Court slaps Hello Kitty for stealing bunny

miffy-copied1Sanrio has lost a cut of the oh-so-lucrative Benelux market (that’s Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, FYI). A Dutch court has ruled that

a minimalist rabbit character dreamed up by Sanrio Co., the Tokyo-based parent company of the Hello Kitty empire, infringes on the rights of her arch-nemesis, Miffy.

Do you love the idea that Kitty has an arch-nemesis as much as I do? A peremptory inspection of the characters appears to support the court’s decision. Given how generic they both look it’s hard for me to believe anyone deserves a copyright here. I mean how many ways are there to draw a cartoon bunny anyway?

life in hell

Oh, shut up Groening.

A character based on a pastry is killing Hello Kitty

anpanmanI just don’t want to live in a world without a nation as weird as Japan – and thankfully I don’t have to. Where else but Japan would you encounter Anpanman, which the NYT says is “a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television”? (Dear NYT: An Anpan is filled with bean paste, not jam.) Further, where else would Jelly Donut Man be the best-selling character image in a nation obsessed with the images of cute cartoon characters?

According to the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank (!!!!), Anpanman’s image is outselling the perennial powerhouse Pokémon and the rapidly fading Hello Kitty. This is quite a blow for Sanrio’s Kitty, who invented the category of cute characters created solely to sell product. Kitty is also facing challenge from two newcomers the panda Tarepanda, and Rilakkuma (“Relaxing bear.”FYI,  Rilakkuma has a sidekick Korilakkuma whose name translates into, and I’m not making this up, “co-relaxing bear.”) — which has charged up the Character Databank charts and ranks fifth in the latest survey.

As an aside (isn’t this whole blog an aside?) it is interesting to note Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered. That is the same year that Mrs. CollateralDamage made her pilgrimage to Sanrio Purio Land, the HK theme park near Tokyo. Coincidence? I report. You decide.

 

Fetishized girls join Hello Kitty, Doreamon as “cute” Japanese ambassadors

Japan’s latest ambassadors in marketing are a young woman dressed as a schoolgirl, another as a Victorian doll in voluminous frilly skirts and a singer dressed in a polka dot shirt with a bunny print, offset by bouffant back-combed hair. They join the previously named ambassadors Hello Kitty and Doraemon as the latest weapons in the nations attempt to conquer the world with cute.

Faced with the prospect of being overtaken in both economic and military might by giant neighbor China, Japan has been making concerted efforts to boost its “soft power,” a strategy that analysts see as important. “You get people to love your culture and use that as a way of gaining power around the world,” said Phil Deans, professor of international relations at Temple University’s Tokyo campus “Whether this is a strategy on which the world’s second largest economy can base its diplomacy, I have yet to be convinced.”

School girls are a huge theme in Japan’s sexual psyche – any questions on that issue can be answered by this post over at Tokyo Mango.

Japanese man tries to make cartoon marriage real

And to think the Right was worried about gay marriage

A Japanese man has enlisted hundreds of people in a campaign to allow marriages between humans and cartoon characters, saying he feels more at ease in the “two-dimensional world.”

Which is why he works for the Bush administration… ba dum dum….

The comic (not to say cartoon) possibilities are endless here:

  • Didn’t Rodney Dangerfield have a cartoon marriage?
  • Whole new realms of infidelity become possible. Or, as Jessica Rabbit put it: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”
  • Instead of a divorce you get your marriage erased.
  • What if the character dies in the comic book? Do you get bereavement leave? How about life insurance?
  • What if the character is later brought back to life? Do you have to give the money back?
  • Plastic surgery just got a whole lot cheaper.
  • How do cartoons pay alimony?
  • Where do couples register for gifts?
  • Will a licensing fee replace the wedding license?

Japanese government now regretting naming Hello Kitty and Doraemon as ambassadors. The petition may have support in very high places, “Prime Minister Taro Aso is an avid fan of manga and recently complained that he has been too busy to read comic books since taking office.”

Best line in the story: “Japan only permits marriage between human men and women.”

I will support this petition only if we ad an amendment that allows me to adopt Ein from Cowboy Bebop and PenPen from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Or maybe they could adopt me.

Hello Kitty is 2nd marketing logo to be named ambassador by Japan

Japan has named Kitty an official tourism ambassador today. This follows the appointment last March of Doreamon to be the nation’s anime ambassador. While the press and public have been fooled into thinking these are benign actions, there is in fact a strong militaristic bent to both figures that should not be ignored. Both are frequently seen carrying weapons. I believe this is in fact Japan’s latest attempt at global domination.

