I’m Jewish. I’m not religious, but I like being Jewish. It’s an interesting culture to be around and there’s always food. It’s always fun to share Judaism with others because most Jewish people don’t care about converting anyone, but non-Jewish people don’t know that much about the religion or the culture.
There are Jews all around the world, from Europe to Africa, the Americas and even Asia, but it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of Jews in Japan. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure there’s almost no Jews. Probably just a few tiny pocket communities and an Israeli consulate somewhere. As a result, Jews and Jewish culture don’t get much attention in manga or anime unless some mangaka decides that the Kabbalistic tree of life looks pretty spiffy and mystical and sticks it in as a background illustration. (*COUGHCOUGHCOUGH*CLAMP*COUGHCOUGH*) Considering how Kabbalah is supposed to be for married men over the age of 40, it doesn’t exactly count as an accurate portrayal of anything Jewish.
That being said: Jews are (somehow) present in a few manga and anime.
The most prevalent of these manga has to be Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, which makes a lot of sense considering the topic is World War II-era Japan and Europe. Although I have not read the series (yet, mostly because when it came out I couldn’t get it for fear my mom would see it and not be happy), I do know that it deals with Jewish children and families and even with Adolf Hilter’s Jewish heritage.
Adolf, in fact, seems to set the trend for Jews being portrayed in anime and manga because there are at least two different anime adaptions of Anne Frank’s Diary. Understandable, since Anne Frank’s Diary is famous all around the world. I can see why people would like Anne Frank’s Diary in anime form. It is very dramatic and very true to her age. I first read it when I was close to her age, how she felt about her situation was very relatable.
The third manga/anime, and probably the most popular one at the moment is Black Lagoon which has Benny, a lax American Jew, as a side character. Unlike the previous examples, Benny is a modern Jew with different feelings about things like the Holocaust than the Jews in Adolf and Anne Frank’s Diary had. He even talks about this in a certain story arc involving some nutty neo-Nazi’s looking for sunken WWII treasure in a U-Boat. I can relate to Benny a lot, actually. He feels pretty much the same way about the Holocaust as I do. That threw me for a loop when I first saw the aforementioned story arc.
It’s not that I wish for more Jews in manga; we’ve got plenty of other representations in various media. I know why there aren’t very many, but I do like to ponder if there are more Jews in manga or anime that we don’t know about. Are there any fictional manga Jews out there that I’m missing?