Japan Produces Anime for the Olympics
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Japan Produces Anime for the Olympics

By Elizabeth Gibson for The J-Pop Exchange

Anime will be an overarching theme of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which is set to be held in Tokyo. The move is not a surprising one — given the cultural significance of anime and manga in Japan, as well as the tradition of showing off national pride during the Olympic Games — but it is still exciting.

Over the weekend, Japan Broadcasting Company (better known as Nippon Hoso Kyokai or NHK in Japan) debuted three five-minute-long anime shorts honoring the Paralympics. The Japanese government oversees NHK, so it makes sense that they would utilize the broadcasting company to promote the upcoming Olympic Games.

The first episode portrays a visually-impaired young man dazzling a few school-aged children with his ability to “view” everything around him without being able to see. The children later see that he’s a player for the soccer team they came to watch and cheer him on. This episode was created by Yoichi Takahashi, the same person who created Captain Tsubasa.

The second episode is about a young, wheelchair-bound girl who discovers that running track is possible with the help of a leg prosthesis. This episode was created by Eisaku Kubonouchi, the artist behind Chocolat.

The third and most highlighted episode is all about wheelchair tennis. Two tennis players compete in a tennis match based on the anime Baby Steps. It has also been compared to the anime, The Prince of Tennis, so if you’re a fan of either, be sure to check it out. The main character, Shingo Kunieda (who is voiced by Shinji Kawada) is based on the real-life wheelchair tennis player and Paralympic athlete of the same name.

This isn’t the first time (nor is it likely the last time) anime has been injected into the 2020 Olympic Games. Earlier this year, two anime characters were revealed as mascots — a blue and white checkered mascot named “Miraitowa” to represent the Olympics and a pink and white checkered mascot named “Someity” to represent the Paralympics. The mascots, which were created by Ryo Taniguchi, were revealed in February while the names weren’t announced until this summer.

The name Miraitowa combines two Japanese words “mirai” (future) and “towa” (eternity); while the name “Someity” comes from the Japanese word “someiyoshino,” a popular cherry blossom variety, and additionally echoes the English phrase “so mighty.”

Along with Miraitowa and Someity, other anime characters are being used to promote the 2020 Olympics, including Astro Boy, Sailor Moon, One Piece’s Luffy, Naruto, Dragon Ball’s Son Goku, Two Pretty Cure Magical Girls, Crayon Shin-Chan, and Yo-kai Watch’s Jibanyan.

Additionally, several murals depicting the anime “Akira” have been popping up near the Olympic Park construction site. Over 30 years ago, the anime predicted the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, or at least a futuristic vision of the 2020 Olympics in a dystopian version of Tokyo.

Other than that, Japan is keeping most of its other Olympic-themed anime plans quiet. But we’re sure to see more in the future. After all, using anime as a form of advertising is something only Japan can do.

More by Elizabeth Gibson:

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