I know first-hand the tourist power of the Kitty. It was the lure of the Sanrio Puroland theme park in Tokyo that got Mrs. CollateralDamage to convince us to go to Japan for a vacation (no complaints about this from me, btw). I am hoping that the siren call of Sanrio Harmonyland gets us back there for another visit.

If not she will have to make do with the multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty that opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. “Hello Kitty’s Dream Light Fantasy” is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run. And there’s also the fact that, “according to her official profile from Sanrio, Hello Kitty lives with her family in London, which we will be visiting later this year.

Nickelodeon wasting marketing opportunity for Avatar: The Last Airbender

appaAs a fan of the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender I am perplexed why the network is ignoring the best marketing opportunities for it. The show is an American anime that takes many of the familiar themes of the genre — magical children, the struggle against an evil empire, etc. — and used them to tell a story that is emotionally satisfying, intelligent and fun. It doesn’t hurt that it happily borrows ideas from some of the all-time great anime. For example, there is the air bison Appa (left) a homage to the cat bus (below right) in Miyazake’s My Neighbor Totoro. It is a show that Collateral Damage Jr. and I watch together happily.

From what I’ve seen Nick has marketed this in the exact same manner it has marketed other successful animated shows like Bob L’ePonge and The Fairly Oddparents. They have done licensing to major toy makers and the fast fooders. There are also the t-shirts, hats, backpacks and other standard items. Given this and the fact that the show is about to enter its fourth season, some may wonder why I am saying Nick is missing it with the show’s marketing.

catbusI just returned from my annual sojourn at Anime Boston — a three-day long fest of anime, manga, and anything vaguely related to that. The last semi-official attendance figure I heard was 14,000, so it’s no small thing. There were Avatar fans in abundance, as there have been at every anime convention I’ve been to since the show debuted in 2004. It is easy to tell who the fans are. They’re the people dressed as the series’ characters (even Appa) in costumes they made themselves. They are also the artists selling their own drawings of of the various characters (if Nick interferes with that then they are truly idiots). Each one of these people is an asset being ignored by Nick.

The age range for these conferences is generally high school to early 30s (I am an outlier, to put it mildly) — well past the 6-11 slot that Nick mostly aims at. The con features an enormous dealer’s section where people come to find tchotchkes of all sizes emblazoned with their favorite characters on them. Indeed, the dealers’ room is always a huge draw at these things. I spent a lot of time in it — as usual — I can report that all those dealers didn’t have so much as a single Avatar item for sale. In fact I have never seen an Avatar item for sale at any of these cons. A glance at the Nick online store makes it clear why.  Other than the Avatar t-shirts and plushies, there is nothing that any fan in this age group would buy. These are people who want to wear their brand identification — which rules out action figures and Lego sets.

My entirely anecdotal research suggests that Nick isn’t having much luck with selling these items to the 6-11ers. I always see a LOT of Avatar merchandise in the discount aisles at Toy R Us and other big boxers.

It seems to me that this is an example of Nick ignoring The Long Tail — selling less to more people — and blowing the opportunity to turn Avatar from a niche hit into a genuine phenomenon. As a result of its inability to market patches, stickers, keychains, clothing and accessories that might appeal to anyone over the age of 11, Nick is leaving a lot of money current and future money on the table.

Anime fans are trendspotters and trendsetters for the youth market. These are the folks who knew about Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Emily The Strange,  and a host of other brands long before they became mainstream sales phenomenons. While some of them (including CD Jr.,) are in the 6-11 age range, most are not. But they are enormous influencers on this market. That’s because they are the big brothers/sisters who define cool for the under 12-set.

Another thing Nick needs to know is that the anime community is very design conscious — so it’s not enough to simply slap the characters on to product. Find some good graphic artists — I’m sure the folks behind Avatar could point you in the right direction — and apply the same creativity that marks Avatar the show to its marketing. Some outreach/listening to the fans the show already has could make Avatar into a SpongeBob Squarepants type of earner for Nick. Failure to do this will make it nothing more that a slightly more successful Code Lyoko — the French anime franchise that Cartoon Network killed with its one-size-fits-all approach to marketing cartoons.

