Yesterday, Anime News Network reported that Taro Aso would serve as an envoy of Japan with the specific duty of promoting anime. Aso, who was Japan’s Prime Minister from 2008 through 2009, will perform his first duties at the Beijing Movie and TV Week’s Anime Festival, which runs from June 8 through June 13.
Aso seems like a natural choice for the position, given his record. He is self-proclaimed fan of anime and manga, created the International Manga Award, and even urged then-French presidential candidate Segolene Royal to read more manga after she blasted Japanese society for their supposed tolerance for sex and violence. Aso speaks fluent English and Portuguese, due to his attending Stanford and living in Sierra Leone. He has gone above and beyond to try to promote the medium in the global market, and stands as a generally positive force in the anime world.
Granted, Aso isn’t an entirely positive figure. In the past he has made a number of careless, outright offensive remarks that could give pause to the population. In particular, he’s referred to Japan’s forced re-education in World War II as a “good thing”, he’s argued that “burakumin can’t become prime minister,” and he’s shown an anti-semtic streak. For example, he’s noted that he’d like Japan to be a country where “rich Jews” would like to live, and stated that “to work is good. It’s completely different thinking from the Old Testament.”
From the initial description, Aso appears to be mostly a figurehead. He’s the person Japan will send to events to smile, look nice for the camera, and generally push as an advocate for anime and manga. It will be intersting to see just what, if anything, he accomplishes, as a spokesman and an advocate. Even more intersting, though, will be what could be seen when the man opens his mouth before a crowd. If Aso deviates from the carefully prepared scripts, there’s a chance that the gaffe machine could start up again. If this occurs, then Japan’s, and anime’s goodwill ambassador may become more of a hindrance, than a help.