A new fan art challenge on Twitter has seen some artists criticized for “white-washing” the iconic manga and anime heroine Sailor Moon for accurately portraying the character with blonde-hair and pale-skin whilst others have been praised for their ‘diverse’ representations of the character.
On the week of May 18th, in the spirit of community, creativity, and fun, artists were inspired and invited to redraw a frame of a nervous Usagi Tsukino in her guise as the Sailor Guardian Sailor Moon, taken from an episode of Sailor Moon S produced by veteran anime animation director Ikuko Itoh.
This challenge spread, and supported by the hashtag ‘#SailorMoonRedrawChallenge,’ resulted in a bevy of unique recreations of Usagi’s moment of distress, including versions which creatively swapped Usagi’s race, rendered her in the art style of an entirely different franchise, and even comedically swapped her with completely unrelated characters:
— Iban Coello (@IbanCoelloSoria) May 22, 2020
— yue (@yueko__) May 19, 2020
— Criis-chan🌸 (@Cruuuuuuus) May 19, 2020
— X Æ L Λ ⚔ @ Arknights Crossing (@Xelalanana) May 19, 2020
— Thar @ Commissions for Charity (@thecinnaminion) May 21, 2020
— A pixel farmer doing honest work. (@ohilin) May 19, 2020
— Phil Jacobson -GLITCH TECHS- (@OffBrandLink) May 21, 2020
Amidst the wave of artworks produced in the spirit of the challenge, one piece in particular caught the attention of users across social media.
The artwork, drawn by artist Silverjow, sees Sailor Moon drawn to have more explicitly East Asian features than her regular, stylized appearance in the original series:
— Silverjow (@silverjow_art) May 19, 2020
Silverjow also presented an alternate version of the piece, which has since been deleted from his Twitter feed, that furthered the visual expression of Usagi’s Japanese heritage by replacing her blonde hair color with jet black:
This ‘realistic’ depiction of the Pretty Guardian soon garnered a mass of fans from a small group of critics who asserted that Silverjow’s black haired version “actually look[s] Japanese,” bizarrely claiming that “so many people whitewash her in this challenge” despite the character’s Japanese origin, setting, and heritage of its creator:
i love that you drew her as actually japanese. too many people make realistic renditions anime characters look western even though the characters are japanese
— AGUST D-2 | YOONGI SWORD⁷ (@nochuthecoconut) May 20, 2020
This the best version, Silverjow, because Sailor Moon is an anime character, and amine has Japanese origins. So, she *should* look Japanese or Asian!
— Grant (@Grant25536002) May 20, 2020
Conversely, these assertions did not sit right with Japanese fans, many of whom took issue with the ‘racism’ of Western fans, citing their “stereotyping some race to teach what’s correct” and how “they [are] totally ignoring south asian people such as Okinawa-originated.”
Others criticized the hypocrisy of these Western criticisms, contrasting the comments complaining about Usagi’s ‘white washed’ appearance to the mountains of controversy-free praise heaped upon a challenge entry which race-swapped the clutzy blonde from Japanese to Black.
— jvzmina X art (@jvzmina) May 19, 2020
They’re anime & not drawn to look Japanese. And that skin matches a white person. POC anime fans should be able to see themselves in their heroes. Don’t come up here w/ your chest puffed out saying this kinda nonsense. Get back in your lane, Sam. You coulda kept your mouth shut.
— Tenoko1 | Writer of stories (@tenoko1) May 19, 2020
The fact that japanese characters are depicted as white already shows how much representation for poc exist in a society that glorifies Eurocentric ideals. Let her shine with this amazing redraw!!!!!!! So dope
— c00lata (@mangiferafrisco) May 20, 2020
Yt people are mad about this. y’all surely do not get to claim sailor moon smh
— bridge ✨ (@BootlegJeezus) May 19, 2020
Following the outpouring of discourse taking place around his artwork, Silverjow would admit that he would “be lying if I said the comment section under my Sailormoon redraw tweet don’t hinder me or bother me,” sadly questioning whether he “shouldn’t [have] join[ed] the challenge in the first place.”
I’d be lying if I said the comment section under my Sailormoon redraw tweet don’t hinder me or bother me … I am trying my best to stay positive but I must admit I feel insulted. Maybe I shouldn’t join the challenge in the first place.
— Silverjow (@silverjow_art) May 20, 2020
However, Silverjow would later address the critics directly, stating that he “never claim[ed] to make “Sailormoon look “Japanese” and noting that he “model[ed] her face after my own sister.”
First of all I never claim to make Sailormoon look “Japanese”,I also didn’t say all asian are/should look like that. I model her face after my own sister, If you think she’s ugly because she look too asian, Idk who’s the racist here. We are Malaysian, born and raised in Malaysia.
— Silverjow (@silverjow_art) May 21, 2020