TOKYO (AFP) – The US military is using manga to teach a new generation in Japan about the importance of their half-century security alliance in a new comic book series.
The story features an American boy called Usa-kun -- a word play on USA and "usagi", Japanese for rabbit -- who wears a hooded jacket with bunny ears and befriends a Japanese girl, Anzu Arai.
In the first issue of "Our Alliance -- A Lasting Partnership", to be published online Wednesday, the boy tells Anzu that he has come to defend her home because they are "important friends".
The United States is publishing the Japanese-language comic as both nations mark the 50th anniversary of their security treaty, and two days before the 65th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
US-Japan ties have been strained for the past year as a new centre-left government in Japan for months publicly toyed with the idea of moving a controversial US airbase off the southern island of Okinawa.
In the four-part comic series, the two main characters "explore and learn about the US military in Japan and its role in the US-Japan alliance," according to a statement from the US forces.
The US military chose the manga format because it is "a very common way of communicating in Japan," Major Neal Fisher, deputy director of the US forces' public affairs office in Japan, told AFP by telephone.
"A lot of people love manga... Manga is a very light-hearted way to carry information" on where the US bases are, what they are doing and how they are cooperating with the Japanese forces, he said.
The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, has 47,000 troops stationed in the country.
The comic will be published at noon Wednesday at http://www.usfj.mil/manga