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He's a cuddly fellow with avian roots, eyes like dinner plates and a beak fixed in a permanent smile. Yet most Japanese wouldn't recognise him if he went up and gave them a big hug.

But Moppy has reason to count himself lucky because he is expected to escape a cull planned by authorities in Osaka of the region's most unproductive promotional mascots.

It is a move certain to cause a ruckus in character-mad Japan.

Japan's eclectic, and often bizarre, mascots — known as yuru-kyara laidback characters — are put to work promoting everything from local cuisine and sightseeing spots to tax offices, the police and military, and even prisons.

The country's mascot industry is worth billions of dollars a year in merchandise sales, with Kumamon, an affable black bear who promotes the southern prefecture of Kumamoto, by far the most successful.

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Faced with the realisation that its own mascots don't come close to matching Kumamon's celebrity status, the Osaka prefectural government is to weed out the most ineffectual and push Moppy as its core representative. The prefecture is home to no fewer than 45 mascots, most of whom go about their business in near-obscurity. Last year, 13 did not appear at a single public event or hand out merchandise, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Osaka's array of yuru-kyara includes Kushitan, who promotes a type of Osaka cuisine, and Makki, who represents the town of Matsubara.

There Sexual harassment panda images 008 no suggestion that either are among those earmarked for early retirement.

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The debate over how to humanely dispense with less successful mascots has gone right to the top of the Osaka prefectural administration. Finding a new character able to compete with the likes of Kumamon and Funassyi, who promotes the fruit-producing city of Funabashi near Tokyo, must be a priority, Matsui added. We've got to do something. The task Sexual harassment panda images 008 expected to fall to Moppy, who is inspired by a bird native to the Osaka area and made his first public appearance in However, he finished a lowly 1, in a popularity vote for Japan's 1,member family of promotional mascots held last year.

Matsui's solution is to give Moppy a family and, unusually for a mascot, a voice.

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Not all Osaka officials share Matsui's enthusiasm for a yuru-kyara cull. Experts point out that mascots, like football managers, should be given time to find their feet.

Funassyi was also initially shunned by the public, Nakano said, adding: Even with the governor's backing and the goodwill of Osaka prefecture's 8. Asia Pacific Advertising news.

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