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U.S. military’s new Okinawa strategy: Manga propaganda

26 Comments
By Kaz Morran

The U.S. military is set to release 20,000 copies of its newest weapon aimed at winning over the hearts of Japan’s youth. Last week, the U.S. force’s “public affairs” office in Japan called up the American Free Press (AFP) and gave them a handful of quotes promoting the event, which coincided with the American diplomatic attendance at the 65th anniversary of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima as well as the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan security treaty.

The U.S. military has produced a four-part manga series in Japanese titled, “Our Alliance – A Lasting Partnership.” The BBC, Yahoo news and various other sources picked up the AFP story without any mention of the obvious – this is pure propaganda concocted for the sole purpose of brainwashing Japan’s youth into accepting the massive American military presence right in their backyard.

At a time where opposition to the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa and other parts of Japan has reach a tipping point, it seems the new U.S. strategy may be to simply outwait the more vocal older generations and instead focus on the younger generations who are already largely apathetic to such issues.

In the first issue of the comic (which can be seen at http://www.usfj.mil/manga), an American boy, Usa-kun (U.S.A.-kun), comes to Japan and befriends a Japanese girl called Arai Anzu (sounds like “Alliance when spoken by Japanese). He tells her he has come to defend her home because they are “important friends.”

"It's good to have a friend you can rely on to go with you," the little girl concludes.

Typical of modern reporting, the media articles merely regurgitate the press release given to them without adding any neutrality to the story, submitting obediently and serving as mouthpiece to the story’s “source” – which in this case was just a phone call with no apparent follow-up or questions challenging the motives of the manga.

Some gems spewed by U.S. forces’ propaganda office rep, Neil Fisher, include explanations on how the cute bunny-like characters "explore and learn about the U.S. military in Japan and its role in the U.S.-Japan alliance." He nearly gives away his hand when he admits the U.S. chose manga because it’s "a very common way of communicating in Japan," or “It is read as much if not more than newspapers" and "A lot of people love manga... Manga is a very light-hearted way to carry information."

This isn’t the first time the U.S. has used comics to infiltrate the minds of Japanese children. In 2008, amid heavy opposition to an American nuclear powered aircraft carrier being permanently stationed at Yokosuka just south of Tokyo, the U.S. handed out 26,000 copies to children and young residents of a 200-page comic staring an American navy hero. The comic depicted the U.S. navy servicemen as ideal neighbors at a time when safety concerns over nuclear energy and crimes committed by Americans stationed in the area were in the spotlight.

© Japan Today

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26 Comments
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I recently spent eight months on Okinawa teaching history at the U.S. bases there. It convinced me that the United States is wasting billions of dollars a year in Japan--among other places.

I watched the election of Hatoyama, and the election of a mayor in Ginowan opposed to U.S. bases in Okinawa. It inspired me to write a novel dealing with the subject. I entitled it "Ghosts of Empire."

It's about two fatal events on Okinawa that threaten to derail negotiations for a new Status of Forces Agreement.

My hope is that through fiction some Americans will wake up to the pointlessness of U.S. foreign policy in Asia, a policy that is as absurd as it is wasteful of American treasure.

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wow, has it really come down to this? can we not have a grown up and mature discussion with japanese anymore? if it was me, i would be very offended by the condescending nature of this manga. we (americans) are definitely crossing some line with this propaganda. if we cannot discuss these issues like adults, wtf are we doing in japan anyways?

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i've read somewhere a quote by general mcarthur that you have to treat japanese like they are 12 year olds; is it really that bad over there guys? do people not care about issues unless they are presented in comic form?

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They pass out candy in Iraq and Afghanistan to the children and give them stuffed animals. In Okinawa they allow mothers and children of off base locals to get candy on base during Holloween. It's nothing new.

I watched the election of Hatoyama, and the election of a mayor in Ginowan opposed to U.S. bases in Okinawa. It inspired me to write a novel dealing with the subject. I entitled it "Ghosts of Empire."

A LtCol was teaching in Okinawa about 15 yrs ago part time for a university and was told to quit by the military for teaching his negetive view on the way the bases impacted the society in Okinawa.

