Black Anya, Yor, Loid Forger fan art ignites a racist Spy x Family controversy on Twitter

Artist drawing of Anya from Spy x Family as black
Spy x Family character Anya Forger reimagined as African American by Twitter artist SoulKingLives. Pic credit: @SoulKingLives/Twitter

As one of the most anticipated anime of 2022, Spy x Family has been drawing in numerous fans since its debut on Crunchyroll.

Although it has received plenty of praise, and even made the Top 10 anime of all time, the series has already been caught up in its fair share of controversy. Some have even gone so far as to claim the anime production committee should have Spy x Family “cancelled” over the anime’s depiction of Anya Forger. (See the Anime Geek stories in the links for more details.) 

The latest of these controversies came when popular Twitter artist, @SoulKingLives, shared a piece reimagining Anya as a young black girl. His depiction shows Anya from Spy x Family with a darker skin tone with accessories commonly found in traditional black hairstyles. 

Traditionally, Anya is a young female with pale skin, green eyes, and bright pink hair. Pic credit: Crunchyroll

Making Loid Forger Black was the next in the series that reimagined the three main Spy x Family characters as African American.

Artist drawing of Loid Forger from Spy x Family as black
What do you think about this Black Twilight? Looks like he’s being depicted as a Black Lives Matter supporter based on the lapel pin on his jacket. Pic credit: @SoulKingLives/Twitter

On April 20, 2022, a Black Yor Forger completed the family. The team is now complete now that Mama and Papa Forger are on the scene!

Artist drawing of Yor Forger from Spy x Family as black
Finally, we have Yor Briara aka Thorn Princess reimagined as a Black anime character. Pic credit: @SoulKingLives/Twitter

At the time of this article’s publishing, the original post about the Black Anya Forger has gone viral with over 20,000 likes. However, the comments underneath paint a different picture. Fans are calling @SoulKingLives racist, claiming a double standard against artists who choose to racebend anime characters when illustrating them. 

How have fans responded to the black Spy x Family art?

Reviews for the piece are mixed. While the piece has gone viral, there are numerous quotes underneath the post both praising and condemning @SoulKingLives. Many are also questioning the practice of racebending in general. 

Some popular responses include this tweet from @DeaunteOnterio questioning the receptiveness of the anime community as a whole. 

However, other responses took the opportunity to make derogatory comments toward black artists.

Overall, while many responses were positive, there were still many negative reactions as well. 

What is anime racebending? 

To fully understand the controversy, one must understand the terms being thrown around on Twitter. 

First coined in response to the live-action casting of the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the term refers to when white actors were cast as characters believed to be of ambiguous Asain decent.

It was first a term to describe when traditionally ethnic characters were recast as white. The word has now become a slang term to describe “fan casting characters of color into traditionally white franchises.” 

This practice is not to be confused with the term “whitewashing”, which is referred to as the practice of casting white actors in non-white roles. While both terms are similar in nature, one often refers to the practice of fans casually reimagining their favorite characters as other ethnicities, while the other seeks to point out the deliberate racism of marginalizing people and characters of color in the entertainment industry.

Is drawing Anya Forger art from Spy x Family as Black racist?

Some have claimed that depicting Anya Forger as black is inherently “racist”, but is it really? In short, no. 

This controversy stems from the idea that if characters of non-white origin should not be recast as white, how is it fair to reimagine traditionally white characters as any other race? 

The disconnect comes from the fact that these two practices are often confused for one another. 

Artists reimagining character’s as another race does not intentionally ruin the potential for a POC actor to portray them. When artists racebend, they are not directly affecting the livelihood of others. They are not infringing upon the rights of others, nor are they supporting a system that does so. 

They are simply creating art, which is often open to interpretation. 

While every fan may not be on the same side of this controversy, one thing is certain, Spy x Family is definitely getting plenty of attention. 

New episodes of Spy x Family premiere every Saturday on Crunchyroll.

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