Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso caused a bit of a stir last week when he was found… buying manga?
Yes, Taro Aso. The same Taro Aso who’s a self-confessed anime and manga fan, was caught reading Rozen Maiden in an airport back in 2011, and spearheaded the first International Manga Award in 2007.
The anime and manga-loving former PM was seen purchasing a copy of longest-running-manga-of-all-time Golgo 13 from a convenience store book rack this past week, which probably wouldn’t have made anyone’s headlines if it weren’t for the date on which he did it: April 1, the same day Japan’s consumption tax jumped to 8%.
Last week we ran a story on Japan’s rising sales tax, and ways toys manufacturers like Bandai are adjusting to compensate for the increase, but it’s not just toy manufacturers that are worried about the sales tax increase. People all over Japan are worried about whether they’ll be able to make ends meet following the rise, and while my initial impulse was to read the story as feeding into a kind of general populist impulse to portray politicians as clueless buffoons ignorant of the struggle of the common man, Japanese commenters seem to view this as just the opposite: a classic “cool old dude” moment for Aso.
While not currently Prime Minister, Aso is still politically active, currently serving as Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance under current PM Shinzo Abe. Aso’s already seen in a somewhat humorous light for being the “anime PM,” and this is only going to add to his legend.
Astute readers may also remember when Aso was portrayed in gag mahjong manga Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku as a sniper assisting fellow former PM Junichiro Koizumi during a diplomatic mahjong battle against George W. Bush. That portrayal was in reference to Aso’s participation on the Japanese shooting team during the 1976 Summer Olympics, but I think we now know the truth: he just really loves Golgo.