She started out life as a coin purse image. And from there she’s rocketed to stardom.
Well, not rocketed, exactly. Sanrio’s famed Hello Kitty ranged in popularity among the company’s stable of trademarked images over the years, ranging from “near the top” to “about to get axed” throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It is very much a story of the success that almost wasn’t.
That said, it is a success, and a worldwide one. After surviving a couple of rounds of “layoffs” over the years, where Sanrio stopped producing material decorated with low-selling images, she caught fire in the 1990s (not literally; just because she’s a celebrity doesn’t mean she’s Michael Jackson or Richard Pryor) and is now a recognized icon.
The character’s boom truly started when a designer looked at the British cartoon character (yes, she’s British. Created in Japan, but at the time the character was created, British culture was very popular in Japan) and decided she needed a fleshed-out backstory. That was enough to create a spark that drove Hello Kitty to adorn all sorts of merchandise. Handbags, plush toys, earrings, shirts, guitars, rifles, sex toys…
…okay, okay, it’s not a sex toy, it’s a “shoulder massager”.
Wait, you were surprised by the gun? Don’t be.
Hello Kitty is everywhere! Sometimes, granted, in places she arguably shouldn’t be, but… everywhere!
And now she’s on a bullet train as well. Because nothing says, “High-speed commuter rail” like a cartoon of a young British girl who happens to be a cat. Or at least catlike. Sanrio surprised everyone when they announced she’s not a cat, which makes her arguably the most popular genetic freak image ever. (LA Times)
Still, she’s got her newest train, and the world is happy. Or confused. From the Straits Times:
The special white and shocking pink Shinkansen or bullet train departed from Hakata station in Fukuoka for Osaka, waved off by a conductor dressed in a Hello Kitty outfit – complete with the character’s trademark pink ribbon – and watched by a crowd of some 400, according to local media.
The train will run for the next three months between the western cities of Osaka and Fukuoka, the West Japan Railway Company said, hoping that one of the country’s most famous exports will boost tourism.
Inside the train, Hello Kitty smiles down from the shades of every window, while one car features a “life-sized Hello Kitty doll” for fans to take selfies with.
This is where I’d normally try to end the story with a punchy summation or an attempt at humor, but… I just can’t. The kawaii (cuteness) is just too much for me… must… leave.
Question of the night, though: what’s your favorite cartoon character?