What a coincidence! I had been thinking about Hello Kitty for the past few days and I see this trending on Twitter moments:
Monday night trivia, try not to use Google. Why does Hello Kitty not have a mouth?
— JFitzpatrickMauldin (@jfmauldin) February 21, 2017
What if Hello Kitty's nose is actually her mouth? pic.twitter.com/bLJh8sBa6Y
— Me, Stacy (@SilverStGroud) November 7, 2016
@jfmauldin the patriarchy?
— Laura Holland (@LauraHolland) February 21, 2017
First created in 1974 by the Japanese creator Yuko Shimizu, Hello Kitty has garnered enormous worldwide attention and love over the past few decades. The reason that she doesn’t have a mouth, according to Sanrio spokespeople, is that she is a comforter who speaks from the heart and listens to people. The message here is that her lack of mouth allows people to “project their feelings onto the character”. It’s also the reason why she has two big perky ears, along with the fact that—I mean, she is a kitty after all.
It’s often like this with Asian characters.
In America we have the iconic Mickey Mouse and other sorts of Disney or Looney Tunes characters, like Elsa and Bugs Bunny and Tweety and Olaf. And then there are Arthur and SpongeBob and Barney. Or Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Calvin and Hobbes. But they all share something in common; it’s that they’re fictional characters existing inside a cartoon and its universe, whether on TV, movie screens, or paper.
Not so much in East Asian cultures, particularly ones in Japan and Korea.
Sure, there are fictional characters from Pokémon and Sailor Moon and you name it, but the characters in East Asia are not always from a cartoon or an anime. Sometimes they’re birthed as a franchise as the creators try to reflect a cultural sentiment for the purpose of selling merchandise to their respective generation. They don’t have a specific cartoon attributed to their names and get mass produced into merchandise after the cartoon makes a hit.
Just like Sanrio and Hello Kitty, the stories are the characters and the characters, the story. Many debuted in a flash animation (a popular video medium on the Internet in the late 90s and early 2000s) for marketing purposes, and their wide variety of merchandise ranges from necklace to pencils to toasters to chewing gum.
Here are 6 notable characters that were popular in Asia:
Hello Kitty (Duh)
— Hello Kitty (@hellokitty) February 23, 2017
We got one of these Hello Kitty toasters for the office today! pic.twitter.com/Lwlo2zWW25
— Andrea Lai (@andreatl) December 30, 2013
Just…Hello Kitty. Need I explain more?
Keroppi, who loves to play sports like baseball and frisbees, is one of the many characters created and distributed by Sanrio.
Mashimaro (aka Yeopki Tokki)
마시마로 개굡다>♡< pic.twitter.com/hbJd1o1n8x
— 메트 RT💗 룽 (@loong_love) February 10, 2017
— 김민권 (@minguenjjang) January 19, 2017
Creator: Kim Jae In
This cute little bunny has its signature line eyes, and is often seen carrying around a toilet plunger.
— 독수 (@c1ap99) January 25, 2017
— 💙샴님 아내💙 마셜린💜 (@dorocy6773) February 5, 2017
(This is Pucca’s boyfriend Garu)
This Korean-made Chinese character debuted in a flash animation in 2000 and is known to bicker with her boyfriend Garu.
카카오 뮤지엄도 다녀옴ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ 사진은 라이언밖에 없음.. pic.twitter.com/FB6gs6ktKu
— 밈 (@MExo1296) February 14, 2017
태연와 라이언 너무 귀엽다!! 😍💕 사랑해~ pic.twitter.com/BuLK3T5ZYk
— Taeng's Voice 🎤❤️ (@Orrism) February 23, 2017
Creator: Kakao Talk
Love this guy! He’s an integral part of Kakao Friends’ franchise of character merchandise, and this particular character is known to be compassionate and a real friend to lean on. His name is a play on the word “lion” (Ryan and lion are spelled the same way in Korean), because surprise! He’s not a bear like you thought he was. He’s a lion without a mane and so he’s a bit insecure…but nonetheless loving! As you can see he’s the most popular amongst his friends.
— Tim Snider (@timpsnider) February 23, 2017
Gudetama must be an army too ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ZzkfzuHYD1
— Angel (@fluffyjungkooki) February 23, 2017
— Gudetama (@GudetamaEnglish) February 22, 2017
— ✨WSQ✨ (@Westerns_SQ) February 14, 2017
Eggs have the potential to be anything: poached, fried, hard-boiled, soft-boiled…Not Gudetama. This lazy egg is the latest creation by Sanrio, and his favorite activity is to lay in one position with a bacon blanket. He has neither motivation nor emotion; this guy literally doesn’t want to do anything. It made a big hit as many Japanese millennials say Gudetama reflects their state of being.
Of course, Sanrio and Kakao Friends have so many more in their franchise, but what do you think? Do you have any favorite character from your childhood that you remember?
By Hyeyoung Jung · Contributor