Otaku, artists, feminists, and a Tokyo assemblyman weigh in on the controversial crotch-revealing image.

Late last year, the issue of too-sexy anime characters busting out in full view of the public eye on billboards and at blood donation centres in Japan sparked widespread controversy online.

Now another image is igniting debate, and this time it’s a poster featuring a character from the hugely popular Love Live! anime series, which is based around a group of schoolgirls from the seaside city of Numazu in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The controversial poster was created as part of a promotional tie-up with JA Nansun, an agricultural cooperative group responsible for assisting local farmers in Shizuoka’s Numazu, Susono, Shimizu, and Nagaizumi areas. The collaboration puts Chika Takami, one of Love Live!’s schoolgirl characters, front and centre as the new “ambassador” for the agricultural group’s Nishiura Mikan, a Japanese citrus grown in the region’s Nishiura district.

The official Love Live! series Twitter account shared news of Chika taking up her post as ambassador at a special inauguration ceremony held at Numazu’s LaLaport shopping centre on 12 February, which was attended by Anju Inami, the vocal actress who voices her in the series.

▼ Chika was chosen for the promotion because mikan is said to be her favourite fruit.

With 1 million followers on their Twitter account, the tweet immediately attracted a lot of attention from Love Live! fans. However, it also attracted attention from a lot of other people as well, who were less interested in what the character was selling and more interested in the look of her skirt.

▼ “Wh…why is this anime girl’s skirt see-through?”

As the above Twitter user mentions, the 16-year-old character’s skirt does appear to be see-through, showing what looks to be her crotch underneath the skirt.

Needless to say, this image immediately sparked controversy online, with people leaving comments like:

“I can’t believe it. Why isn’t anyone saying ‘this is bad’?”
“Can’t they sell produce without sex? Shouldn’t her loveable personality be enough without having to make her skirt transparent?”
“I’m open-minded about a lot of things, but this kind of image should not be shown in a public place like a shopping mall.”
“I’m definitely not buying these mikan.”
“Are they trying to pass this off as a crease? That’s deluded – pleated skirts don’t naturally cling to the body like this.”

A number of commenters on the other side of the fence did attempt to play down the perceived sexualisation of the girl in the image, claiming the “crotch” was actually a crease visible on the outside of the skirt.

▼ Some artists even presented images to explain this side of the argument.

This Twitter user says that while pleated skirts may not cling to the body naturally, anime doesn’t need to be a faithful representation of reality. The claim being made here is that the more faithful the image is to a real skirt, the more 2-D it looks, so adding a crease line gives it more of a 3-D look.

However, one Twitter user lengthened the super-short skirt and took away the crease to have it more closely resemble a real-life school uniform, saying “Why did they have to give it such a perverted allure?”

As people tweeted their opinions on the issue — and got slammed on either side for their views — the furore over the poster grew to such an extent that the character’s voice actress even received hateful comments asking why she would support an image that depicts sexualisation of a minor.

While Inami is an easy target for the hate mongers, she would’ve had no control over the image itself, and little leverage to do anything about it even if she wanted to.

As the storm surrounding the image grew by the day, with people criticising the shopping centre for agreeing to display the image in a public place used by families, LaLaport eventually stepped in and made the decision to take the display down on 16 February, four days after it had been put up.

▼ This photo shows the large cardboard stand had been taken away from its location inside the mall.

The above Twitter user contacted the mall’s management to find out what had happened to the promotion, and while staff failed to provide a reason for it, they confirmed that the stand had been abruptly taken down, even though it was meant to be on display until the end of March.

▼ The online page for the promotional campaign on the official LaLaport site was also deleted, with links to it turning up a 404 error.

According to the promotional team responsible for the collaboration, Chika’s role as Nishiura Mikan Ambassador is designed to boost sales of the fruit, a marketing ploy so successful that limited-edition boxes of Nishiura Mikan featuring the character’s image have already sold out. However, JA Nansun, who had been renting the space inside LaLaport for the promotion, was forced to remove the display following complaints made by LaLaport customers.

On 17 February the official LaLaport Numazu website published a formal announcement regarding the cancellation of the promotion, saying:

“Regarding the Nishiura Mikan promotional display panel, we have terminated the display as of 16 February due to a number of reasons. We sincerely apologise to all the Love Live! Sunshine!! fans who were looking forward to seeing it. We ask for your understanding.”

While the apology is addressed to fans of the anime and not the people who lodged complaints, the removal of the display was described as a victory for feminists and “yet another” defeat for otaku online. However, Minoru Ogino, the assemblyman for Tokyo’s Ota-ku (Ota Ward) who proudly calls himself an otaku from Ota-ku, came out with his own opinion on the matter.

He called the suspension of recent collaborations between organisations and anime characters following protests from the public “very disappointing”. He also went on to send out some controversial tweets of his own, saying:

“I’ve received opinions that sexual objectification infringes on women’s rights, but with the picture of Love Live!’s Chika as ‘Nishiura Mikan Ambassador’, whose specific rights were infringed? Can I get an individual?”

He went on to say:

“As Article 13 of the Constitution states, “All of the people shall be respected as individuals”; human rights are an individual concern in the Japanese Constitution, and individual dignity is the basis of human rights. The individual’s right to self-determination is respected. If human rights have been violated, then there needs to be sufficient evidence from women individually, not from the notion of a group of women.”

While Ogino seems to have missed the point, he claims his defence is in support of local farmers who are wanting to find ways to successfully market and sell their produce. Still, although Chika and her see-through skirt were removed from the mall, she remains on display at Numazu Minato Shinsenkan, a shopping complex that sells fresh produce, including JA Nansun’s mikan.

Following the removal of the panel from LaLaport, Chika’s future at Numazu Minato Shinsenkan remains uncertain. However, Love Live! fans are currently calling for the panel to be reinstalled at LaLaport, with an online petition receiving over 6,000 signatures as of this writing.

Regardless of whether the poster is reinstalled or not, it’s not the first time a Love Live! schoolgirl has been used to sell things and it certainly won’t be the last, as they’ve successfully boosted sales of instant cameras, backpacks, trains, buses, and even wine bottles and gravestones in Japan.

Chika herself has been at the centre of other controversial marketing decisions as well, seeing as she once appeared as a giant inflatable revealing her knickers under her skirt on a beach. Nothing seems to faze the Love Live! creators, though, who only want to give their fans what they want, so God only knows what Chika and her schoolmates will be doing next.

Sources: Hachima Kikou (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), LaLaport Numazu
Top image: Twitter/@LoveLive_staff
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