February 20, 2007

In case anyone's interested, the last post was the full text of my entry to the recent school speech contest (luckily I only had to give it in front of my class, not the entire school). It is a somewhat inarticulate screed on manga and the proclivity of cartoon characters and their usage. I wanted to talk about how manga seems to play a much more important role here than in other countries, and how cartoon characters (and the whole "kawaii" thing) are used here much more widely and in ways they wouldn't be in the West; for example in health insurance posters at city hall.

One good example of this (that I really could've done with using but didn't think of until afterwards, grrrr) is how every major and not-so-major city in Japan seems to have it's own mascot-type character, known collectively as yuru-kyara. Take, for instance, the city of Hikone (hee-koh-neh) in Shiga prefecture, which has created the character of Hiko-nyan (left), which is a kind of samurai cat thing, to represent itself ('nyan' is the Japanese equivalent of 'meow').

可愛いでしょう?

A full-size costume of the character is often created to be used for publicity purposes (you can see Hiko-nyan in action here). One of the greatest pieces of television I have ever seen was a two-hour special, shown sometime last year, where they brought 20 or 30 of these yuru-kyara together and made them have a It's A Knockout!-style contest (the show's website is here, Japanese. The links in the table on the right-hand side show the poor sods who took part).

ゆるキャラ

2 comments:

tom February 23, 2007 2:19 AM  

"Hiko-nyan in action"??? That's a bloke in a suit walking around a bit, that's what that is! But does that stop people commenting along the lines of "ka-wa-i-i-"?

No, it does not.

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