The next cute thing?

Posted by Rob Walker on February 13, 2007
Posted Under: Cuteness

Somewhere or other I read that this character above, Mashimoro, is supposed to be Korea’s answer to Hello Kitty. Here is a series of Flash movies meant to establish Mashimor’s cutness, for leveraging on a range of fine products.

Cute enough to take on Hello Kitty? I checked in with the world’s reigning expert on these matters: Kyewt.

“Mashimaro is okkkkkkk…..,” Kyewt says. “He’s cute, but he’s no Kitty. It’s like, a different breed of cute. Koreans give it a good go, with Pucca too, but for me it’s too narrative or something. Plus, the merch is usually of lesser quality.

“Knocking it out the box though, is San-X. I like them even better than Sanrio (don’t tell Kitty). Their merchandise is great…the range is huge since it’s a longtime manufacturer of ‘fancy’ goods (tchotchke!). The brand has lots of characters and they get cuter and cuter. My sister’s favorite are the Mamegoma (tiny seals who eat soybeans and fit in the palm of your hand).

I am usually split between Rillakumun (“Relax Bear”) who is always sleeping and loves tissues and pancakes, and Nyan Nyan Nyanko, the cat who morphs into foods.

“With San-X and Sanrio, the characters have identifying personality features and maybe anecdotes (like Sanrio’s Cinnamaroll, the orphan pastry who had good fortune enough to land in a bakery where he is now surrounded by friends) but it’s so Japanese-y in its weirdness and sparseness…

“Whereas, like, Mashimoro uses bathroom humor. WTF? NOOOO. That’s a little bit on the NOT CUTE side of things.”

I expected a lot of Kyewt, but this is way beyond anything I’d imagined. It’s an avalanche of cute.

Unfortunately, the interesting-sounding San-X does not seem to have made much in the way of inroads to the U.S./English-speaking world. I gather that some of its products are available through some retailers here, but the brand doesn’t seem to have an English-language site. Kyewt is a jet-setter and, thus has access to the Japanese marketplace — not helplful to those of who don’t get out much!

Still, a round of applause to Kyewt for this outstanding overview.

Oh, and one last note specific to cuteness and Japan: Apparently, SpongeBob is catching on there. According to the L.A. Times:

SpongeBob SquarePants attracts nearly 1.9 million Japanese households to his TV show daily and is raking in a growing share of the $5 billion in annual retail sales for Nickelodeon, the Viacom Inc. unit behind the show.

And he’s doing it by capturing the hearts of Japan’s young women — not children, his most loyal fans in the U.S.

“I started collecting Bob because I think he’s cute and he stands out,” said Mayu Takahashi, a 21-year-old student who was shopping in Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku district holding a SpongeBob tote bag. “Some of my friends say he’s a creepy kind of cute.”

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Jetsetter in my mind, ok. But do I get to go to Japan often enough to satiate my San-X hunger? No! The answer — my resourceful Chinese peeps bring San-X goods over….so for every US city that has a Chinatown, there is a gift shop buried within that holds cell phone charms, giant stuffed animals, best quality stickers and more, for all Americans to enjoy. The big winners tho, are residents of San Francisco who can shop at the stationary store in Japan Town for a huge selection of the latest San-X riches. Kinokunia book stores (one in Rockefeller Plaza here in NYC and one, strangely, in the Pallisades Mall across the GW bridge) also stock a healthy range. The East Village, being NYC’s new “Little Japan” also has some down low spots, but I’m afraid of publishing them here, because well, I’m greedy.

Kid Robot SHOULD distribute some kyewt stuff too (I’m always in there requesting the semi-dirty figurines of Japanese school girls with their skirts blowing up etc, but alas no), but they’re too busy with those damn all over print hoodies.

#1 
Written By Minya on February 19th, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

Also, to whoever posted the link about Tissue San and was wondering about his whereabouts, San-X most likely did develop him….many characters are developed for the purpose of spreading government sanctioned messaging….recycling here. A favorite of mine, who isn’t around anymore is Tooth-kun, a happy little white tooth with a toothbrush friend. Sigh. You gotta get ‘em while they’re hot.

#2 
Written By Minya on February 19th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

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