Taro Aso was a shit prime minister, but in incidental things that count—shooting guns, collecting comics, and booze— Taro Aso excels. This week, he was named Japan's official anime envoy to China.
Cut off from Japanese pop culture for decades, China is getting into anime like Gundam in a big way. From June 8 to June 13, the Chinese and Japanese governments are hosting a festival for Japanese movies, television and anime.
The festival will hopefully strengthen cultural ties between to the two nations—cultural ties which have been traditionally strained. Taro Aso is going as the official government rep., and Japan couldn't have made a better selection. Or could it? Aso's family past is not how Japan would like to be viewed by the world.
Aso served as Japanese Prime Minister from September 2008 to September 2009; he didn't display the political prowess of, say, former Prime Minister Junichi Koizumi, and ended up being one of the recent revolving-door leaders of Japan.
What makes Aso stand out is how colorful he is. His family is in the mining industry, and as a young man, the Stanford-educated Aso lived in Sierra Leone and Brazil. While many prime ministers can barely speak English, Aso speaks fluent English and Portuguese. He even competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics as a member of Japan's shooting team.
Aso is a religious minority in Japan—a member of the Catholic church—and proof that Japan does separate state and religion (the same can't be said about other countries).
For nerds, Aso became an otaku icon of sorts. He's a life long manga reader, and was spotted at the airport leafing through Rozen Maiden.He also established a manga award for non-Japanese manga artists.
(Tony Griffith and Yukihisa Fujita)