This has went on in Okinawa for years. The manipulation of hearts and minds but it backfires. The locals were starving after the war and we took their lively hood, their land. Many relied on the US to eat and were coraled in concentration/internment camps. Many were psycologially and physiologically dependent on the "enemy" and food was the tool to win them. This doesn't work now, the people are like americans, more complex to these child psycology tactics.

After the war in Okinawa the US came up with strategies to convince the locals that Japan was the enemy and the US encouraged the locals to speak the local dialect. The strategy was to drive a wedge between Okinawans and Japanese to discourage calls for reversion. School teachers saw through this attempt and it backfired. This "manga" will backfire also. The CIA calls it "blowback" and the locals will laugh at it and be insulted at how dumb the US thinks the locals are. Nothing changes.

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If you are enlisted military and watch AFN television, you can see just how elementary they think people are within the military ranks, it isn't a surprise they think the locals will fall for this crap. Enlisted guys really feel insulted at the commercials on Armed Forces Network or American Forces Network (the new name). Amazing how the brass thinks everyone is dumb as hell. They seem to go out of their way to "play" to the lowest dumb ass in the force, like they get a group of lieutenants sitting around a table to make up these commercials and these comics.

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jirvin6878 I am not a fan of the military. And I am certainly not a fan of empires. But there are some facts that have to be considered too.

I spent most of my youth protesting against US intervention in places from Central America to Asia. And I still feel very strongly about unwarranted US intervention. But this is not the case in Okinawa.

Japan and the US have a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of this treaty. The US presense brings a balance of power to offset both Chinese and Russian influence in the region. It provides strategic as well as political advantages that strongly benefit and protect the interests of both the US and Japan.

With China spending far more on military development and her influence growing, it is critical that there be a counter weight to that influence. Too often we let the success of cities like Shanghai blind us to the very real danger that China poses. Just talk to Uyghurs, Taiwanese and Tibetans if you have any doubts about PRC intentions.

Balance works. It has avoided a regional arms race, it has spared Japan having to keep a larger standing military and it brings economic benefits to Okinawa.

I grew up near and airbase and didn't like the noise or the military guys around. But the base created jobs and strongly supported the community. Don't forget that this is case in Okinawa too.

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tkoind2, what is your opinion on these manga? Don't you think they are stupid and some idea of an idiot?

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This is quite embarrassing (the whole blatant propaganda thing), but if it can even somewhat counter the left's “everything bad in the world is America's fault/ all non-American threats are imaginary“ narrative then so be it....

Vulcan, today's AFARTs commercials are vastly better than the stuff I used to watch back in '89-'93. Truly comically bad.

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Balance works.

Well said, Tkoind2! Will be curious to see how some try to refute this, as in “balance is bad if the imperialist U.S. provides it.“

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These same manga that people are complaining about being childish, is the same type of stuff most guys in Japan are reading on the train. So why not communicate in the format that most people are used to reading? Sure, they are putting out the viewpoint that suits the bases, but adult people should have the ability to read it and see for themselves if they agree with what is being presented or not. When they passed them out in 2008, there were long lines to get them and they ran out, so the demand is there.

And yeah, they open up the bases for fireworks festivals, Halloween, etc. If the Japanese people dont like that or feel they are being manipulated, then they wouldnt come, right? But they do so what does that tell you? Tells me that the majority of Japanese people support the overall idea of being protected by US forces and would like to know more about it, so the manga will serve that purpose to show how the US perceives the alliance.

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Vulcan, today's AFARTs commercials are vastly better than the stuff I used to watch back in '89-'93. Truly comically bad.

Maybe better, I haven't noticed it though. I choose the word insulting, not comical though. These comics will be blasted in the schools and books and newspapers in Okinawa. The talk of the town and any free boxes of these comics delivered to the schools by the US military will be thrown in the dumpster I'm sure or used as lecture material in classes on how dumb the US military thinks Japanese are and framed in the hallways as how "tanjun" they are viewed.

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Vulcan, about manga. It is hard to say. On the one hand manga seems to be a very effective way to reach people. It is even pretty easy to see how someone would arrive at thinking manga would be a good propaganda tool. After all, there often seems to be more people reading manga than other print material. And animated characters are on just about everything here.

