I really love the Tryworks character Kapibara-san (カピバラさん/Mr. (?) Capybara). Here are just a few of the Kapibara-san items I own:
Isn’t it adorable? Real capybaras are adorable too, in a similar kind of way; they both seem hopeless and helpless, yet carefree.
I also like another character by Sanrio called Kutsushita Nyanko (靴下にゃんこ/Socks Kitty).
There are several factors that draw me to these characters.
1) Like I said above, there’s the helpless-yet-carefree angle, presented in both the situations the characters are shown in, and also in things like small, almost useless limbs (no fingers or toes).
2) There’s also the big eyes and small-to-nonexistent mouth, the combination of which encourages empathy towards the character, while presenting them as non-threatening (no teeth, probably can’t talk much either [non-judgmental]). This combination can be seen in many of Japan’s most popular characters, including Hello Kitty (ハローキティ) and Rilakkuma (リラックマ/Relaxed Bear).
3) Finally, there’s a very important soft-and-squishy aspect to these characters, which manifests itself both in the literal merchandise being stuffed animal-heavy, and the character design just looking smushable.
Now, let’s compare these characters to Mickey Mouse.
1) Long limbs; big feet in big, clunky shoes; almost-fully formed hands with opposable thumbs. He’s definitely not helpless. He could probably kick your butt.
2) His eyes are biggish but his mouth is even bigger.
3) He doesn’t look squishy at all; if anything, he looks more wiry and muscular.
Mickey Mouse is super popular in Japan too, along with the Japanese characters I mentioned above. However, I, personally, am not into him. In fact, by my standards of cuteness listed above, the only Disney character I find cute is mayyyyyybe Winnie the Pooh.
I recently downloaded the app Tsum Tsum (pronounced “tsumu tsumu,” from 積む積む, “stack stack”), a Disney-sponsored game connected to the Line app. While the game itself is a lowest-common-denominator version of the match-3 formula, the opening animation almost brought me to tears the first time I saw it:
No mouths! No legs! No fingers! Undeniably squishy! Is this really Disney?
You can even buy stuffed Tsum Tsum in the Disney Store!
I’m taking the existence of Tsum Tsum as proof that the world is waking up to the appeal of the soft, weak, cute character.
How about you? Do you dig?