Meet Prince Pickles, the adorable mascot of Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF). For years Pickles and his girlfriend, Parsley-chan, have been spreading warm, fuzzy feelings about Japan’s military. The star of his very own government-sponsored comic book, Prince Pickles’ Diary, the doe-eyed prince plucks Japanese citizens from floodwaters, mans balloonish tanks, and disarms underwater mines. More recently, he’s been spotted—under the banner “For the Future of Iraq”—shaking hands with a cartoon sheik.
Japanese citizens have tended to be suspicious of the SDF, a fact that helps explain Pickles’ back story. A native of the peaceful Paprika Kingdom, he at first didn’t understand the need for his small country’s defense forces. It wasn’t until the neighboring Sesame Kingdom invaded that the prince learned the value of a military. Pickles went from wary skeptic to willing soldier.
Japan is addicted to all things kawaii, so it’s no surprise that the propaganda architects should consider the cuteness craze a fitting foundation. In April, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the press that Japan, pacifist since losing World War II, would adopt a more assertive military role in world affairs. Can deft use of the pencil ease brutal memories of the sword? Prince Pickles’ next mission may be to find out.