Celebrating Anime in Hispanic Culture
Anime has grown in popularity in recent years thanks in part to series like Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, and Attack on Titan. When I was in high school, I remember Bleach, Naruto, and the all-time classic, Dragon Ball Z being heavily talked about. While its popularity in the United States has grown, just south of the border anime has had a massive following for years, dating back to the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Growing up With Anime
Although I grew up in the US and watched Saturday morning cartoons on ABC or WB, I also remember spending summers and Christmas breaks in Mexico watching Canal 5. In Mexico, we weren’t just watching Mexican-produced television, but Japanese anime. My family was obsessed with DBZ, Sailor Moon, Heidi in the Mountains, Captain Tsubasa, and more.
While in America cartoons and anime were marketed towards children, Mexico embraced anime for what it was, for all audiences. Unlike the US, Mexico did not censor the original content. Leaving the violence, blood, and romantic relationships (sometimes queer) intact. It’s not at all surprising Mexico didn’t censor anime, have you seen telenovelas?
Growing up with the dramatics of telenovels where evil twins, resurrections, being pushed down some stairs, and the “if I can’t have him NO ONE will” prevailed, I can promise you we were not afraid of a little blood. Cue Speed Racer, where in the US the fight scenes were completely edited out or Naruto which changed the color of blood so that it was no longer so obvious in nature.
Not only were we as a culture used to these dramatic and violent antics in our media, but we were also deprived of animation. Mexico and several other Latin American countries welcomed Japanese animation with enthusiasm. Due to budgeting restrictions, domestic animation was not feasible in the early 90’s. Japan readily embraced their new audiences, and anime soon received a cult following in Latin America.
My coworkers Janell and Marrisa run a monthly podcast called “Anime JAM” where they discuss all things anime. They invited me on during their September episode in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Not only did we discuss its popularity, but we recounted our own stories of family or friends and their love of anime:
Marrisa, “My cousins would come into town and show me how to play a trading card game, Dragon Ball Z version. I remember there being a pouch that had all the dragon balls and you had to roll a specific number to activate a card. It's always something I look back on fondly, and it introduced me to pop culture I hadn't quite seen yet!"
Janell, “My brother-in-law grew up watching anime on TV Azteca. A couple of shows include Caballeros del Zodiaco (Saint Seiya) and Super Campeones (Captain Tsubasa). As my husband and his brother grew up, so did their love of anime. I watched a couple of anime shows in my younger years, but I've watched more in my adult life because of my husband. Anime isn't just for children. We've learned to appreciate the hard work of manga artists and animators. There are incredible storylines, brilliant visuals, intriguing plots, amazing character development, and more!”
Silvia, “My fondest memory of anime is my grandpa’s love for DBZ and Saint Seiya. The man is like clockwork. He wakes up, does his errands, eats, and then knows exactly when it’s time for his Novelas or his anime. He sits perfectly still, staring at the screen, occasionally laughing, but always engrossed. For Christmas a few years ago, I gifted him a DBZ Funko pop and my otherwise very serious grandpa smiled wide. He loves that Funko pop. He displays it proudly in his bedroom. Granted, he’s had to lift it higher and higher on the shelf because some of my smaller cousins just don’t understand boundaries. I included a video of him watching Saint Seiya in the latest episode.”
Anime’s Influence on My Family
My cousin Ana Belen currently studies animation in the university in Mexico. I interviewed her and her sister on how anime has influenced both of their creative endeavors.
Ana Belen: “Well, one of the best animation industries comes from Japan because of how demanding they are when creating their projects, putting in many hours of work that lead to very good results and I mentioned that with the help of Latin dubbing they generate gems that last for long periods of time." (Translated from Spanish.)
When I asked her if anime influenced her decision to study animation, she concurred. Stating, “In the beginning it was more just an enjoyment of how cool everything looked but it helped when I started to get fully into the world of animation.” Being a long-time anime fan helped her expand her craft, recognizing art styles, and improving daily.
Her older sister Fatima is currently a nurse in Mexico, but in her down time she creates clay figures from her favorite animes, Kpop groups, movies & tv shows, and any commissions. She credits anime with her love of art and hopes to expand her business in the future. She’s crafted several anime characters for members of our family. She even designed a Bad Bunny – anime themed clay figurine for me replicating the animation Bad Bunny used in his Japanese inspired music video “Yonaguni.”