Anime ambassador’s quick message of support doesn’t land right with critics.

There’s less than a month to go until the Tokyo Olympics get started, and with a number of international competitors having already arrived in Japan, the Japanese Olympic Committee is entering its final stage of pre-opening hype. Over the weekend, that included a special message from one of the organization’s special spokespeople: Sailor Moon herself.

“I hope to see medals shining beautifully like the full moon on everyone’s chest,” says the tweet, followed by the hashtag “Ganbare Nippon,” the standard way of saying “Go Japan!” for sporting events. There’s also a link to a JOC website where people can write messages of encouragement to be delivered to the athletes of the Japanese Olympic team prior to the start of the games.

With Sailor Moon being about as universally loved as an anime character can be, the JOC probably expected a similarly positive reaction to the magical girl’s message. Instead, though, replies to the tweet have been overwhelmingly negative, with Sailor Moon fans upset for two primary reasons. First, some are upset about what they see as blatant partisanship in Sailor Moon only extending her wish for success to the Japanese athletes. Second, with the pandemic still going on in Japan and vaccinations for the general public yet to start in earnest, many people are still opposed to Tokyo going through with the Olympics at all, and so resent Sailor Moon being used to voice an endorsement of the event in spite of the potential health risks involved.

Reactions on Twitter have included:

“Sailor Moon wouldn’t say those things. Are the anime characters being used to promote the Olympics only cheering for Japan? Isn’t anime for everyone?”
“I with the rights holders’ hadn’t allowed them to use Sailor Moon like this.”
“I don’t care whether a Japanese athlete wins a medal or not…I want to cheer for all of the athletes and teams, regardless of their nationality.”
“So medals are more important than people’s lives? This is a stain on Usagi’s image.”
“Medals don’t matter. I’m sure having the Olympics is going to increase the number of coronavirus infections.”
“So sad to see Sailor Moon being used for commercial purposes.”

The last comment is a little confusing, seeing as how Sailor Moon is one of the most merchandised anime franchises in history, with close to three decades’ worth of toys, trinkets, and other character goods out there. The Japanese team favoritism, too, is at least partially understandable. Sailor Moon’s ordinary schoolgirl alter ego, Usagi Tsukino, is a Japanese girl, and so it’s not surprising that she’d be rooting, first and foremost, for her home country’s team. In fact, the “Ganbare Nippon” phrase appeared alongside Sailor Moon when she was first announced as one of the anime character ambassadors for the Tokyo Olympics all the way back in 2017. It’s also worth pointing out that the anime ambassador project is helmed by the Japanese Olympic Committee, the organization which supports the Japanese Olympic team and athletes specifically, and not the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee, which is overseeing the event as a whole.

To that end, the tweet has also garnered some comments closer to what the JOC was likely hoping for, such as “Go Japan!” and “Looking forward to the Olympics!” The sizable backlash, though, especially the negative reactions to forging ahead despite the pandemic, is just another example that however the Tokyo Olympics end up, it’s not going to be like the organizers originally thought it would.

Source: Twitter/@Japan_Olympic via Otakomu
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