Oita City Councilman’s struggle to wear his masks with pride has grown into a hellacious slobberknocker of litigation.

With COVID-19 having changed the very face of society around the world, there’s been a lot of talk over whether to or wear a mask or not. It’s a debate that has sadly taken away from one man’s eight-year struggle against maskism in the city council of Oita City, Oita Prefecture.

This man is none other than Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji, municipal legislator by day, professional wrestler by night. He was elected in…

▼ OH MAH GAWD, that’s the councilman’s music!

As I was saying, in 2013 Skull Reaper A-ji was elected on a platform of being a lucha-libre stylized wrestler with a deep interest in community improvement and child welfare. However, immediately upon winning he was forbidden to wear his trademark masks in the council chambers as well as committee rooms. Not only that, but his is the only council member’s face that doesn’t appear on city websites and newsletters, presumably because it is masked.

▼ Skull Reaper A-ji’s imageless entry in the Oita City Council website

Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji has constantly fought for his right to wear his mask in session, claiming that the city is hiding behind an irrelevant rule against hats and canes to mask their own blatant maskism. However, this time he is setting his sights on the website discrimination and on 30 June filed a lawsuit against Oita City demanding they show his masked face and pay 5 million yen (US$45,000) in damages.

Suing his own city might make it seem like Skull Reaper A-ji is turning from a face to a heel, but it is actually a last resort move after a series of hearings held since 26 April in district court all ended in the city council refusing to meet his demands. Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji says that the constant visual blackballing is an infringement on his personality rights and freedom of expression, adding that “the council is neglecting the public opinion of voters who have supported my masked work.”

▼ A news report on the lawsuit

At first glance it might be easy to confuse Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji as just another of the many eccentrics who stumbled into politics recently. However, after a fresh election win earlier this year he is currently serving his third term on the council and has been an undeniably committed civil servant for nearly a decade now.

“I attended the ceremony to finally open the Oita Animal Protection Center. I fought for a facility for animal welfare in the council and this is incredible! There are still many issues to resolve, but we have taken a big step for no-kill animal shelters and will continue to make efforts.”

Nevertheless, while holding no grudge against the man himself, comments online are largely still not buying into the merits of masked legislation.

“People can’t be involved in public affairs if their identity isn’t known.”
“If a terrorist gets into city council wearing his mask, he’ll be responsible then.”
“He’s looking good for 52 years old…I think.”
“It looks like he won in the end. Now all council members have to wear masks.”
“Isn’t the problem with wearing a mask that anyone can impersonate you? It makes the council vulnerable to fraud or terrorism.”
“It’s not that the mask is bad, but it’s a problem that no one knows his face when he’s a representative of the citizens.”
“Weighing the pros and cons of each, it’d probably be best if he wore the mask sometimes but also let us see his real face.”
“Guys, all you have to do is Google him and you can easily see his real face.”

While the security concerns are valid, it should be noted that what Skull Reaper A-ji is asking for is not unprecedented. In fact, here’s footage from 2019 of Izumi City Councilman and wrestling great Super Delfin serving on the Committee on Education and Welfare in full mask.

Going further back to the early 2000s, here we have Iwate Prefectural Assemblyman The Great Sasuke discussing Article 9 of the Constitution, the prefectural information exchange center, and UFOs – all with his mask on.

In neither case did fraud nor terrorism occur. If anything, you could probably make the case that everyone is going to be watching the guy in the mask extra closely in situations like that, so they might actually be less of a threat that ordinary council members.

This holds up statistically too, as records show that we’re infinitely more likely to be ripped off and screwed over by so-called “normal” legislators than masked wrestler ones. So, why not just let Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji be the Councilman Skull Reaper A-ji that he feels best serves the public interest?

Source: Asahi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun Online, YouTube/ANNnewsChannel
Top image: YouTube/PAPARYOMA
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