Japan's cheap and pervasive high-speed Internet connections are finally catching up with the country.
It was recently placed sixth in a ranking of countries with infected PCs that launch denial of service and other attacks and some of the blame is being laid at the country's broadband market, where 100M bps (bits per second) fiber-optic connections are available for around US$40 per month.
But users are in the spotlight too because many of them don't even take a few simple steps to protect their computers. Some don't bother with antivirus software or, if installed, let it expire after a year so they're running with out-of-date software.
So it's not surprising that priests at Kanda Myojin Shrine, a shrine that sits close to the Akihabara electronics district, will bless PCs to help protect them against virus infection. But if that doesn't work or for users looking for something a little less holy there is someone else to turn to: Norton Fighter.
Clad in tight white pants, a yellow vest and yellow mask, call out his name and he'll come to the rescue like any good superhero. And he even has a theme song.
Norton Fighter was created by Symantec to help educate consumers about the dangers of viruses and to sell its Norton range of products in Japan. There's a Web site where a comic book version of the character informs on the dangers of having an unprotected computer and, of course, there are also YouTube videos featuring Norton Fighter.
Watch (it's subtitled in English) in horror as a computer virus takes over an average Japanese office only seconds after its cocksure salesman, fresh from a meeting with an antivirus software salesman, cracks jokes with his employees. "I've head of chicken flu but never PC flu," and "If my PC has a virus I'll take it to the hospital," being just a couple of the one-liners muttered right before disaster strikes.
It's good stuff guaranteed to cater to fans of camp Internet comedy.
But the most excitement is in the Norton Fighter show, which occasionally appears outside of major electronics stores in Japan and is making an appearance at this week's Tokyo Game Show. In a series of skits, a group of characters dressed in black, each one a computer virus, begins attacking a couple of computer users by tricking them into opening attachments or visiting suspect Web sites.
When it all gets too much the call goes out and Norton Fighter is on the scene and in almost no time the baddies are disabled with a series of kicks and blows that would make any B-movie director proud. The happy computer users thank Norton Fighter for keeping them safe, of course.
It's a light-hearted and totally Japanese way of getting across the serious message to install and keep such software up-to-date. And it also makes for some souvenir photos.
At a recent performance in Tokyo a small crowd gathered to watch the show and afterward have their pictures taken with Norton Fighter, who appeared to be as much of a hit with kids and women as he was with young, male computer users.