The city’s subway operator can’t decide whether their mascot should look like a muppet or a sexy service manager.
Once you’ve been in Japan for a while, it doesn’t take long to realise that anything and everything here has a mascot helping to promote it. Some of these characters can be cute, some are scary and others will have you blinking your eyes in amazement, but on occasion, debate arises as to whether or not the mascot in question is resonating with audiences in the best way possible.
That’s what happened to Tokyo Metro’s mascot, Michika Ekino, recently, when her adorable, muppet-like appearance was altered, giving her a more sexualised look, complete with open mouth, see-through skirt and blushing cheeks.
▼ The original Michika Ekino
（承前） 加えて、キャラ紹介には「※『駅乃みちか』は東京メトロのオリジナルキャラクターです。」と記載があるとおり、メトロのオリジナルはこちらであり、鉄道むすめ版のデザインは一連のイベント的な流れで作られたデザインのみのサプライズ的… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
らぴ＠巡り進捗76/32 (@Cardinal_Lapis) July 07, 2017
ねこ４１@イェーイ、ロケンロール！p4j (@neco41yaku) July 17, 2017
▼ And Ekino after her recent makeover
駅乃みちか(東京メトロ) 俗に言う、たぬき顔のムチムチは大正義です https://t.co/lKP1XFpPpw—
くろうさA&Mホールディングス (@strategist08) June 11, 2017
Following an outcry over what was deemed to be an inappropriate design, subway operator Tokyo Metro was eventually forced to change some of the design elements, including Ekino’s controversial see-through skirt.
▼ Ekino’s latest look dials down some of her more sexualised elements
孔悠鬼 (@kongyouguai) August 21, 2017
Since being introduced in 2013 as a “23-year-old service manager” who works for Tokyo Metro, Ekino quickly became popular with fans for her unique, old-style look which set her apart from the other anime-style Tetsudo Musume or “Railway Girls” used to advertise various Japanese railway operators.
Still, Ekino’s appearance became the topic of debate in Japan again recently, this time due to the fact that she was drawing attention to herself again, even without an overtly sexualised look.
鶏侍総大将(チキンそうだいしょう) (@sirohata22) June 25, 2017
The problem now is that Ekino is back to her original form again, which makes her stand out even more from the group of anime-style Railway Girls, who are currently appearing on posters and mobile apps as part of a national stamp rally encouraging commuters to travel and collect stamps at various train stations around Japan.
駅乃みちかさんwwwもう可哀想すぎてwwwwwwこれでも充分トイレ我慢してそうじゃないかwww 水間みつまちゃんと小鳥谷スピカちゃん推しです。 https://t.co/8q53g69jgK—
私は生まれ変わったらモブになりたい。 (@mktt1117fr) August 22, 2017
▼ Ekino’s stamp shows her amongst some famous Tokyo landmarks.
紗倉清美＠侵略部 (@BL2052) August 15, 2017
Now some social media users in Japan are saying they feel sorry for Ekino, who appears on promotional material in her original form following criticism about the revamp to her overall look.
▼ “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?”
あんたたちが「性的だ！」「男に媚びてる！」「おしっこ我慢してる！」とか言って責めるもんだから！ みちかちゃんが！みちかちゃんがなんかもう気の毒じゃないか！ https://t.co/HoupihENg1—
ソノヤマ･タカスケ/T.SONOYAMA (@T_SONOYAMA) August 17, 2017
While many felt sorry for her, expressing regret that she didn’t appear in her anime-style form, others threw their support behind Ekino’s appearance in the campaign.
“Go Michika-chan! She looks like an advocate for the no-makeup trend.”
“I actually prefer her like this!”
“She’s listed as a guest character so it’s entirely appropriate for her to appear in her natural form.”
“I think it’s great that she goes her own way and confidently stands out like this!”
“Go Tokyo Retro!”
In spite of the criticism, it appears that Tokyo Metro is cleverly covering all their bases when it comes to appealing to the thousands of commuters who use their services every day. Whether you prefer your mascot characters cute and cuddly or with a hint of sex appeal, Ekino and the Tokyo Metro subway system aim to bring smiles to the faces of customers as they go about their day.