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Newspaper Ad for Raunchy Tawawa on Monday Manga Draws Ire

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
The global gender equality group UN Women deems ad "unacceptable," calls for explanation from The Nikkei newspaper

A full-page ad for the Tawawa on Monday (Getsuyōbi no Tawawa) fanservice manga series was published in The Nikkei newspaper on April 4 and has since drawn criticism from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The global gender equality organization issued a letter to the newspaper on April 11 stating that the advertisement is "unacceptable" and asked for further clarification about the choice to print it.

The ad shows main character Ai standing in profile in her school uniform. The text reads, "I hope this will be a wonderful week." Kodansha placed the ad to promote the release of the manga's fourth volume.

"April 4th is the first Monday of the year for new employees," a representative from Young Magazine told Comic Natalie. "We put up a full-page ad to blow away their anxiety and cheer them up"."

The manga series began in 2015 as weekly pin-ups posted on artist Kiseki Himura's Twitter account. The main character, Ai, is a high school girl with large breasts who encounters a businessman on the train ride to school. The girl's regular appearance on the train brightens up the man's gloomy Monday commute.

The Nikkei paper is part of UN Women's Unstereotype Alliance effort, a global campaign to promote "gender equality through media and advertising and eliminate harmful stereotypes." The Nikkei paper has taken an active role in promoting the initiative's ideas in the past, including the "Nikkei Woman Empowerment Advertising Award," which recognizes advertisements that contribute to gender equality. The award has a three-step process for screening ads known as "The 3 Ps" - Presence (does the ad include diverse people?), Perspective (does it take the perspectives of both men and women into account?), and Personality (does the subject show personality and independence?).

Kae Ishikawa, the director of UN Women's Japan-based office, was interviewed by The Huffington Post about the advertisement, which sparked additional controversy online. According to Ishikawa, the manga ad fails to meet the requirements outlined in The 3 Ps. She told The Huffington Post that the ad reflects a male-centric view of high school girls and that their personality is limited to being sexually enticing to men.

"Obviously, advertising a manga about a underage girl as a male sexual target risks promoting stereotypes that impose these roles on women," Ishikawa said.

Part of the issue is the newspaper's target audience, according to Tokyo Institute of Technology professor Renge Jibu. The Nikkei is the largest business newspaper in Japan, akin to the U.S.'s The Wall Street Journal or the U.K.'s Financial Times. The choice to run the ad there was more likely to draw attention from people who didn't want to see it.

"It's not a problem for people who want to read Young Magazine to pick it up and read it there," Professor Jibu said. "Rather, the problem is that the media failed to protect the 'right of women and men who do not like sexually explicit manga not to be exposed to expressions they do not want to see.'"

The Nikkei's PR office told The Huffington Post that the company is aware of the current controversy revolving around the ad but do not comment on individual ad placement decisions.

Kodansha issued a statement to The Huffington Post in light of the online controversy. The company said, "The advertisement was placed in conjunction with the release of the new book in order to attract new readers. We take your comments seriously and will give full consideration to the future development of our advertising."

Ishikawa told The Huffington Post that she was told by a representative in a meeting with the newspaper that the advertisement was evaluated by various people in the company, but they did not recognize the ad as a problem. She also stated the organization is not questioning the publishers and creators of works like Tawawa on Monday, only the role The Nikkei played in placing the ad due to the publication's status as part of the Unstereotype Alliance effort.

"Without an explanation from the company, I am not convinced that we will continue to work with them to promote gender equality through the power of advertising," Ishikawa said.

Publishing organizations in other countries have stricter guidelines relating to gender equality in advertisements. For example, the U.K.-based Advertising Standards Association has banned advertising using "harmful stereotypes based on gender" since 2019.

"This full-page advertisement has made it clear that Japanese companies and the media are left behind in these international trends," said Professor Jibu.

UN Women have asked for a timely response from The Nikkei but have not received a response.

Even the series' anime adaptation has faced some controversy in the past. The first 12-episode season of anime shorts debuted on YouTube in October 2016, but YouTube removed the first episode before restoring it within the same week. NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan relaunched the series on Nico Nico Video beginning with the second episode.

Similar controversies have sparked discussion in the past, including a free Red Cross poster of the titular character from Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! and a panel of Love Live! Sunshine!! character Chika Takami to promote Nishiura oranges. In 2015, a sightseeing association in Minokamo, Gifu Prefecture changed a promotional poster depicting a No-Rin character in a sensual pose after receiving complaints that it was inappropriate.

Getsuyōbi no Tawawa began serializing in Kodansha's Weekly Young Magazine in November 2020. Crunchyroll is streaming both anime seasons on its platform.

Source: The Huffington Post (金春喜), Link 2 (金春喜) via Unseen Japan (Noah Oskow)

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