I settle in on the couch. There’s a grilled cheese sandwich and chips on the plate in my lap. To my left is a glass of Country-Tyme lemonade. I can barely contain my excitement as the TV goes black. It comes back on and the scratched film of Saturday afternoon’s Kung-Fu theater comes into view. I think that was the beginning of my love of Eastern cultures.
Truthfully, I think it started the same way for most of us. Maybe it was watching Robotech before school on weekdays. Or Ronin Warriors, maybe Samurai Pizza Cats. There are so many anime series that have become part of the fabric of Blerd culture, that it’s difficult to tell where it began.
There’s so much talk of intersectionality these days, but the anime/manga/kung-fu culture and black culture have always been close cousins. When Jim Kelly said, “You come straight out of a comic book,” or “BULLSH*T Mr. Han-man!” that solidified the bonds between the Blaxploitation era and Kung-Fu movies. There was an inherent bond of understanding of the journeys of these characters. We could see ourselves reflected in them. We wanted to be masters of our crafts. We wanted to battle each other for supremacy. Here in these often-fanciful pictures, we escaped. Now memes show kung-fu characters channeling their ancient arts and compare it to hood dudes throwing upsets. It’s all played for laughs, but it’s something that we all intrinsically understand.
Admittedly, I missed the Dragon Ball days. I didn’t join Goku’s journey until he was going Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z. I remember being at school and everyone screaming with their fists closed and chests out. I didn’t understand until I went home and watched the latest episode that day. But there was no coming back from that. The struggles and triumphs of the Saiyans became the struggles and triumphs of the community.
Then, straight from the slums of Shaolin, the Wu-Tang Clan lit fire to the rap industry and the culture. Rza has never been one to hide his affinity for eastern cultures, be it movies, anime, manga, mythology. While the Wu-Tang’s reflected the circumstances they lived, their style reflected a shared love for that same cultural brotherhood we felt when we agreed that Piccolo was black. That same kinship that we felt when we realized there was a village hidden in the clouds, a village of ninjas that resembled us. Wu-Tang single-handedly popularized the cultural and communal love of these eastern art forms. No need to hide anymore. You could rock your Tims and know what happened on the latest episode of Mobile Suit Gundam and no one would question you.
As much as hip-hop has reflected life, anime/manga/kung-fu represents our ability to adapt and overcome. There are no limits and no boundaries as characters stumble from one adventure to the next. In Robotech, we can see Claudia Grant (the first black cartoon character I remember seeing) commanding the bridge of the SDF-1. We see Killer Bee taking on Sasuke or Taka. We see Piccolo being the father that Gohan and Goten deserve. Watching Luffy and Firefist Ace eat and fight is like watching our uncles/cousins at a cookout. And if you don’t bop when the Yu Yu Hakusho theme comes on, I don’t know if we can be friends.
Fast forward to the present and the global influence of Hip-Hop culture. Not only does it dominate the music industry, but it’s made its way into fashion, film, and art. What we do can be stylized as “urban,” but the truth of the matter is that we push the culture forward. We are consistently at the forefront of innovation in all forms. That’s reflected in the Harajuku styles, Pro-Basketball tours, and international Hip-Hop acts.
Hip-Hop, black culture, anime, manga, kung-fu movies, urban style… It’s less of a mixing of cultures and more like two long lost cousins coming back together. Their adventurous nature and sense of wonder are sewn into the fabric of our cultural expression. Just as our swag, rhythm, and realism permeate their collective consciousness.
This article was written by Brian J. Lambert on behalf of Concept Moon Studios.
Brian Joseph Lambert is the lead contributing writer and editor at Wingless Entertainment LTD. He specializes in bringing diversity to action/adventure, fantasy and sci-fi worlds. In 2017, while earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Full Sail University, he published his first novel, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. In 2019 he earned a Master’s degree in Entertainment Business and released JUSTICE- ISSUE #0 for Wingless Entertainment LTD and Konkret Comics. Brian's current projects include WAR FOR THE SWORD- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 2, a CG animated feature film entitled, RUBICON and JUSTICE- THE FALL, an ongoing graphic novel with KONKRET COMICS. Brian recently was selected as a Reader's Favorite Book Award Finalist in 2019 for, ASCENSION- THE CHRUSION SAGA BOOK 1. Brian has edited numerous independent works including, Is’Nana the Were-Spider by Greg Anderson Elysée, Akolyte by Derek Allen, Nia Caler by Dorphise Jean and the upcoming Beyond 13th by Michael Ralph. When not writing or editing, Brian works on creating a functioning lightsaber so that he can pass the Jedi trials.