TOKYO (Reuters) - Her timing can be terrible and she can pack a mean punch.
But “Little Miss Period” - a pink blob with red lips and red pants who stars in a Japanese manga comic and movie of the same name - has a mission: breaking taboos in a society where talking about menstruation has been seen dirty or embarrassing.
The character has generally been received positively as a step toward better understanding among the sexes. Some critics, though, worry about stereotypes and inattention to underlying gender discrimination that holds back Japanese women in many fields.
“Until now, menstruation has been something to hide and many people completely lack correct understanding of it,” said Kazue Muta, a sociology professor at Osaka University.
“I can’t praise the manga 100% ... but it would be good if it were a step toward greater openness and education.”
The movie “Little Miss Period” was released domestically by entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. Ltd last month. It is based on a manga by male artist Ken Koyama that debuted in 2017 before being compiled into a book by publisher Kadokawa.
The film also opened in Taiwan this month and will debut in Hong Kong in January. Premieres in China and across Southeast Asia are also planned.
The topic of menstruation caught public attention in Japan recently when department store Daimaru suggested female employees wear a “period badge” to alert co-workers to their cycle. The plan sparked accusations of harassment and the store is reconsidering.
In the manga series, Little Miss Period - “Seiri-chan” in Japanese - delivers a punch to the gut that lays some women out flat before drawing blood with a syringe. When a woman’s husband fails to sympathize, he gets a “period punch” of his own to help him understand.
History gets a nod, with the tale of a feudal era Japanese girl forced to stay in a secluded hut because of the belief that menstruating females are unclean.
The movie version focuses on Aoko, a publishing firm editor whose male boss shows little compassion for her monthly pain. Aoko’s widower boyfriend is raising a young daughter. “If only men could get periods, even just once a year,” Aoko laments.
Feminist author Minori Kitahara welcomed efforts to break taboos but lamented that the representations were “treating the matter like a comedy talk show.”
Nobuyoshi Yoshida, 33, said he found the movie instructive. “Men don’t get how harsh menstruation can be for some women,” he said as he exited a cinema. “This was easy to understand.”
His girlfriend Kumiko Hanazawa, 32, was succinct: “I want men to watch this.”
Reporting by Linda Sieg; editing by Jane Wardell