Posted by: Ian Rowley on September 3, 2008
Would-be Prime Minister Taro Aso isn’t expected to have much impact on Japan’s economic prospects should he take over the top job in Japanese politics. But his candidacy is already boosting stocks in anime-related companies.
Yesterday, Aso, 67, indicated that he planned to run for the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, following the surprise resignation of Yasuo Fukuda on Monday night. By the close of Tokyo trading, stocks in several anime-related stocks got a boost, according to local media reports, because Aso is famed for his love of manga comics. The Nikkei reports that stock in Mandarake, which sells comics and character goods, moved as much is allowed in a single session, Broccoli, which sells anime products rose 21%. Another company, which holds the rights to the Gundam animation series, also surged despite the Japanese market as a whole falling 1.8%.
While Aso’s oft-mentioned love of comics might be good for a few company stock prices, it also shouldn’t be underestimated for its electoral appeal. Despite being every bit a member of Japan’s political elite, it helps make him seem a bit more in touch with the man or woman in the street (or manga cafe, for that matter). In reality, Aso is about as far removed from the regular guy as George W. Bush is from U.S. voters. Aso’s grandfather was twice Prime Minister, as was his father-in-law while his sister his is married to the Emperor’s first cousin, a Prince.
For those wanting a more rounded view of Aso, it’s also worth considering some of his gaffes. Last July, for example, he ran into trouble when discussing the differences between Chinese and Japanese rice prices. “Even people with Alzheimer’s disease could understand,” he said in a speech in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, which earned him a rebuke from then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki. Meanwhile, in March 2007, while serving as foreign minister, the Guardian reported that he suggested US diplomats in the Middle East would never solve the region’s problems because they have “blue eyes and blond hair” whereas Japanese could be trusted because they had “yellow faces” and had “never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns”. In 2001, while economics minister, economics minister, he said it would like to make Japan the kind of place where “rich Jews” would like to live. And in 2006, he got another ticking off for suggesting the Emperor should start visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, comments which infuriated China. Still, as long as he likes manga…