A Self-Defense Forces recruitment office in Shiga Prefecture has caused a stir by releasing a poster that features female anime characters wearing super-short skirts, which expose what appear to be underwear. Some people have described the image as a form of sexual harassment.

The recruitment poster was created by the SDF’s Shiga Provincial Cooperation Office in Otsu and features three female characters from “Strike Witches,” an aerial combat anime series. Two of the three characters appear to be wearing blue underwear under their costumes.

Following its release last autumn, the image has been used on the office’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as at some SDF regional offices across the prefecture, according to the office.

In a telephone interview Friday with The Japan Times, a spokesperson for the office rejected the claim that the image constituted sexual harassment, saying: “We only used the existing anime work of Kadokawa Corp.”

Asked why the office decided to use characters from “Strike Witches,” the spokesperson said, “We thought that the content appeals to young people. We didn’t really insist on using female characters.”

One person who posted online at the Yahoo! Japan News website suggested they thought “images of SDF personnel working hard in disaster reconstruction are cooler,” while another wrote that “they should have used an image featuring a uniform that’s befitting of SDF members.”

The Kyoto Shimbun reported the matter in an article Thursday, and quoted an official from the office as saying that what the characters are wearing under the costumes are “meant to be trousers and not underwear, and thus we believe it is appropriate.”

The Self-Defense Forces are facing an increasingly severe personnel shortage amid a shrinking pool of young applicants and a robust economy. Last October, to secure more personnel, the Defense Ministry raised the age ceiling for applicants to 32 from 26.

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