Japanese defense forces are capitalizing on the national monopoly on cuteness by embracing moe, an animation style that features twee and prominently underage female characters. Earlier this month, Japan's Ministry of Defense debuted a nearly 20-minute-long cartoon starring a talking bird as part of a PR campaign to explain the military to the public. 

The trend took off in 2011, when the image of a moe girl was emblazoned on the side of an attack helicopter. By the following year, she had three sisters--and a legion of real-life fans, who dressed up like the mascots at air shows and other public demonstrations.

A japanese air force pilot and her manga portrait decal. Image: Reddit. Image 1.A japanese air force pilot and her manga portrait decal. Image: Reddit

Although the ensemble was "retired" in 2013, since then, moe aesthetics have appeared on countless pamphlets, posters and other recruitment materials. Who knew that missile technologies and tactical maneuvers could be so "fun" and "unthreatening"?

JSDF bases have moe/bishoujo characters. Image: Crunchyroll. Image 2.JSDF bases have moe/bishoujo characters. Image: Crunchyroll

All of this may be an elaborate workaround for the fact that Japan isn't technically allowed to maintain a military. The closest thing the island nation has is the Japanse Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).

"While possessing all the trappings of a military, including a powerful air force and a respectable navy, the JSDF is constitutionally barred from operating on foreign soil, and is technically considered a constabulary" -- a problem when your next-door neighbors are China and North Korea.