THINGS ARE DIFFERENT IN JAPAN. Japanese cartoons, at times, can feel totally impenetrable and alien to Americans, but occasionally, that weirdness can turn into something amazing. The movies of Hayao Miyazaki are one example. Pokemon is another. Now, the makers of Hello, Kitty have a new cartoon that is a giant hit in Japan.
Meet Gudetama — an anthropomorphic, nihilistic egg.
Gudetama is tired, sad, and extremely depressed. It says things like, “Ahh… lazy… darkness… I can’t.” And, like everything Sanrio does, it’s incredibly cute.
Leave it to Japanese animators to make existential anguish absolutely adorable.
Gudetama has only been around for about a year, but it’s already immensely popular in Japan, and is going the same merchandising route as Hello Kitty.
Hot Topic, the US retailer, has also started marketing Gudetama t-shirts.
Talking to PRI, Japanese comic translator Matt Alt explained that in Japan, cartoons are more likely to have negative emotions:
“In Japan, there’s a long history of personifying and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects. Gudetama is the most recent of a long, long lineage of mascot characters.
“Many Japanese mascots will express emotions that Western mascots would not. In the West, mascots are used almost exclusively to cheer people up. In Japan, they’re often used to get a point across or act as mediators in situations where you wouldn’t want to express yourself directly.”
Depression is a tricky subject which can be taboo here in the west, as well, and having a cute, relatable character humanizing (egganizing?) these feelings can only be a good thing. So here’s to hoping Gudetama makes it as big in the US as it has in Japan.