A short sentence from this post got me started on this hopefully fun topic. In terms of real life, the afro as a normal hairstyle seems to have been out of commission for a while, and is usually played to comedic effect nowadays. It seems silly/sad when someone has one because it’s a relic of times past were things like disco reigned supreme (and who wants to remember that that they ever participated in something like that. :P), and despite some people’s best efforts to bring afro back, it hasn’t taken so far. Is anime the next big hope? One would think so, as the hairstyle has seen a resurgence of some sorts in many shows.
It’s not like the afro is all that common in anime, but the people that have seem to radiate coolness from them in some way, shape or for. We have a manly example in Masa-san from Seto no Hanayome, who is a loyal yakuza to San’s father. Just his appearance causes romantic tension for both women and men, as the male protagonist can attest to. A goofy kind of cool comes in the form of Nabeshin, who manages to get things done in Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers, albeit in a random, silly but nevertheless awesome way. Even Masumi from Nodame Cantabile, for all his eccentricities, plays some mean percussion.
Most afro-sporting individuals seem comfortable with themselves, or at least look/sound the part. In the case of Afro Samurai, it helps that our title character is voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, who already exudes cool in his acting. I believe that because an afro can be seen as strange and draw unwanted attention, one has to be very sure of themselves to be able to take anything that comes at them (or their afro) head on. While having one can be seen as rebellious, it seems too silly to be taken seriously. In that sense, the person must make the afro, not the other way around, if they want to obtain respect. Or something like that. 😛
As the same time, the afro doesn’t have to be a decorative head ornament. As far as I know, afros in anime can contain hammerspace, as Nabeshin demonstrates time and time again the sheer amount of materials he can pull from his hair. Why not amp up the strangeness of the afro by giving it abilities like that, since the hair’s unusual in the first place? And this is not even mentioning the amount of bizarre things that Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo can do with his in combination with his powerful nose hairs. But I’m digressing.
Whatever the reason, anime has taken a liking to the afro as long as there are enough characters that can handle the hairstyle. But while I’ll probably never attempt to grow one in my life (and I have the type of hair to do it if I tried), I don’t mind some strange hair in my entertainment. Goodness knows we get enough of it already. :3