But on the other hand it seems a bit naive and perhaps even looking down upon Japanese audiences to resort to manga.

Will be interesting to see if it has any effect at all.

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why not just pay japanese for their votes like the japanese govt does with the child allowance thing?

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I want a bunny sweatshirt with a big gold star on it too - where can I get one? Who could hate someone who wears that sweatshirt?

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It's so... cute. Yes, quite patronizing and obvious propaganda. ...But so cute. I love you, USA-kun! If only it were delivering a different message.

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I think this manga guy is racist. It shows USA kun as a blonde haired boy. I hope the 2,3 and 4th issues show a different USA kun of different races since we are a diverse force.

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vulcan-- Oh, you didn't know? Everywhere but Japan is full of blonde haired blue eyed people. I would be extremely surprised if they had a person of color or something representing America... Perhaps USA-kun will have black or hispanic friends?

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I notice the "perspectives" of the site haven't chimed in. I guess even they think this is total crap on our part.

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Rep Ron Paul stated and it was proved true that we spend over 1 Trillion dollars a year on our foreign policy.

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“At a time where opposition to the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa and other parts of Japan has reach a tipping point, it seems the new U.S. strategy may be to simply outwait the more vocal older generations and instead focus on the younger generations who are already largely apathetic to such issues.”

Oh that’s it!!! Here was the planning for it:

4 Star General A: Hey lets brainwash Japan’s youth by creating a cute manga for them that hypnotizes them with purdy Jap anime!

4 Star General B: Ok! That way the 13 to 16 year old kids who read it today will be more accepting of the US forces in Japan 40 years from now.

4 Star General C (who has his Masters in Psychology): But wait don’t teenagers on average change their minds about everything every 2 to 3 days?

4 Star General A: Hmmmm. Your right! WE SHOULD MAKE 4 OF THEM!

“Some gems spewed by U.S. forces’ propaganda office rep, Neil Fisher,”

That’s right Mr.Morran take your anti-US aggression out on the one guy who was probably forced to give you enough of his time so you could vilify him. Here is how that scenario went:

Neil Fisher’s Superior: Hey Neal, we need you to do a quick interview with someone about our new Manga idea.

Neil Fisher: Ok! What magazine or newspaper does he represent?

Neil Fisher’s Superior: None. He is just a Canadian guy who has the chip of all Anti-US Military Chips on his shoulder. Honestly, it wouldn’t matter if you told him our new Manga cured cancer. He would find a way to bad-mouth you and our ideas.

Neil Fisher: Sweet!

Secondly, I beg anyone to answer this seriously. Why would the US military need the acceptance of people in Japan in the future? Hell, they don’t have much acceptance now but OH SNAP, they are still here. If it is so then talk about a waste of money and effort.

Thirdly, I will agree that the idea to communicate to the Japanese through manga is rather cheesy and patronizing by western standards. But through a Japanese view point it makes sense. I urge any of you to observe conbini magazine stands or people on the train reading a manga. The age group of Manga readers in Japan is 5 to 80 years old. It’s ridiculous to think that this manga is specifically targeting the youth of Japan. Now if US military members start posting up outside of Japan’s schools slinging this crap at children then that’s a totally different story. US military members can’t do that outside of American schools so why would they be able to do that here?

The article doesn’t even state how it will be distributed so assuming that it will be handed directly to kids as a piece of propaganda is a moot point.

Fourthly, what other brilliant way does anyone on this forum have for the US military to explain its version of the role they play in Japan? If this is propaganda it’s nothing worse than what NHK or News Zero does. Every time they do a piece on the US role in Japan it’s always the same. Some reporter who finds the youngest lowest ranking individual possible and asking them in broken English questions that are way above his or her pay grade. The result is some US service member who comes off looking like a jacka** and a bunch of infuriated Japanese viewers who feel they got the real deal on the Okinawa situation.

