Muslims and Anime Art

Muslim Anime ID by SHSN on DeviantArt

Anime is an old drawing style from Japan coming from the word ‘animation’ and manga is the comics and cartoons where this style is used. The oldest animation is from 1917 and since then the tradition has gotten a large audience in Japan and outside with for example Pokémon, Only Yesterday and Jin-Roh. Anime does not by definition mean one specific style but in general one could argue that the drawings have exaggerated psycial features such as large eyes, big hair, elongated limbs combined with dramatically shaped speech bubbles and exlamatory typography influenced by Japanese calligraphy and painting but also by American cartoons. Anime and also manga are often called Japanese animation but the Japanese view it as a general name for animation.

Anthropologist Mizuko Ito (H/T Antropologi.info) has done research on transnational anime fandoms and amateur cultural production:
Transnational Anime Fandoms and Amateur Cultural Production | DIGITAL YOUTH RESEARCH

Anime fandoms and transnational otaku groups represent a unique case study in youth activism and remix cultures, providing examples of creativity and social mobilization as ignited by passion for particular forms of cult media. Anime fans have constructed a grass roots movement to make Japan-origin media available to an English-speaking public. Further, they construct derivative works of fan art, video, and fiction that represent emergent forms of communication and creativity keyed to the digital age. These networks of amateur cultural production exhibit unique forms of learning, sharing, and reputation systems that can inform our understanding of how digital media can facilitate lateral and peer-to-peer knowledge communities.

According to Mizuko Ito:
Chanpon: entry 2005?10?11?

While anime is not the only type of Japanese popular culture that has gotten interest among American children and youth, it is probably the most dominant. Annie’s thesis makes a strong case about these trends. She also argues that it is high time we took anime seriouly in the academy as an ambassador for Japanese culture. She notes that anime continues to be marginalized in the US despite its broad appeal among young people. “Because of this many young people are not encouraged to pursue their interest in anime, and it is still uncommon for anime to be used in formal classroom settings as a means to teach about Japan.” As a member of the academy who is researching and teaching about anime, I couldn’t agree more.

And in a lecture she stated:
Anime’s ‘Transnational Geekdom’, UCLA Asia Institute

Ito believes the Japanese share little of Westerners’ concerns about sexuality and violence in the media, preferring at least to “have sexuality dealt with in the open.” But they abhor the anti-social characters in the anime series, not wanting kids to grow into the Otaku of the future. The anti-anti-social sentiment drives many parents to cough up the 180 yen for the card packs so their kids can play with their friends, Ito said. At least that way they aren’t always fighting against the computer.

Overall, then, the cards are seen as facilitating social behavior. In fact, after many hours poring over the card-game manual and searching the Internet, Ito and her fellow researchers learned that they needed tutelage from a more experienced player—a young boy in this case.

And there’s a lot to learn beyond the basic dynamics of the card game, since this genre of anime involves vast “domains of esoteric knowledge that some gain expertise in.” The kids express themselves with the monsters and heroes they choose.

Girls aren’t as interested in the heroics and villainy, Ito said, but go for the kawaii cartoons, which are all about cuteness. Like the boys, girls identify with dolls and other merchandise of the characters they like. All good for business.

Older fans in other countries, Otaku abroad, have created fan art as their mode of expression. Drawing is of course common among fans, but lately large conventions and amateur anime music videos have begun to pick up popularity. Some fans spend hundreds of hours splicing together scenes from Yugioh to go along with music of their choice.

Recently I received a link to the Deviant Art website containing some Muslim anime drawings. Deviant Art is perhaps one of the most important sites for distributing art on the internet. Anime itself apparently had some Muslim characters or so they are claimed such as Setsuna F. Seiei born as Soran Ibrahim and Sousuke Sagara who appears to be raised as a Muslim and soldier in Afghanistan but doesn’t follow the strict interpretations of the people who raised him and his distaste for pork and alcohol seems to be based not upon religious ideas but combat efficiency logic. He also is able to recite the Quran:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otC5P4xL2_g]
The Deviant Art site contains for example flash images with which you can play a Muslim Dress Up Game, Ramadan drawings, and the ‘cute Miss Noor’.

Miss Noor by Fullwhitemoon on Deviant Art

Some, in particular the drawings with females, are clearly kawaii-ish style; a more friendly and cute style (often using really big, friendly, sometimes seductive eyes) that cleary constrasts with the sometimes expressive, violent style of anime (although I haven’t seen much of that among Muslim anime). Deviant Art also covers manga of course and for example on this blog HERE by Muslim Manga (Miiz Mei) with several contests.

There is some debate going on about whether or not this art style is allowed according to Islam or not and of course what the favorite characters are. It is not entirely clear how big this anime or manga scene is among Muslim but it seems to widespread from China to the Gulf to Europe. An important European Muslima manga and amine artist is Asia Alfasi who designed the ‘feisty Arabian hero’ Monir and Facebook has a fan page for Muslim manga. Occasionally anime also features in more political expressions
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTGRVzsl_bw]
Not all anime and manga by Muslims of course is considered to be Islamic; the interesting thing is that while anime is in itself already a mix of different styles and genres it gets re-appropriated by people who give meaning to it throughout the world and by making new drawings and comics themselves with both global and local influences. It is in fact a continuing story of production, reproduction and re-appropriation by mixing styles and personal experiences under the label of anime. Much like life in fact.

Sousuke Sagara on Wikipedia

6 thoughts on “Muslims and Anime Art

  1. Hi,
    My name is Ifwath Yafith. I work as Production Assistant in one of TV Station from Malaysia. Im so interested with muslim animator. Seems like i want to get closer with the muslim animator and have the interview for my next Documentary project. The shooting will be schedule on this early December. How can i get the connection with t muslim animator? do you have their contact number or email? hope to hear from you soon.

    regard,
    IFWATH YAFITH,
    Malaysia.

    • I’m sorry I don’t have any contact details for you. I suggest you look at the anime fora and sites.

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