TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - In Japan, where cuteness reigns, the wide-eyed innocents of manga comics have been put to work on a weighty topic: explaining the U.S.-Japan military alliance.
Long the cornerstone of Tokyo’s diplomacy, the alliance has resulted in 49,000 U.S. military personnel being stationed in Japan — a relationship that sometimes leads to friction with local residents near U.S. bases.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the alliance this year, U.S. Forces Japan on Tuesday issued the second volume of a planned four-volume Japanese-language manga series.
“We were looking for a relatively friendly approach to discussing a very, very old issue,” said Neal Fisher, a major with the Marines Corps and Deputy Director, Public Affairs, for the U.S. Forces Japan.
“It’s a venue that Japanese people are comfortable with, they’re used to receiving information via manga. It’s not just a comic for them.”
In the pamphlet-length manga, titled “Our Alliance, A Lasting Partnership,” a bespectacled Japanese girl named Anzu and U.S. boy named Usa discuss the security treaty that anchors the relationship and go to a base to meet some U.S. Marines.
The doe-eyed pair are properly trendy as they ponder bilateral ties. Anzu wears a tunic and leggings, while blue-eyed Usa is clad in a white hoodie — with red stripes on the sleeves and a star on the front.
The series, with a different branch of the U.S. military introduced in each volume, was conceived around September 2009, with the first issue out in early August.
“This effort is new to us and when you’re trying to coordinate this effort, not only the U.S. political and military side but also the Japanese side with input, recommendations, edits from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense — it can be lengthy,” Fisher said.
Around 20,000 copies of the first issue were distributed at military bases, and it got roughly 200,000 unique page views on the internet. There will be 25,000 hard copies of the second, which can be seen at: here
Some 15 percent of feedback on the first edition was negative, ranging from some who called it propaganda and others who objected to such a serious subject being taken up in a manga. But the rest were largely positive, Fisher said.
Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Paul Casciato