The superheroine from the popular manga and anime series “Sailor Moon” has emerged once again to fight another evil — syphilis.
As a part of its campaign to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, the health ministry will distribute 60,000 condoms wrapped in pink, heart-shaped packages adorned with the blond, doe-eyed character Usagi Tsukino.
The condoms, which call for STD testing on the wrappers, will be sent to 142 municipalities for distribution at events like World AIDS Day on Thursday and at Coming-of-Age-Day ceremonies in January, ministry officials said.
The ministry will also distribute 5,000 posters and 156,000 leaflets illustrated with the junior high school character and a slogan that says: “I will punish you if you don’t get tested!”
By turning to the popular character, the ministry aims to regain control over syphilis, which has made a rapid return among young people, said Kazunari Asanuma, head of the ministry’s Tuberculosis and Infectious Disease Control Division. He said the STD outbreak is especially serious among women in their 20s and men in their 20s to 40s.
According to the ministry, syphilis cases hit 2,697 in 2015, which is more than four times the 2010 level and the highest since the survey began in 1999. As of Nov. 6, cases were at 3,779 and climbing.
Patients infected with STDs like syphilis and AIDS usually don’t notice the symptoms for weeks or even years. The ministry believes early testing and appropriate use of condoms are effective means of prevention.
Although Asanuma says that “Sailor Moon” is popular with people of all sexual orientations and may prove useful in bringing up STDs among those too shy to discuss them, some Usagi Tsukino fans are upset the junior high school student is being used as the “campaign girl” to broach the topic.
“I don’t like it a bit. ‘Sailor Moon’ was a childhood heroine and a sacred figure for me. I still want her to be distant from this issue,” Twitter user @akaimihajiketa wrote Monday. “But I want the leaflet … I am still looking for words to explain my mixed feelings.”
“Sailor Moon,” created by Naoko Takeuchi, made its TV debut in 1992. The tale of magical schoolgirls has been aired in more than 50 countries and attracted millions of fans from around the world.