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Columnist Criticizes Japanese Environmental Ministry's Moe Girls as Sexist

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Half-Egyptian, half-Japanese Arabic lecturer and columnist Karima Morooka released a column in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper on Saturday that denounces the moe characters of Japan's Ministry of the Environment as sexist. The Ministry revealed the characters in February as part of "Cool Choice," its campaign to counteract global warming that targets young people who are ignorant of and uninterested in environmental issues.

Specifically, Morooka criticized sorori kao depictions of women that include facial expressions that tend to appeal to men. These types of depictions have been appearing on various advertisements in Japan recently. For example, Morooka described how she happened to notice such an image at an eyeglasses store. A poster at the store showed a "young girl with her cheeks unnaturally colored red who had a warm and soft expression." The girl had prominent lips and round eyes behind glasses.

Morooka said sorori kao depictions have a bad reputation among adult women. She said the representations rely on old-fashioned concepts of beauty that "stimulate men's sexual desires." She added that some men have also recently criticized such passive and submissive facial expressions on depictions of women. Morooka said sorori kao depictions are a step backwards in the present "gender-conscious age."

Morooka included the Ministry of the Environment's moe characters as examples in her discussion. She said she was astonished when she read that the campaign using "beautiful girl characters to appeal to young people with little interest in environmental issues" was defining the young people it is targeting as "18 to 29-year-olds." She said, "Aren't they adults?" The idea of appealing to adults with moe characters may make some people uncomfortable, and Morooka said, "I do not want to the government to promote moe concepts that can be seen as sexist."

The explanation on the Cool Choice campaign official website does not specifically include the age group that Morooka mentioned. However, the records from a meeting held in February say the campaign is "especially targeting young people (second half of 10s to 20s)."

The Cool Choice campaign's official website began streaming three 3D CG videos on Tuesday that feature the two moe characters. In the video, Mirai criticizes Ima for her lack of consideration for environmental issues. The videos introduce the characters and discuss the problems of receiving non-deliverable package notices that cause delivery trucks to repeatedly come to the pair's home, as well as energy waste resulting from leaving lights and air conditioners on when rooms are not in use.

The Ministry of the Environment was apparently at least partly inspired to use moe characters due to the Ministry's acronym, MoE. The campaign's two characters are:

Ima Kimino (which sounds like "Your Present") is a lazy slob who doesn't care about environmental efficiency. She leaves the lights on, she leaves the refrigerator door open... she's so irresponsible, she even turns up the heat in the winter so she can enjoy her favorite food, ice cream! Clearly she's not making Cool Choices.

Enter Mirai Kimino ("Your Future"), Ima's equivalent from a parallel world that makes smarter choices and enjoys a "clean, prosperous, advanced, and sustainable lifestyle." The two worlds were once one, but at some point in the line they diverged — and apparently wasteful energy use was the culprit. Now Mirai takes it upon herself to teach Ima how to shape up her lifestyle and save the environment.

The Kimino characters were chosen by the Ministry from 135 different submissions to support its PR campaign. The concept and character designers (seen above) are borges (Murē Akusawa) and Maou_Illust. Borges hopes that the characters will "gradually come to be accepted by all and be loved for ever and ever" and thinks "there could be nothing more wonderful than if they contributed to environmental conservation by getting passed around little by little."

The Ministry of the Environment plans to spread the Kimino characters through videos and an app, Cool Choice, that explains how to make your home more energy-efficient and provides resources on climate change like videos from experts explaining it, a virtual reality tour of a warmer planet, and videos of how your hometown could be affected.

The city of Shima, Mie Prefecture withdrew its official support of the moe pearl diver character Megu Aoshima in 2015 after her image led to controversy. Some people considered the illustrations to depict a young, sexualized character who did not provide a good representation for ama pearl divers who are typically women around 70 years old.

[Via Tantei File]

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