Japan’s political parties deploying mascots and manga to appeal to younger voters

Kyodo

In a country awash with everything manga, it only makes sense that Japanese political parties will try and make use of cartoon characters this summer in the first national election in which 18-year-olds can vote.

The Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, and many opposition parties have released pamphlets and brochures using manga or mascots to promote policies and gain support in the July 10 Upper House election.

A meeting of mostly younger LDP Diet members selected manga as the medium of choice to reach out to teen voters, considering the high number of high school students and college students who read the art form.

The party created a brochure titled “Kuni ni Todoke” (“Notify the Country”), which resembles a comic for girls, along with a poster based on the same manga.

In the manga, a high school girl begins to learn about politics after hearing a good-looking guy talk about the election. He heads the student council and the girl has a crush on him.

Although the manga has drawn criticism online for being sexist and shallow, the person in charge said the point was to get people interested in politics. The party is also focusing on gaining support among independents, who include a large segment of the younger generation.

Komeito has devised a mascot called Komesuke that can be downloaded in a game app. Users learn about the party’s policies while taking part in role-playing adventure games.

People dressed as the mascot also feature at stump speeches. “It’s meaningful in that it has the effect of familiarizing people with politics,” said one party official.

The Japanese Communist Party set up a website to coincide with the 2013 House of Councilors election, when a ban was lifted on online election campaigning.

The website is called kakusanbu (proliferation committee) and features a range of cartoon characters who promote party policies. The election this summer will be the third national election since kakusanbu was established.

“The image of the party has improved, and this is leading to an expansion of our support base,” said a JCP public relations officer.

Some minor opposition parties such as the Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party) are also deploying cartoon characters in this election.

The Democratic Party, Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) and the Social Democratic Party currently have no plans to use manga.