Mia Rios loves Asuka Langley Soryu, a character from the popular Japanese anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion.”
Asuka is designated as the Second Child and the pilot of a giant mecha named “Evangelion Unit 02.” In the show, she battles against enemies known as Angels for the special agency, Nerv. It is also noted that Asuka developed a competitive and outgoing persona to get noticed by other people and affirm herself due to childhood trauma.
And that is is main reason Rios felt connected to the character.
“She thinks that she has to earn unconditional love when she should, as a child, just already be entitled to that, and that was something that made me feel really bad for her,” Rios, 23, told VICE World News.
Cosplay has become increasingly popular in the U.S. Black cosplayers have always been around, but they are hugely underrepresented. And Rios, a longtime Anime supporter, decided to pay homage to her Asuka by dressing up as her on TikTok— and faced instant backlash.
Rios was accused of cultural appropriation, and her account was subsequently.
VICE reports that people commented on Rios’ video that they “don’t like African Americans,” while others claimed she couldn’t wear a Japanese school uniform because she’s a Black woman. Racism in cosplay stems from a group of people who believe the portrayal of white characters by people of color ruins the genre.
The racism has become so pronounced that during Black History Month, Black cosplayers demand to be seen, and the hashtag #28DaysOfBlackCosplay trends throughout February.
“These comments I get, a lot of times it’s like, ‘You are a Black woman in a school uniform. Therefore, you’re on the same level as a woman in school uniform lingerie.’ So my race adds a sexual connotation to literally anything that I do,” Rios said.
“I don’t know how to put that lightly, but we can’t really get away with just wanting to dress up like a character without receiving some sort of hate, backlash, sexualized comments, or just a weird gaze upon us,” Anuli Duru, a Black female cosplayer Duru added.
Rios’ account has since been restored.
The publication reached out to TikTik who said, “We recognize and value the impact that Black creators continue to have on our platform and across culture and entertainment,” and that they were “incorporate the evolution of expression into our policies and train our enforcement teams to better understand more nuanced content like cultural appropriation and slurs.”
“I don’t want to get deplatformed again. I don’t want to get harassed again. I don’t want to do all this stuff because it doesn’t matter if what I do is right and wrong—I’m still going to get negative interactions,” she said.