The mascot for an obscure Japanese town has caused a scandal after daring to say that Japan killed 20 million in a war of aggression, with 2ch and Japan’s online right banding together in a successful effort to silence him.
Manbe-kun is the image character created by the Hokkaido township of Oshamanbe (population: 6,354) in 2003 for PR purposes (in Japan these awful local government mascots are so common they have come to be known as “yuru-chara” – “lame mascot characters”).
The character’s design is derived from local produce (crabs, scallops and the Siberian iris) and the character found itself pressed into the usual half-baked efforts to market an insignificant fishing port as a place of interest.
All this changed in late 2010, when Manbe-kun opened an official Twitter account.
Manbe-kun soon became notorious for his wicked tongue and provocative remarks, largely ignoring his duty to promote local scallop sales (although his mere existence is promotion itself) and instead becoming a minor Internet celebrity with almost 100,000 followers.
This all culminated in his remarks on the 14th of August (the day before Victory over Japan Day, which is celebrated as a national holiday in Japan as “End of the War Day”):
“Well, tomorrow is End of the War Memorial Day, so Manbe-kun is going to study!”
“I watched a documentary – back then Japan was just like North Korea is now!”
“However you look at it, everything started with Japan’s war of aggression. Thank you!”
“3,100,000 Japanese were sacrificed. Japan’s victims were 20,000,000 of the people of various Asian nations.”
As might be expected of any public comment which fails to portray Japan as an innocent victim of American aggression and the liberator of Asia, this immediately provoked an enormous storm of criticism online:
“They’ve all been brainwashed to think this stuff in Hokkaido.”
“He crossed the line!”
“Of course, it had nothing to do with not having any resources!”
“He’s gone too far, someone needs to reign him in!”
“Stop this fabrication. Apart from China it was all in the Pacific, and the armies were all whites anyway.”
“He must be a Korean!”
“The person writing all this stuff is definitely one of you lot…”
It appears all this went according to Manbe-kun’s keikaku, however:
“Today I trolled all the net right-wingers!”
This annoyed 2ch even more:
“Isn’t he some Korean monkey?”
“His views are so prejudiced and one-sided!”
“His hobby is fishing.” ["trolling" = "fishing" in Japanese]
“Is it OK for him to be doing this stuff?”
“This must be a new PR tactic. Making fun of war is the lowest!”
“I’m jealous of anyone who can get paid for saying such crazy things.”
“He’s pouring oil onto the fire by saying he might expose the names of complainers…”
“As expected of the great idiot detector.”
“He’s gone too far!”
“Inciting a thousands of rightists to protest there would bring in quite a bit of revenue…”
“What is with the suppression of free speech in our society?”
“This is the image character for a town though…”
“With over 80,000 followers he must have the most followers of any purely obnoxious Twitter user.”
“Nobody ever goes there so they think they can say what they want!”
Oshamanbe’s mayor (an independent) eventually issued an official apology for his remarks after receiving hundreds of complaints (and the usual death threats), saying “Manbe-kun’s Twitter remarks about the war have caused much worry and bother to everyone, so I must offer my apologies.”
He went on to blame the PR firm running the account for the remarks, stressing that the remarks are not the views of the town, and to say Manbe-kun’s Twitter account is to be closed.
Manbe-kun’s site bears a similar apology from the PR firm, although it should be noted that both apologies avoid disputing the factual accuracy of his remarks – in fact, the PR firm’s boss gives says to a newspaper that “personally, I don’t think the remarks were in error, but it was inexcusable.”
The account has since reopened, although it is not clear if the irreverent remarks which have projected him to fame will continue.
This in turn prompted the expected triumphalism:
“A great victory!”
“So we won again!”
“Make him into the communist party’s mascot.”
“They took their damn time!”
“Serves him right!”
“It’s not a victory until the person behind the costume is exposed!”
“These threads keep going on and on, but nobody’s been able to deny that a Japanese dictatorship started wars of aggression.”
“What part of his ’3 million sacrifices and 20 million victims’ statement is leftist propaganda anyway? As usual, the net right is a pack of idiots…”