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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

About Sanrio Characters

By Yuna Uemura

(Japanese translation coming soon.)

What kind of character do you think of when you think of Sanrio characters? There are various characters, such as My Melody, Pompompurin, and Cinnamoroll. There are 246 characters in Sanrio, including ones made in collaboration, so some of them may not be well known. Recently, Hello Kitty opened her own YouTube channel called Hello Kitty Channel in August 2018, and other characters are also starting SNS such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. In addition, new characters such as KIRIMI-chan, who is a salmon fillet character, and Mafumofu Biyori, which depicts a white bear boy Moppu and his friends, have appeared. And last year, the colorful five-member cats girl Beatcats made its debut.

Sanrio is made up of the Spanish word for "sacred river" called Saint River. It started in 1973 with a character named Koro-chan, a bear who lives in Windermere, England. The following year, Hello Kitty and the couple Patty & Jimmy were also introduced. In December of that year, the Sanrio Film Corporation of America in Hollywood, USA was established. In April 1975, the Strawberry News, a monthly magazine that continues to be published, was published. And in August of that year, the first animated movie "Small Jumbo" was released.

In April 1978, a U.S. documentary about the life of the Debolt family who adopted a war orphan who was disabled in the Vietnam War and other children with various disabilities. They now have a large family of 21 people. "Who Are the DeBolts" won the American Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary influenced many Sanrio characters, such as, the Chinese-born fish man Hangyodon and the frog Keroppi in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, the golden hamster boy Korokoro Kuririn and Hello Kitty's boyfriend Dear Daniel. In the 2000s, characters such as the rabbit girl Usahana continued to be developed one after another.

Next, let's look at overseas reactions. First of all, the duck pekkle is popular in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, yellow has long been auspicious as a color that symbolizes money as well as gold, but recently, the English word duck is similar to the Catonese "dah" which means "can do." Therefore, it has come to be said that it is auspicious as it implies success. That may be the reason behind its popularity.

Next, Christine Yano, a professor at Harvard University and a visiting professor of Japanese studies explains the secret of Hello Kitty's popularity in the United States, which has become synonymous with "Kawaii." "It has a nostalgic feeling and has an aesthetically pleasing design. Since Hello Kitty has a blank expression, people can give it any expression they choose. The Japanese culture of "kawaii" has attracted many fans and has grown into a large force from the 1970s to the 1980s.”

Finally, there is Retsuko Aggressive. She is a red panda who works in the accounting department of Khara Leeman Shoji Co., Ltd. Season 1 has been available worldwide on Netflix since April 2018, and BuzzFeed states that Sanrio has created a character that surpasses Hello Kitty. The reason is that, contrary to her cute looks, it depicts the dissatisfaction that women have at work and has gained a lot of sympathy.

In addition to the Sanrio characters, there is also the Sanrio Collaboration Cafe and the Sanrio Character Award. The Sanrio Character Award is an event in which 80 selected characters, starting in 1986, are ranked by the number of votes obtained from the web and Sanrio shops. Let's focus on the ranking for the three years from 1986. In 1986, the 1st place was Zashikibuta, the 2nd place was Snoopy, and the 3rd place was Hangyodon. In 1987, 1st place was Maron Cream, 2nd place was Snoopy, 3rd place was Minna no Tabo, and in 1988, 1st place was Minna No Tabo, 2nd place was Snoopy, and 3rd place was Pokopon Diary. As a side note, Hello Kitty has the highest number of awards, and Snoopy is in the ranking because Sanrio has a license to sell it in Japan.

Now let's look at Sanrio collaboration cafes and amusement parks. Both amusement facilities have restaurants and attractions such as Kitty's House and Character Boat Ride, but the difference is that Harmony Land in Oita Prefecture is centered on outdoor attractions, and Puroland in Tokyo is centered on the stage indoors. In addition, there is a limited-time character collaboration cafe and OTARU CAFE✕HELLO KITTY in Otaru, Hokkaido. There is also a SANRIO CAFE in Yokohama and Ikebukuro, and a Pompompurin Cafe in Harajuku.

There may be many people who have seen Sanrio character animations or who have been to Sanrio shops when they were a child. The anime Doraemon also introduced the Sanrio character design "I'm Doraemon." A kids variety program of Sanrio characters called "Fun Fun Kitty!" Started in April, and this year is the 25th anniversary of Pompompurin, so various items and anniversary foods are on sale and events are being held. There are many characters that are cute and cool, but without appearing childish, so you may be able to find a character that suits you.


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