Angely Mercado is a native NYer and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in DNAinfo, Lenny Letter, Vivala, and more. She's a fervent otaku, and a lover of all things platano. Reach out to her on instagram @angely_mercado or Twitter @AngelyMercado and send links to anime music videos, animal gifs, and food.
When I first began watching anime in elementary school and noticing that the story always took place in Japan, I figured I wouldn’t see characters from other countries very often. Series were set in places like Shibuya and Tokyo and used aspects of Japanese folklore, history, and modern life.
But then I did see a tan character. A tan Latinx. You’d think it would have made me happy to see somebody who looked like me in my favorite entertainment medium, but it was the opposite. Every time I saw someone in an anime who was even somewhat similar to me or any of the other Latinx I knew, I cringed.
Before I saw Princess Mononoke, it was recommended to me by a lot of people—in anime blogs, on Facebook, by friends and classmates. Most of them were women like me who said the movie made them feel hopeful and brave, which to me meant that I would either love the movie or hate it. For a movie to appeal to me as a woman, female characters had to be more than just caricatures and stereotypes. They had to make mistakes and learn from them; they had to have bad hair days. Without that, I couldn’t connect with them and it made their story seem more wishy-washy, as if it was made to just placate viewers who happened to be women instead of actually making them think and feel.