Love Live! Poster Sparks Outcry Over Child Exploitation

Love Live! Poster Sparks Outcry Over Child Exploitation

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Takami Chika Love Live! Poster
A new poster controversy in Japan - this time involving the anime Love Live! - leaves many in the country furious over the casual sexualization of minors.

Back in October, I wrote about the controversy surrounding the Uzaki-chan blood donation poster. I noted at the time that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. A lot of my Japanese friends and sources told me they were sure it wouldn’t be the last, either.

Unfortunately, they were right. Also unfortunately, this latest poster controversy from Japan centers on the popular school idol anime Love Live! – a work that’s traditionally well known for its sensitive portrayals of underage girls in media.

Content Warning: Discussion of sexualization of minors in media. Links to outside sources may contain sensitive content.

The Love Live! Poster That Started the Controversy

Love Live! Love in Action
The much less controversial poster for the most recent Love Live! campaign for the Japan Red Cross, Love in Action. (Picture: Japan Red Cross Web site)

Love Live! is part of the popular school idol genre of anime. The series debuted in 2013 and has been madly popular ever since. As a result, its characters make regular appearances in various promotional ad campaigns. For example, Its Love in Action campaign with the Japan Red Cross is one of the agency’s most effective promotions.

However, things didn’t go so smoothly for the brand’s latest tie-up.

The controversy began when the Love Live! official Twitter account posted a copy of the poster it created for a promotional campaign with JA Nansun, an agricultural cooperative in the city of Numatsu in Fukuoka Prefecture. The campaign promotes the regions Nishiura Satsuma (mandarin oranges; 西浦ミカン) with the fictional character Takami Chika, from Love Live! Sunshine!!, acting as the Nishiura Satsuma ambassador. Inami Anju, who voices Takami in the anime, made an appearance at the unveiling ceremony as her Takami’s 3D stand-in.

ラブライブ!シリーズ公式 on Twitter: “【沼津】JAなんすん様より熱いオファーを頂き、本日、高海千歌が『西浦みかん大使』に就任致しました!!千歌ちゃんに代わって高海千歌役・伊波杏樹が、ららぽーと沼津にて行われた大使就任式に出席しました。これからも沼津のみかんを、地元の元気を世界に伝えていきます!!🍊🍊🍊 #lovelive pic.twitter.com/gcqbnyHriR / Twitter”

【沼津】JAなんすん様より熱いオファーを頂き、本日、高海千歌が『西浦みかん大使』に就任致しました!!千歌ちゃんに代わって高海千歌役・伊波杏樹が、ららぽーと沼津にて行われた大使就任式に出席しました。これからも沼津のみかんを、地元の元気を世界に伝えていきます!!🍊🍊🍊 #lovelive pic.twitter.com/gcqbnyHriR

It didn’t take long for posters to notice something…off. In the poster, Chika’s wearing a loose, pleated skirt. Yet somehow, the line of her groin is visible through it. This is, of course, physically impossible, and a clear sign that the artist included it in an overt attempt to sexualize Chika.

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There’s a more serious issue, however, beyond the issue of sexualization of women in public. The character of Takami Chika isn’t a “woman,” but an underage, 16-year-old girl.

Japanese netizens immediately called out the Love Live! poster for this. Several lamented that this type of representation seems to be common in the country:

山中 on Twitter: “またかよ、、宇崎ちゃんといい海女の件といい日本ってほんと枚挙に暇がないなこの内容の広告で、スカートをぴっちりさせて股間と太ももを際立たせる必要がどこに?? https://t.co/3fgQ338a9c / Twitter”

またかよ、、宇崎ちゃんといい海女の件といい日本ってほんと枚挙に暇がないなこの内容の広告で、スカートをぴっちりさせて股間と太ももを際立たせる必要がどこに?? https://t.co/3fgQ338a9c

Not again. Uzaki-chan, the Ama posters…too many of these in Japan to count. Why was it necessary to make her skirt tight and her groin and thighs stand out?

Japanese actress and model Miho Fuji drove the point home with a short video. She contrasted the skirt as the artist drew it with an alternate version in which she lengthened the skirt a little and erased the groin line. (Fuji was the subject of fierce vitriol for this post, including a string of nasty comments mocking her appearance.)

藤井美穂🦄俳優/プラスサイズモデル Miho Fuji on Twitter: “パンツ線を消して、スカート伸ばしてみた。こっちの方が健康的で、学生感もあるのに、なんであんな変なアピールさせるんでしょう‥ https://t.co/14Du16bGG6 pic.twitter.com/LuEiWDQ6EW / Twitter”

パンツ線を消して、スカート伸ばしてみた。こっちの方が健康的で、学生感もあるのに、なんであんな変なアピールさせるんでしょう‥ https://t.co/14Du16bGG6 pic.twitter.com/LuEiWDQ6EW

Others used humor to drive home the ridiculousness of it all. Sex education YouTuber Oonuki Shiori snarked: “Is her skirt being sucked up from behind by a vacuum cleaner?”

Magical Anime Vacuum Skirt and the Sexualization of Minors

Not surprisingly, the same Japanese anime fans who defended the Uzaki-chan poster are also defending the Love Live! poster. A common tactic has been to call those who pointed out the image perverts for paying attention to Chika’s groin area in the first place (a classic diversion tactic that misses the point). At least one guy attempted to mansplain to women how skirts work, contending that “static electricity” could cause the Chika Groin Effect.

