When many people think ‘Marine,’ they might imagine a square-jawed buff guy who looks like he eats ammo belts (and crayons) for breakfast. That stereotype may be why a new Marine Corps recruitment poster of a smiling anime girl wearing dress blues is going viral on social media.
“Damn, they know their clientele,” wrote one commenter on the popular Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, where the image was shared on Tuesday, as well as on Reddit, Twitter and the news website Anime Hunch.
“Is it too late to join the Marines?” wrote another.
The image brings a modern twist to a 105-year-old poster titled “U.S. Marine Corps – Service on land and sea.” According to the Library of Congress, the poster was illustrated in 1917 by the artist Sidney Riesenberg. More than a century later, Staff Sgt. Arthur Chou got the idea to make his own mark on classic recruiting posters while sitting in Marine Corps recruiting school. A lifelong anime fan, Chou wanted to combine his passion for the medium with his new career.
“I was like, ‘I want to put something on my walls when I get to recruiting,’” Chou told Task & Purpose.
“Service on land” is the fourth anime-style Marine recruiting poster Chou has commissioned. He contacts artists through the freelance business website Fiverr, shares his ideas with them, then lets them get to work. It started with “Ready,” inspired by a 1942 poster of a Marine standing at parade rest.
“I see the old ‘Ready’ poster everywhere,” Chou said. “What if I just made it with a cute anime girl?”
“Ready” was followed by a poster for the Marine Corps Band with more anime girls in dress blues and the words “Play with honor” in bold over them. That was followed by “Over the top,” another modern take on a WWI poster showing an anime girl in fatigues, flak jacket and rifle with her hair flowing out beneath her helmet.
“I’m not sure if any of the hairstyles are in regs,” said Chou, though he added that his explanation for the girl’s flowing hair in “Over the top” was that her hair-tie had fallen off.
The four posters are just one element in a collage of anime paraphernalia framing Chou’s desk. There are decks from the card game Yu-Gi-Oh!, a small statue of Yamato, the human avatar of the eponymous World War II battleship from the game Kantai Collection, and a plush doll of Snubbull, a pink, bulldog-like Pokémon. Snubbull wears a camouflage patrol cap on Chou’s desk, which works well because the Marine Corps mascot is a bulldog named Chesty. Rarely does a potential recruit walk in and not connect with something in Chou’s office.
“Literally everybody that comes in and sees my corner they’re like ‘oh this is cool,’” the Marine said.
Chou clearly has a talent for connecting with new recruits, known as “poolees” in Marine parlance: his Instagram page is filled with images of young Marines-to-be posing with Snubbull, or like characters from the anime JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, or with the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards on his desk. Chou even prints out copies of the posters and gives them to poolees as a reward for graduating boot camp.
But it’s not just future Marines who dig the anime decor, it’s the higher-ups too. Chou said a colonel and a master gunnery sergeant are among those who have bought copies of some of his posters. The payment just covers the charge of printing the posters, said Chou, who clarified that he doesn’t make money off the requests. The interest from so many people shows how “geek culture” has become much more mainstream than it used to be.
“Now geek culture is a huge thing,” Chou said. Now an anime girl who many observers said looks like Violet Evergarden from the eponymous show draws as much interest as the Marine Corps’ monster-slaying swordsman commercial did in the 1990s. She may not look like the Marine in many people’s imagination, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
“The whole reason I made these posters was to break the stereotype,” Chou said. “People think we’re all crazy and buff, but we’re people too. All the best Marines I know, they’re not even big, they just have a lot of heart. They’re just trying to become better.”