There was a vivid discussion on the official Twitter account of embassy of Finland in Tokyo (@FinEmbTokyo) on January 29th, which started with a candid question by one follower of the account:
“Did you know that a Finnish-origin character is featured in anime Strike Witches?” Fintan, the embassy’s Twitter character answered straight-forwardly “Yes, we do.” As many users of the social media are also lovers of manga and anime the dialogue spread out right away on the internet, which tells about the popularity of the manga scene in Japan.
Strike Witches is currently one of the most popular anime(?) in Japan. The character in question is called Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen. Eila’s character was inspired by Eino Ilmari Juutilainen, a famous Finnish pilot on the Second World War. Interesting enough Eila is a female character with a female name, while Eino Ilmari Juutilainen was a man.
But Eila Ilmatar is not the only Finland-inspired character. In fact Fintan has found out that there are several characters in Japanese anime and manga that relate to Finland. Seito shokun, is a manga series that is published as part of manga book BeLove, published by Kodansha. The story is about a Japanese woman studying in Finland to become a teacher. Apart from the heroine majority of the character in it are Finnish. In an anime called Hetariya, one of the characters is called Finland (Finrando in Japanese). And these just to name a few.
Fintan met with Mr Fumikane Shimada, the author of Strike Witches, and asked why he chose Finland as one source of inspiration.
“Strike Witches started already seven years ago.” says Shimada. “I have created many characters based on historical wartime heroes, especially focused on the World War II, which catches the interest of Japanese audience. The characters form a kind of dream team in a fight against a villain called Neuri.”
The modern history of Finland is well-known to many Japanese military and history enthusiasts. Therefore it is not difficult to find Japanese publications about the Finnish Winter War and the Continuation War. Some of the more popular ones are “Sekichūno kiseki” (Dai Nippon Kaiga) and “Ryūketsuno natsu” (Dai Nippon Kaiga) by Hiroshi Umemoto and “Shiroi shinigami” (Alphapolis) by Petri Sarjanen.
Going back to Strike Witches, the home country for the heroine Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen is called “Suomus”. The model of Suomus is seemingly Finland, which is called Suomi in Finnish. “Finns fought equally with the gigantic USSR regardless of having inferior armed forces. Many Japanese feel empathy towards Finland for its bravery,” Shimada mentions. Especially Eino Ilmari Juutilainen is an appealing person in the Finnish war history. He gained 94 victories in World War II, which was the most of all non-German pilots. “Juutilainen was a gifted fighter. As a token of respect, Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen was born.”
The features of Eila follow Shimada’s idea of Finnishness. “Eila is not very emotional, but quiet, and cool. However, she’s got guts and is full of spirit and energy, and all this in a shape of a stylish girl. Furthermore, the voice actress Ayuru Ōhashi has done a great job putting even more life to Eila’s character.”
Next Fintan went on to ask how Shimada himself sees Finland.
“Forests, lakes, snow, advanced technology, education and welfare system... These might be typical images towards Finland, but I also wanted to create a new gateway to get interested in Finland through my work. There was a great person, and great history. I wish my work would enhance the country image of Finland here in Japan.”
At the end of interview Fintan thanked Shimada for his work to extend Japanese interest towards Finland.
Strike Witches the movie now on screen http://s-witch.cute.or.jp/movie/