Drug lord: Say Hello (Kitty) to my little friend

ktpillsHello Kitty, the Japanese cartoon figure popular with teenagers around the world, was used by a notorious Colombian drug lord to hide messages to his minions, according to a report Monday. Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, who is being held in Brazil after his arrest in August, hid voice and text messages digitally encoded into e-mailed images of the innocent feline, Brazilian police told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

Sanrio turned in Mr. Abadia after the company signed an exclusive licensing agreement with a different drug lord.

Hello Kitty goes butch — launches line of products for guys

HK for guys“We think Hello Kitty is accepted by young men as a design statement in fashion,” company spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu said Friday. The feline for-men products will go on sale in Japan next month, and will be sold soon in the U.S. and other Asian nations, according to Sanrio. … The usual bubble-headed shape of Hello Kitty was slightly changed for a more rugged, cool look to appeal to men in their teens and early 20s. For example, a picture of the cat on a 4,095 yen (US$36; €25) black T-shirt has the words, “hello kitty,” instead of the usual dots for the eyes and nose.

Coming soon: Hello Kitty power tools, jock straps, hand guns and a football team. I sense a photoshop contest.

Thanks to the great TokyoMango blog for the pic.

And extra thanks to evil board gamer Joe Kidd for the link to the picture below on the wonderfully twisted blog RifleGear.com.

 Kitty 16

 Remember: Guns don’t kill people, people do … especially very cute people with very cute guns.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Brand synergy: Homer Simpson donut maker & Hello Kitty scale

Two new gadgets provide the perfect mashup for the upcoming uber-brand, Hello Homer:

  1. donutThe Simpson’s Doughnut Maker. The Doughnut maker prepares six sumptuous donuts in minutes in its non-stick coated interiors. Hence the donuts don’t have a chance to stick to the maker and allows easy clean up. The Donut maker is small enough so it doesn’t even take much space to pack up inside the cupboard and its ease of usage makes it a great delicacy-maker for kids. $18. BUT WAIT! I hear you cry. WHAT ABOUT THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC IN KIDS? Fear not, little one, for we also have the
  2. scaleHello Kitty Multi Functional Scale. For a mere $130, the scale tells you your water level (?? I haven’t been able to find out what the hell that means??), calorie and whether you are overweight or underweight. You can set your gender, age first and this Multi-functional Health Scale will show you how healthy you are and you can improve from there on. And this being an HK product one of the other multi functions is, of course, cute. The combined donut maker and scale would tell you how many donuts you can have and whether you’re cute enough.

All hail our new brand overlord! Or is it our brand new overlord?

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Headline of the day: SpongeBob Squarepants Digital Camera Is Neither Square-Shaped Nor Made Of Sponges

What more do you need to know?

spongebob

UPDATE: This camera neither says Hello nor is it a Kitty, however it does take pictures with 5 megapixels worth of data:

HKCamera

The ultimate in targeting the women’s market: The Hello Kitty AK-47

This puts that pink shotgun all to shame. Does HelloKittyHell* have one of these?

Hello Kitty AK

GlamGuns is the best satire site I’ve seen in a long time. Be sure to check out My First Carbine.

glamgunsLadies! Has your daughter succumbed to societal brainwashing? Does she refuse toy soldiers for Barbie and pass up BB guns for My Little Pony or Hello Kitty items? Have you despaired of interesting her in the practical aspects of life, such as weaponry and self-defense?

If so, this site is for YOU!

At GlamGuns.com, we’ve combined the girliness of glamor with the practicality of military expertise and have created a collection that will make your child shriek with joy! From the My Little M4 Carbine to the Hello Kitty “HK-AK-47”, you’ll find something for the little girl in everyone!

And we haven’t forgotten the Moms!

From the rocket launcher inspired by Mother Theresa to the Martha Stewart colors Claymore mines, the Glambo Signature Collection has something for you as well!

Hmmm, SSG Big Brother Collateral Damage is having a birthday this week… hmmm…

*Not only does HelloKittyHell have it, they have the whole freakin’ Hello Kitty arsenal.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

Not very pretty in pink: Monopoly for girls

There are about a trillion different editions of Monopoly out there all of which appeal to different segments of the population. For ironists there is the Dot Com edition (yeah, I got it). CollateralDamage Jr. owns something like three different Star Wars editions (one of which is a really cool design with place on the board to hold the deeds until you buy them). Apparently the one segment not yet targeted is actually 51% of the population. Thus Monopoly in pink. Ugliest edition ever? You decide. I just hope they gave Mr. Moneybags some gender re-assignment surgery. Hey Hasbro, how about just releasing the Hello Kitty edition here in the US?

pinkmonopoly

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank