Meet Seyano Ajisai and Seyano Keyaki, the newest recruits to the ranks of Japan's many regional police department mascots. Unlike the usual vaguely-defined yuru kyara style working characters, they look like they stepped right out of the pages of a manga. But these aren't a joke, aren't some kind of dojinshi mash-up. They are 100% official designs of the suburban Yokohama based Seya Police Department, freshly unveiled just days ago. That makes them (in the words of a Seya P.D. spokesman) "the most cutting-edge police mascots in Japan."
The comment echoes one by Takashi Murakami several years ago about mascots "representing the cutting edge of kawaii culture in Japan." Given the troubles the anime, manga, music, and film industries are suffering at the moment, one could make a strong case that mascot culture is the "healthiest" (or at least most dynamic) of Japan's subcultures right now. And nowhere is that more evident than in the merging of status-quo mascot design with moé, that fetishization of girlish naiveté and effeminate men.
You can read an article I wrote on the subject over at CNNgo, but the fact that a police department chose these particular designs for outreach purposes is yet another example of just how deeply moé has entrenched itself in the mainstream of Japanese society. While there's a joke to be made here about the people who are supposed to be protecting children using "lolicon" as a community-building tool, this isn't really about Seya's aesthetic choices. Mascots are like fuzzy little mirrors reflecting the tastes of the day -- and love it or hate it, moé, is here to stay.