Lastly, I see a trend of people on JT condemning the US military for holding base functions like open base festivals, fireworks displays, or cherry blossom viewing. Why do you condemn it? Have any of you actually attended one? I have been to quite a few. Never have I seen any US service member try to push some US propaganda at these events. As for the Japanese POV, I usually go with a large group of friends who don’t attend out of love for the US but because they just want to have fun and eat some BBQ. So what is wrong with that? Is it because it comes from the US military it must be “evil”? Do you guys envision the planning for it being held in some war room on base with many high ranking officials thinking of ways to trick the Japanese? Sorry to disappoint you but I have applied for the job position on Yokosuka that helps with the planning and organizing of such events. Nowhere in the qualification or skill requirement portion of the application did it state a requirement to be a propaganda master.

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Well, this is going to make me laugh for days on end. US propaganda yes, but in a format that easily appeals to the locals. As long as the military bases do their damnedest to keep the off-duty trouble makers in line then there really should be no problem. I see they're making fun of the USA G.I.=うさぎ idea xD. But where is the other asian, black, hispanic, native american bunny kun? Shame shame since our military is supposedly diverse D:

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Just to get this out of the way. Subtlety fail...

Now then.

The U.S. military has produced a four-part manga series in Japanese titled, “Our Alliance – A Lasting Partnership.” The BBC, Yahoo news and various other sources picked up the AFP story without any mention of the obvious – this is pure propaganda concocted for the sole purpose of brainwashing Japan’s youth into accepting the massive American military presence right in their backyard.

This just another half-baked attempt to make the people a couple decades down the road to complain slightly less. They've put out more mature pieces out before explaining and detailing the benefits of the U.S bases but people never actually read them because, let’s just face it, they're boring. With a manga at least some people will flip through it, if for nothing else then to make fun of it.

Typical of modern reporting, the media articles merely regurgitate the press release given to them without adding any neutrality to the story, submitting obediently and serving as mouthpiece to the story’s “source” – which in this case was just a phone call with no apparent follow-up or questions challenging the motives of the manga.

You don't add neutrality, you subtract subjectivity. Most media articles probably just see this as another shot at reaching the local populous. If you think that the people of Japan can really be brainwashed by a government funded manga, a couple crud television programs, and some pamphlets you're the one marginalizing the people's intelligence.

And the motives are pretty straight forward for anyone with a functioning brain, like I said, subtle it isn't.

The comic depicted the U.S. navy servicemen as ideal neighbors at a time when safety concerns over nuclear energy and crimes committed by Americans stationed in the area were in the spotlight.

I do take serious issue here. I once had a neighbor in the navy who was, in fact, a superb neighbor.

But where is the other asian, black, hispanic, native american bunny kun?

Do you have any idea how long it took me to convince my Japanese counterparts that I was a U.S citizen? For three years they assumed that I was a really big Mexican that could speak English. Making the kid look like that is just easier unless they actually attached a plot to this thing. If they made it about an American boy named Jesus Rodriguez from Wichita it would just confuse a whole lot of people.

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LMAO thanks for the response about diversity in the manga Question.

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...this is pure propaganda concocted for the sole purpose of brainwashing Japan’s youth into accepting the massive American military presence right in their backyard.

Oooooh! This is going to be hard to swallow by the "the Marines aren't a deterrent force" coalition. If they're a MASSIVE AMERICAN MILITARY PRESENCE, then they must be SOME sort of deterrent, ne? :-p

I find it humorous that the commentator felt the normal news sources didn't provide neutral reporting of the press release, so he decided to write a commentary that was anything but neutral in response. I guess the most telling thing about this commentary was what it DIDN'T contain: given the author's obvious bias against the U.S. military in Japan, you don't see anywhere where he declares the content of the manga to contain lies. His only REAL purpose in writing this seems to be that the U.S. wrote it in a form that appears to be aimed at kids. If they did, though, it must only be the older kids... I didn't notice any furigana in the comic. So he's countering propaganda with his own propaganda. Congratulations. Tag, you're "it".

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Ah I thought the pair were cute. Nothing wrong with the Americans doing this. They want to Japanese people to like them better. People on this forum need to lighten up. You are going to get a stroke if your blood pressure remains high. Getting so angry over a little anime is a bad sign. Oh a good anime showing the true American nature in Okinawa is Blood +.

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Sorry meant to write manga and they are free. Have any turned up on ebay yet? Oh a good movie is Blood the last Vampire. Giggles, try and lighten up a bit, gives the Americans a star for the effort.

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