Sailor Moon, the famous Japanese female anime character known for fighting evil, will now be the face of an STI prevention campaign in Japan. Naoko Takeuchi, Sailor Moon's creator, has partnered with Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to try and raise awareness about the importance of getting checked for sexually transmitted infections, reported the BBC.
The campaign was launched as a response to the recent surge in HIV and syphilis infections in young Japanese women. Fliers featuring the iconic anime soldier as well as condoms are being distributed in the form of pink, heart-shaped educational packages to several locations. According to a press release, the Ministry's goal is to prevent STI's but also increase early detection and treatment.
The campaign even reworks Sailor Moon's famous phrase: "In the name of the moon, I will punish you!" changing it to: "If you don't get tested, I will punish you!"
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Hoi Cheu, associate professor of English at Laurentian University in Ontario, and author of "Imported Girl Fighters: Ripeness and Leakage in 'Sailor Moon,'" was able to shed some light on why using Sailor Moon - an icon for girl power - might make sense for this campaign, even though it concerns sexuality.
"Although [Sailor Moon] is a formula anime, which is not very highly regarded among anime fans, the story actually works really well with young women, with their adjustment to the culture as well as the way people grow," Cheu told Seeker. "So if it's still popular it will probably have an effect. People will have a good memory of it, so there's kind of a nostalgia to it. It's cute, it's funny, it will bring back some memories, it's a hero you trusted from your childhood."
According to the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Japan, the sharp increase in STI's among young women can be partly attributed to a lack of education, especially regarding syphilis. In a report last year, the NIID advised that sex education be stepped up, particularly among high risk groups like teenagers.
"A similar trend is also happening in Canada," Cheu told Seeker. "We are also under a transition in sex education, to talk more about different aspects of sexuality than just talk about disease."
Cheu pointed out, however, that there has been push back from conservatives against sex education in Canada and elsewhere.
"Between the liberal pull for more holistic sex education and the extremist pull to go back and talk about anti-abortion and abstinence, I think young women suffer in between," Cheur said. "This kind of two-way pull in many ways is happening around the whole world."
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This is similar to the state of sex education in Japan, and in order to get the attention of those who are most at risk of contracting a STI's, Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry tapped into a familiar practice. Japanese officials have harnessed anime and manga to inspire young people before. Earlier this year, when the country lowered the voting age from 20 to 18, city officials in Nara created an anime video encouraging young people to go out and vote.
Several Japanese political parties used manga and anime in their election campaigns this past summer as well. The Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, distributed a brochure titled "Kuni ni Todoke," meaning "Notify the Country," that was designed to look like a comic for girls, as well as a manga poster with the same character.
"Japan does not have a cultural institute like Hollywood, so their best way to work against it is to have anime in adult subjects," Cheu explained. "Not only do they have teen and tween production, they have adult and pornographic production of anime. In the popular culture in Japan, Sailor Moon is not anything less than any Disney major characters. Anime are celebrities, or they are the equivalent in their culture."
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