Namekian Demon King from the supercharged anime Dragon Ball Z. Although he sports green and pink skin, this fighter is undeniably Black. Given that the colour of his skin makes it hard for him to fit in, that he fully adopts a B-boy style when he wears Earthling clothes, and that his home planet was destroyed by colonizers, Piccolo’s narrative is nothing other than one from the diaspora.
2. Knuckles (Sonic the Hedgehog)
The echidna was introduced to be second-fiddle to the titular hedgehog of this famed video game series, but his collected and stoic attitude made him a star to Black boys everywhere. His unending quest to reclaim relics stolen from his people is a perfectly relatable struggle, and he fully has dreadlocks. Enough questions asked.
3. Sonic (Sonic the Hedgehog)
As if it wasn’t enough that he’s cool, and the fastest guy on the planet, he was voiced by Jaleel White in his 90’s television show. “Did I do that?” If by “do that” he means be Black? Then yes. Yes, he did. Tails is Black too. I’m just going to claim the whole crew.
4. Luigi (Super Mario)
Is Black. And a bottom. I dare you to prove me wrong.
This stop-motion penguin has the mischievous energy of a mixed child named Elijah. The penguin family has the complete look of a family that emigrated from the Carribean to Edmonton, and that totally explains all the ice and snow.
6. All the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles except Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Although they may be anthropomorphized turtles who are named after Italian renaissance painters and who do Japanese martial arts, these unsung heroes are constantly doing the work despite being sent underground by an oppressive society. They are Black as hell. Except Donatello. He can hang, though.
So there you have it! When you take your nostalgia trips back to Sonic Adventure games and wonder why Knuckles themes are always rap songs, now you know why!