Anime protagonists have a particular look, best illustrated by the fact that Yugi, the main character from the anime Yu-gi-oh!, has magenta hair in the shape of a five pointed star and his friends do not. Snapchat’s anime filter doesn’t go that far, but it does just work a lot better on some people than others, giving them a look that’s more naturally anime, and more likely to be a protagonist. Unsurprisingly, lighter skinned people with straight hair are able to enact the dream of this filter: seeing themselves as an anime character. When everything lines up, it’s enchanting.
During my brief jaunt with the filter this morning, I’ve realized that it also really depends on the angles of your face in order to complete the illusion that you’re an anime character. Pictures that are taken dead on or at a three quarter view tend to look more like a face than other angles. A lot can change, even the color of your hair, depending on the lighting and angle of a photo, as this video demonstrates.
While there are dark skinned people that look great with the filter, there are very harsh limits to what it can do. In almost every picture I sent through the filter, it has had no idea what to do with my hair. I managed to get a single photo where my hair was recognized in the filter; most pictures would just not touch my thick, curly hair at all. That means Black people who are bald headed look great using the filter, like this guy, who is probably already an anime protagonist.
Whereas I just look like reheated ass. I actually have to squeeze my mouth into a straight line for it to register my mouth as being closed, rather than open. In most photos, it interprets my lips as being an open mouth.
Honestly, this filter did a better job on my cat than it did on me.
At this point, it’s a well known fact that most algorithms and features of the internet are not built with people of color, especially Black people, in mind. A recent twitter thread demonstrated this handily by showing that Zoom assumed that a globe in the background of an brown skinned man’s apartment was his face, rather than his actual head. In that same thread, Twitter cropped screenshots so that a white person’s face was visible, rather than a brown person’s face. It’s disappointing to see these same issues replicated in Snapchat’s anime filter, given how much Black people love anime. Everyone should have a chance to see themselves as a protagonist.