”Those aren’t panties” claims regional recruiting office, but critics aren’t convinced.

Recruiting posters for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces generally try to appeal to would-be recruits’ protective instincts and ideals of heroism. Since those sentiments are also present in many anime series, the JSDF occasionally uses anime artwork to help drive the point home, with the added bonus of the imagery being particularly eye-catching to young people.

So last fall, JSDF officials from the Shiga Prefecture regional headquarters felt they’d found a good match for a cross-promotional campaign in Strike Witches, a franchise which made its anime debut as a TV series in 2008 and has a new season set to start next month. The series focuses on a squadron of flying magical girls protecting Earth from alien invaders, something that would fall in the JSDF’s jurisdiction if extraterrestrials ever attacked Japan, so the JSDF and a civilian partner company whipped up a recruitment poster showing three of the perky pilots, with the text “Looking for people who can protect the things they want to protect. Land, Sea, and Air Self-Defense Forces now accepting recruits!”

However, though the posters have been in use since last fall, a few weeks ago the JSDF started receiving complaints about them, specifically regarding the girls’ attire.

▼ The Strike Witches recruitment poster

All three of the characters are wearing outfits with extremely short hemlines, and for two of them, pantie-like lower-body garments can be seen poking out from underneath their tops. Since February, a number of online commenters have been calling the artwork inappropriate and “a form of sexual harassment,” with some contacting the JSDF Shiga office directly to voice their disapproval.

Initially, the Shiga office stood by its posters saying:

“We are using the existing designs from the anime. Within the series, the garments in question are not panties. They are pants, and we believe they thus fall within the bounds of appropriateness. We have received positive feedback regarding the posters from many people.”

While the “those aren’t panties” defense might seem hard to believe, the Shiga office kind of has a point. In Strike Witches, the characters take to the sky by stepping into a pair of knee-high flying apparatuses, and in order to be ready to take off at a moment’s notice, their standard-issue uniforms have neither long pants nor skirts.

▼ Trailer for Strike Withces: The Movie

However, even if they’re not technically panties, the garments aren’t what anyone would call “pants,” in the sense of long leg coverings. They might not even qualify as hot pants, on account of how high on the hip they’re cut. Since they’re not meant to be covered by another layer of clothing, it’d be most accurate to call them bikini bottoms, or P.E. bottoms, and even if they’re not as dainty and lacy as outright lingerie, they’re still rather revealing.

Perhaps realizing that the hair-splitting distinction was going to be lost on non-otaku, the Shiga JSDF office back-pedalled, and just one day after reminding critics that its Strike Witches spokescharacters aren’t flashing their panties, it capitulated to the complaints and has since taken down the posters across the prefecture, as well as scrubbed the image from its official website. It’ll now have to think of a less upper thigh-intensive recruitment strategy, in another example of how anime-based marketing isn’t always as simple as it seems.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Kyoto Shimbun via Otakomu, Kyoto Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, Nifty News/Real Live
Featured image: Twitter/@334rhythm
Top image: YouTube/Madman
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