Anime Is for Black Girls Too
The ‘Adorned by Chi’ manga celebrates the magic in all of us
When manga genius Jacque Aye was growing up in a small Kansas town, she hid her love of anime and other “nerdy” interests because she worried they wouldn’t be accepted by her friends. But after years of suppressing who she was while also navigating microaggressions, she realized the truths that fueled her fascination with shows like Sailor Moon and Pokémon.
She liked anime even if, as she says of her time back then, “Black people who like weird stuff aren’t usually accepted.” Aye eventually grew to accept herself. The isolation of being raised in a White town and loving Japanese-style animated cartoons eventually led to an $18,000 Kickstarter campaign and the creation of Adorned by Chi, Aye’s Japanese-style comic book series featuring melanin-rich characters. Aye created a universe where five brown-skinned university students in Nigeria discover they have goddess-like powers.
“I wanted them to be Nigerian and Igbo because Yoruba culture is always shown,” says Aye, who is of Nigerian heritage. “African beliefs aren’t given respect and celebration. Why don’t our gods and goddesses get the same treatment as Greek mythology? I include Igbo goddesses as part of the storyline.”
And that was just in 2018. Aye’s manga — comic books that mimic a specific Japanese artistic style — have since attracted the attention of Sanrio of Hello Kitty fame with whom Aye has produced a capsule collection of size-inclusive tees and sweatshirts. Aye has also inked a development deal with Madison Wells for comics, merchandise, film, and TV. Adorned by Chi is now a six-figure lifestyle business that includes five different manga series, tees with sayings like “Pretty Girls Like Anime” and “Anime Baddie,” hoodies, totes, water bottles, and a horror-comedy book in development.
Adorned by Chi’s main character, Adaeze, is a cocoa-skinned cutie who wears a short ’fro, has extreme social anxiety, and doesn’t think anybody likes her.
“She cries all the time; she’s definitely me,” says Aye, laughing. “Her magical girl power is empathy. Adaeze can tap into others’ feelings and manipulate them by projecting her own.”