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Tumblr Attacks Japanese Artist for Re-Creating Black Character with White Skin

hell yeah tumblr 04-07-15-1

This is an editorial piece. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.

We make an effort to report on both game developers, artists, and creators alike from around the world here at Niche Gamer. One of the biggest concerns with the staff at our site is the trampling over creators and their work, due to the outrage police.

A Japanese artist who goes by the name Gashi-Gashi recently put out a fan-adaptation showcasing the character Garnet, from the Steven Universe cartoon, on his Pixiv account. You can find that design below:

steven universe 04-07-15-1

For those who don’t follow the show, Garnet is easily one of the most powerful of the gems, and the unofficial leader of the Crystal Gems, warriors who are trying to protect Earth from the homeworld gems. They are powered by the very gems they’re named after.

Garnet is described as having “dark, reddish-hued skin” and a “large black afro,” according to Wikipedia. Her race is never truly implied as far as I can tell, and while I haven’t watched the show, I’m making an assumption here that race isn’t really factored into the canon.

So what happened? Gashi-Gashi posted the drawing to his Pixiv account, and there wasn’t much response from users in Japan. He then published it on his tumblr and then, it really got some attention. People began to attack and berate him for depicting a seemingly black character with lighter skin, and a different hair style.

“After I uploaded the image the response was huge. Mostly from the foreign country side (tumblr), but there was nothing special in response on pixiv,” said Gashi-Gashi on his personal Twitter, when describing the difference in impressions. “As a result, you can clearly see the difference in how people in Japan and those outside of it think about the drawing. I’m thankful that most of the people affirmed my response. I received an acrimonious and harsh repudiation message from one part of the group.”

[Editor’s note: All quotes from Gashi-Gashi are direct translations from his Twitter]

This is the first time Gashi-Gashi has apparently come across this kind of response. “This time around my experience was not limited to those in Japan, and the response was not mild. This is a result of a difference in values. And this response clearly came from overseas. […] Because I’m Japanese, I never had that kind of conversation near me. That’s not the kind of excuse I want to make. But after making some fan art in my own style, I got this kind of response. This isn’t impossible. I know that now.”

Gashi-Gashi also spoke about the amount of freedom those who spew commentary onto the internet have, in anonymity. “It’s just that those anonymous people have so much certainty. You start to wonder if everyone in other countries feels the same way. What you can get out of what happened is that you can’t unconsciously avoid the difference in values. That’s certain.”

“The worst pattern that comes from this is: drawing a black character brings all kinds of criticism. It makes you stop doing that entirely,” said a fellow doujin artist on Twitter, when responding to Gashi-Gashi. “That’s what it comes to, I think.”

Gashi-Gashi continued: “Changing the arm color caused the drawing to have a negative impression. I never meant for that to happen. Please be aware of that, and my naive way of way of thinking hadn’t considered it. I’ll learn from this.”

He described the origins of the drawing, and revealed that he had no ulterior motives behind creating it. “There certainly are a lot of people that think it has some special meaning, even if I didn’t mean for it to. I’m glad I learned about this. Maybe it was a naive representation. But I think it can’t end with just my saying that.”

“Even though I made the drawing with no bad intentions, I’m getting asked why I drew Garnet’s arm with white skin,” said Gashi-Gashi. “And I was asked why I didn’t give her an afro but a design with a different hairstyle.”

He shared a bit of extremely insightful words regarding the differences in culture between the Japanese and the west. “For me, a Japanese man living in Japan, displaying this with a purpose to other Japanese fans who like the same work for overseas well, I think it had the same significance to them. I was really surprised myself when some of the responses came in. Not saying anything and offering no response”

After the entire debacle, he took to his tumblr in an effort to post a message to calm the waters:

“I was not going to drew whiten skin of garnet.
But the feeling that want to say an opinion on that thing I know.
At least I was away and ambiguous representation of that.

But the fact that I love the garnet and SU is I want you to understand.

thank you.”

So what do you guys think? Is Gashi-Gashi wrong for re-drawing a darker-skinned character, with lighter skin? What about Garnet’s hair? Is this just getting ridiculous at this point? Sound off in the comments!

[Editor’s Note: Translations were provided by our translator, Claude Smith.]

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.