Japan has a knack for using mascots to promote nearly anything. One of the most visible types of mascots is “Railway Girls,” which are female characters used to represent various metros.
A majority of the characters are moe looking girls that would fit in a slice-of-life anime, except for Tokyo Metro. Their mascot, Michika Ekino, was introduced in 2013 with a muppet-like design. While cute in its own way, Ekino’s design was considered too retro compared to other characters.
Tokyo Metro recently tried unveiling a new design for Ekino…only to be caught in a whirlwind of backlash. Many felt Ekino was too sexualized given that she has a semi-transparent skirt and “thirsty” facial expression.
Tokyo Metro responded by releasing a modified version, which eliminates Ekino’s semi-transparent skirt and by giving a somewhat confident facial expression.
Still, there are metro users and fans who believe that Ekino never needed a redesign. Ekino’s unique, retro look helped her stand out from the other moe Railway Girls. Tokyo Metro decided to trash the proposed re-designs and keep Ekino’s classic look.
However, Ekino’s classic look has caused even more debate for how “unsexual” she looks compared to other metro lines. Currently, there are posters and apps out that are part of a national stamp rally to encourage people to travel and collect stamps at various stations in Japan.
One Twitter user kick-started the debate after tweeting this:
— ソノヤマ･タカスケ/T.SONOYAMA (@T_SONOYAMA) August 17, 2017
“This is what happened because of all the criticism saying, ‘She’s sexual!’, ‘She’s appealing to men’s tastes’, and ‘Her pose makes her look like she has to pee!’ Don’t you feel sorry for Michika-chan?”
The user is referring to Ekino’s non-standard design compared to other mascots. And while there was controversy over Ekino’s proposed redesign, many people didn’t want to change her look to begin with. This is because Tokyo Metro commuters and fans liked Ekino’s non-moe look, which makes her unique in a sea of moe.
One commenter even said, “she’s listed as a guest character so it’s entirely appropriate for her to appear in her natural form.”
I guess that settles that debate!