Does the New Waifu Recruitment Poster Have Anime Fans Ready to Sign Up?

Where the US Army once catered to horny male recruits with posters featuring attractive uniformed pin-up girls and the slogan “I want you…for the Navy,” they now appear to have a new target audience: Waifu Guy. Last week, a poster displayed at a Marines recruitment booth in San Francisco went viral for its depiction of a feisty girl in military uniform. The image is a variation on a centuries-old poster illustrated by artist Sidney Riesenberg in 1917 and originally showed a Marine in uniform holding a gun next to the words “Service on Land and Wed.”

Since then, Waifu Reddit has been awash with speculation as to who the girl might be, with the top contenders being Saber – a heroic warrior who makes an appearance destiny/stay night — or Violet Evergarden — a former soldier who stars in her own self-titled series. As one Redditor noted, “The last one would be a bit obscure because she was basically a brainwashed child soldier… I don’t know what message that sends.”

It turns out that the girl is actually an original character, as confirmed by Arthur Chou, who is in charge of the poster’s anime upgrade. Chou is a self-proclaimed “weeb” — a westerner obsessed with Japanese culture — who told our sister site task and goal that he wanted to combine his passion for anime with his new career as a Marine Corps recruiter. The viral poster is one of four Chou has commissioned so far (he searches for artists through a freelancer search site called Fiverr), each following the same format: a male sailor in an old World War I or II is replaced with a cute one anime woman.

Chou, whose office is said to be littered with anime paraphernalia, believes he’s onto something when it comes to recruiting anime fans. “Literally everyone [recruit] Anyone who comes in and sees my corner is like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,'” he explained T&P, adding that “geek culture is a big deal” in the military. “The only reason I made these posters was to break the stereotype. People think we’re all crazy and insane, but we’re human too. The best marines I know, they’re not even big, they just have a lot of heart. They’re just trying to get better.

Reactions to the viral poster among anime superfans and gender neutrals were mixed, with some saying they “want to join the army now,” while others called the recruitment attempt “so sad” and “grimace.” Unsurprisingly, the new anime character got the waifu guys a little excited too. “To support and serve good old US-of-A and all it stands for: truth, boobs, justice, ass and the American way of life,” wrote one editor. Another simply said, “Damn man I’m going to sign up (sic).”

Guy, a 20-year-old pseudonymous anime fan from Texas, is positive about the campaign, although he already admits he has “a positive attitude toward the military.” “Frankly, good for them,” he says of the Marines’ recruitment efforts. “If the military actually committed to running national advertising campaigns featuring anime girls, I’d be really impressed. It’s a very modern and unexpected strategy – when you think of the military, think of unaffiliated baby boomers, that would really surprise me.

Toby (a pseudonym) – who is not an anime fan – disagrees. “It’s extremely grumpy,” he tells me, “but not entirely surprising. The military has also used video games to lure children into recruitment centers. It feels like they’re chasing after groups of teenagers who are known to have a looser grip on reality — they’ve got to have it while they’re “young and dumb.” However, if you look back in history—when women handed out white feathers to men who weren’t in uniform to shame them on duty—putting an anime girl on a poster isn’t even remotely the most manipulative tactic they’ve employed . (This actually happened in the UK during WWI and WWII, as opposed to the US, although it illustrates the extremes to which the global military is willing to go when it comes to recruitment.)

Of course, the use of women on military posters is not new either. In America this has been happening since World War I, with potential recruits being tempted to join by images of women as victims – depicting them as damsels in distress who need to be rescued – or seductresses seeking help, big and strong men, to fight for their country. Women have also been portrayed as nurses or patriots working hard at home to encourage other Americans to join efforts on the home front or to support organizations such as the Red Cross.

But while those posters attempted to manipulate men in general, these anime enhancements target a very specific group of people that Chicago’s Jeff refers to as “Gen Z basement dwellers.” Many people on Reddit see the poster — and the army recruitment process in general — as predatory when it comes to teenagers, and in the case of 18-year-old Alex (aka), a fan of New York anime, it appears to be so Work. He says the new poster was “encouraging [him] thinking even more about joining the military,” he explained, as reassuring him that he would “make contact somehow with others there, whether they were candidates, members or actual members of the army.”

If Chou’s insider knowledge and recruiting instincts are right – which anime fans say they are – Waifus could soon become the official face of the US military. “I know a couple of guys from high school who got in touch [in the military], and they’re some of the biggest anime fans out there,” says Guy. “So that’s probably a very effective way to appeal to their age target group.”

It looks like the United States will soon have its own web army.

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