Everyone notices the girlish clothes, but those with a trained eye have also spotted the boyish wings.
Last week, the organizers of the upcoming Tokyo Comic-Con found themselves at the center of a sudden firestorm when it came to light that the event’s official cosplay regulations prohibited men from dressing as female characters. Tokyo Comic-Con has since reversed its stance, which is happy news for the crossplaying contingent of the cosplay community and also, possibly, for Simone-chan, a local mascot character for the town of Shimotsuma in Ibaraki Prefecture.
While Simone-chan has a warm smile and expressive eyes, the character’s most distinguishing visual characteristic is, of course, the pair of butterfly wings. And those aren’t modeled on the wings of just any butterfly, but of the sasakia charonda, Japan’s officially designated national butterfly, for which Shimotsuma is a natural habitat. The sasakia charonda is also known as the Japanese emperor or great purple emperor, and true to its name, the species is known for the violet colorings on its wings, which also appear in Simone-chan’s design.
But also true to the great purple emperor name, it’s male specimens that have these purple markings. Like many animals that need to maximize their chances for survival, males have bright patterns to help attract mates, while females have a far more camouflaged appearance.
▼ Female great purple emperor
茨城県下妻市のキャラクター「シモンちゃん」 オオムラサキをモチーフにしたご当地萌えキャラクターだが、実際に羽が鮮やかな紫になるのはオスのオオムラサキだけなので、結果として日本で一番業の深いご当地キャラになってしまったのだ… https://t.co/ufCYbJ5iEV—
松本鋼太郎 (@Re__Mio) October 29, 2016
For its part, the city of Shimotsuma has declined to officially comment on Simone-chan’s gender, nor has it released any sort of character profile confirming or denying that the character is a man dressed in women’s clothing. While it’s possible that the character’s designers added the purple coloring for purely aesthetic reasons, the fact that Simone itself is a unisex name suggests that they might have intended to make the mascot’s sex ambiguous from the very start.
The newfound notoriety is causing a spike in interest in the character, and Shimotsuma’s Michi no Eki roadside rest stop is standing by with a selection of related merchandise for all of Simone-chan’s new fans.
Michi no Eki Shimotsuma / 道の駅しもつま
Address: Ibaraki-ken, Shimotsuma-shi, Kazusu 140