A few artists have even created detailing guides arguing that the groin line is, in fact, realistic. Another user, however, rebutted those arguments with a photo collage.

Unseen Japan on Twitter: “After showing that there’s no way skirts pleat the way otakus and weebs wish they did on Love Live! characters, @orz404 concludes: “Anime and manga have no need to be true to life. And that’s precisely why any unrealistic expression includes a definite intent.” https://t.co/r7ttkRkzV2 / Twitter”

After showing that there’s no way skirts pleat the way otakus and weebs wish they did on Love Live! characters, @orz404 concludes: “Anime and manga have no need to be true to life. And that’s precisely why any unrealistic expression includes a definite intent.” https://t.co/r7ttkRkzV2

The fact is that many women in Japan are concerned with how they’re represented in the media. As we’ve discussed before, over 40% of women surveyed are disturbed by the media’s depictions of women.

However, the issue becomes even more concerning when it involves the depiction of characters who are minors. One commenter, manga artist Watanabe Peko, argued that the persistent sexualization of minors in open spaces has a negative effect on Japanese children from a young age – and is something that adults have a responsibility to address.

Unseen Japan on Twitter: “Watanabe Peko: “Putting images of minors (like the JA promo, blood donation poster) in bathing suits & w sexualized features in everyday view inculcates in kids early on that objectifying girls is okay. I really think adults & society have a duty here.” #女声を聞け #HerVoiceJP https://t.co/KaRo8iSZ8M / Twitter”

Watanabe Peko: “Putting images of minors (like the JA promo, blood donation poster) in bathing suits & w sexualized features in everyday view inculcates in kids early on that objectifying girls is okay. I really think adults & society have a duty here.” #女声を聞け #HerVoiceJP https://t.co/KaRo8iSZ8M

Unfortunately, the Love Live! poster is nowhere close to the first or only instance of this phenomenon. Twitter user sara_sheena shared another instance of physics-defying sexualization – a phenomenon I’ve come to call “Magical Anime Vacuum Skirt,” in which a loose fitting item of clothing suddenly, magically, clings to a girl’s body. In her post, sara_sheena wondered: ” Is there some regulation at this school that dictates walking with your skirt tucked into your butt?”

更級 on Twitter: “この学校にはスカートをケツに挟んで歩くべしって校則でもあるのか…? pic.twitter.com/vfMhlGW0HV / Twitter”

この学校にはスカートをケツに挟んで歩くべしって校則でもあるのか…? pic.twitter.com/vfMhlGW0HV

In an even more egregious example from last year, the famous manga magazine Shonen Jump published a drawing of a young girl topless, but without nipples. The issue contained a “trick” where, if you held the page up to light, the drawing from the next page showed through, and the topless picture was complete. (Note: Sensitive content below.)

Sachiko Ishikawa on Twitter: “I am disgusted. Every time, this country disappoints me.Shōnen Jump is a weekly manga magazine that published the most famous series of all times: Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto. It’s aimed at young boys and teenagers.Now they’re “showing” pornographic content.A thread. https://t.co/XxVAA2L4rq / Twitter”

I am disgusted. Every time, this country disappoints me.Shōnen Jump is a weekly manga magazine that published the most famous series of all times: Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto. It’s aimed at young boys and teenagers.Now they’re “showing” pornographic content.A thread. https://t.co/XxVAA2L4rq

Signs of Progress

On the negative side, these issues keep recurring – and activists in Japan keep calling them out on a monthly basis. On the positive side, however, there are distinct signs of progress.

The Japan Red Cross, for example, recently released its second Uzaki-chan campaign. And, while it’s still partnering with the ecchi anime star, its second campaign contained none of the objectionable content in the first. The organization, through a spokesperson, confirmed that the Japan Red Cross changed its campaign guidelines in response to the incident.

日赤が「宇崎ちゃん」献血コラボきっかけでガイドライン策定、第二弾は漫画仕立てに – 弁護士ドットコムニュース

日本赤十字社は2月1日からラブコメディ作品『宇崎ちゃんは遊びたい!』のキャラクターを採用した献血キャンペーンを実施するにあたり、新たにガイドラインを設けたことを明らかにした。 …

(JP) Link: Japan Red Cross Formulates Guidelines in Response to the Uzaki-Chan Blood Donation Collaboration, Creates Manga for Second Campaign

And a lot of change is happening locally as well. More and more local prefectural, ward and city governments are creating media guidelines to ensure equal treatment of men and women in ad campaigns. A notable example is Saitama Prefecture, which wrote a series of guidelines for Prefectural personnel on how to ensure equal representation of men and women in ads, and avoid sexual objectification.

An excerpt from Saitama Prefecture’s “Guide to Expression from a Gender Equality Standpoint” asks Prefectural personnel to consider “Are you using women as ornamentation or sexual objects?” when creating communications. (Source: Saitama Prefectural web site)

Progress may be slow, but it’s happening. I’ve no doubt the pace of progress will increase in the ensuing years, as activists and women in Japan continue to use social media and other tools to voice their displeasure over female objectification and the sexualization of minors.

Japanese Company: No, We Don’t Make “Comic Boob Clothes”

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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