Some of the most touching relief efforts in the wake of the Japanese natural disasters are coming from characters who don't actually exist.
By now I'm sure most (if not all) of you are familiar with the devastating Sendai earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last week. People all around the world have joined together in offering support to the island nation through donations of money, food and medical supplies. However, there's a type of relief that can't be quantified in dollars, and it's the type that keeps people's spirits up in the wake of a disaster - and Japan's tokusatsu heroes have risen to the challenge.
For those of you not familiar with the tokusatsu genre, it's a genre that revolves around a costumed fighter (or team of fighters) battling evil monsters, who are usually just guys in obvious rubber suits. While the tokusatsu genre enjoyed brief popularity in the West during the 1990s thanks to the advent of shows like Power Rangers, it's been popular in Japan for decades - and remains so to this day.
In the aftermath of the Sendai earthquake, Japan's many tokusatsu stars have been fighting a different sort of battle than the one they wage against evil forces on TV. Tokusatsu heroes past and present have been posting encouraging messages to a special Twitter account, the aptly named @tokusatsuhero, encouraging their younger fans to keep up hope in times of crisis.
The @tokusatsuhero account was started by actor Teruaki Ogawa, known for his role as NinjaRed in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, but the comments are coming from dozens of fictional heroes. The actors are the ones who are writing the messages, of course, but they're written wholly in-character and signed as the actual heroes from series like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and Super Sentai:
Children, please endure these tough times just a little bit longer. Please, keep it up. Just remember that us heroes will always be by your side. - Kotaro Minami (Kamen Rider Black)
You've all done well up until now! Things may be difficult even from now but only you can help the people who are around you. You have a power that even we cannot match! That is the finishing attack known as a smile! Even if it's hard now, someday you will be able to save people too! - Ultraman Agul/Hiroya Fujimiya (Ultraman Gaia)
Is everyone ok? The earthquake was scary huh? But now is the time where we all need to combine our powers!! Don't be down, let's use our fantastic technique of a smile to bring smiles on others! GekiBlue - Retsu Fukami (Juken Sentai Gekiranger)
To the boys and girls of this disaster. I'm sure things are painful for you right now. If it is hard on you, you should know that crying is ok. You don't have to hold in your tears. However, you must keep your mind/spirit strong. If you show your strong self, surely that will help the people around you. I also have to keep strong. shu*~ -From Kamen Rider Hibiki (Kamen Rider Hibiki)
As an adult looking in on the Japanese recovery from the outside, it's tempting to just shrug your shoulders and roll your eyes at this whole thing. Obviously, these messages aren't coming from the real heroes - they're just coming from actors who play them on TV. There are probably more than a few of you who think this is all a bit silly.
But imagine that you're a ten-year-old kid in Japan. You've had to evacuate your home and you're living in a shelter. You're scared and a bit confused, and so is everyone around you - and then you get a message from one of the heroes you admire on a TV show you love, telling you "Hey, it's okay to be scared, but keep your head high because we'll get through this." That's the sort of impact that simply can't be measured.
It's easy to forget that in times of crisis, emotional and spiritual aid is just as important as physical and medical aid. Luckily, Japan's tokusatsu heroes haven't forgotten.
A collection of translated messages can be found here, as translated by 4chan's /m/ board. Never let it be said that Anonymous never helps.