Notorious Japanese Prison Rebrands Itself with Cuddly Anime Mascot

Today in Things We Learned on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,” we bring you an unusual take on reputation management.

Officials at Asahikwa—a Japanese prison notorious for whippings, stabbings and other things you can see every week on Game of Thrones— decided to fight the public’s dim view of their institution by adopting a six-foot anime-style mascot.

“Katakkuri-chan”, who can appear in both male and female form, made his/her/its debut at a recent fair where curious consumers could buy trinkets made by inmates. The figure will now greet incoming prisoners while wearing a warden’s uniform and a hat that appears to consist of a supersized purple flower in order to give them hope that their new lives won’t be filled with manual labor, forced starvation and solitary confinement.

Public events will be part of the game as well. A PR official connected to the prison told reporters that this is all part of a plan to help released inmates re-enter the working world by showing locals that Asahikwa is “open” and “supported by society”—which we take to mean “our residents will be available for menial jobs…if they survive their sentences.”

No word on whether Katakkuri-chan will let the prisoners win every time they play Dance Dance Revolution on Wii.