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Tokyo Metro draws criticism over official mascot’s see-through skirt

A pre-censored version of Michika Ekino, one of Tokyo Metro's official characters (Tokyo Metro)
A pre-censored version of Michika Ekino, one of Tokyo Metro’s official characters (Tokyo Metro)

TOKYO (TR) – Subway operator Tokyo Metro was forced to change the design of one of its official “Tetsudou Musume” mascots last week after an outcry over what some deemed as inappropriate elements, including a see-through skirt.

On October 13, Tokyo Metro released a new variation for Michika Ekino, an official mascot introduced in 2013 as a “23-year-old service manager” at the company. However, the public quickly questioned some of the design choices, including a see-through skirt, blushing cheeks and posed legs that strayed far from the original design, news site J-Cast reports (October 18).

The Ekino character has appeared at numerous Tokyo Metro events, and is popular among fans for her round eyes, slightly troubled expression and old-school drawing style that sets her apart from the glossy stylized look of mainstream anime characters.

“Railway girls”

Ekino is a so-called “railway girl,” who wear the uniforms of numerous railway operators of Japan. The new variation is in a style known as moe, a term meaning intense affection toward characters, such as girls in anime with an emphasis on purity and youthful femininity.

The revamped look was to celebrate an upcoming “National Tetsudou Musume Tour” stamp rally where fans collect stamps of railway girls starting February 11, 2017, when fans were irked by her new image.

Of particular offense to fans was, apparently, Ekino’s trademark black skirt becoming so sheer that her underwear and legs could be seen.

A widely circulated image posted by a Twitter user explains that her half-open mouth was odd when paired with the slightly troubled expression of the old design, and that her overall pose was questionable and “makes one worry if she needs to go to the bathroom.”

On October 14, Tokyo Metro bowed to mounting criticism and edited the skirt to be more conventional. The official railway girls web site shows Ekino wearing a non-sheer skirt, though her legs are still posed inward and her cheeks are flushed.

An official from Tokyo Metro’s public relations department told J-Cast that the edit was in response to “customers telling us that [the previous design] was inappropriate as a public transportation mascot.”

Tetsudou Musume

The previous design was a collaboration with TomyTec, an affiliate of toy giant Tomy which produces brands such as Zoids and Pokemon.

“We were told [by TomyTec] that [Ekino’s] design was based on the other ‘Tetsudou Musume’ characters,” the Tokyo Metro PR official said.

Eikino’s official profile introduces herself as a native of Bonn, Germany.

“I’m a third-culture kid that can also play the violin, but sometimes I end up using really archaic language,” Ekino’s profile says. “I can also hold my liquor pretty well.”