The honeymoon between the characters and the Japanese
The story of Japan can be compared to the story of Japanese love for characters.
From a young age, the Japanese have grown up surrounded by heroes from manga and animated television series, as well as their derivative products.
The characters are friends, heroes who are admired, and sometimes even lovers. They teach how to live, how to make friends, …
The Japanese who had such a childhood in the 1960s and 1970s are now adults, and the culture of characters has also become the business of adults.
Many characters are thick enough to capture the interest of adults, sensitive to their complex psychology and the social context that escaped them when they were children.
The 50s and 60s
It’s obvious that the wide distribution of manga and the generalization of the use of television allowed the emergence of a true culture of characters.
In 1962, as the number of televisions in Japan surpassed the ten million mark, cartoons began to appear regularly on the small screen, generating great interest:
Astro boy, Tetsuwan Atomu in Japanese, took his first steps in 1952 with the publication of the mangaOsamu Tezuka which quickly made him popular.
Its cartoon adaptation subsequently garnered a record audience of 40% of viewers. So far, more than 800 products derived from the famous character have been released.
Thanks to the multiple reruns of the cartoon and the remake of it in Hollywood in 2009, Astro Boy retains its popularity intact even today.
In 1964, the year of the Olympic Games Tokyo, color television is born. The success of the cartoon series led to the sale of many products derived from characters.
Ultraman, which made its debut in 1966, thus became a real social phenomenon, the children snatching the figurines and other derivative products bearing the effigy of the superhero and the monsters he fights.
It’s about a particularly prosperous decade for Japanese characters. She sees the birth of Masked Rider, The Rangers, Hello Kitty, Mobile Suit Gundam, etc… whose by-products still invade the archipelago today.
These many popular characters are an integral part of the lives of children and even intrude into the lives of adults.
It was at this time that Hello Kitty, now globally renowned, paves the way for kawaii culture (cute), symbolized above all by Japanese characters.
It was also in the 1970s that the first Comic Market and that manga magazines begin to be published, all of this forming the basis of otaku culture.
Over the course of this decade, increasingly close and diversified links are therefore woven between the characters and Japanese society, which has become more complex since the period of high economic growth (diversion of the Yodogo plane to North Korea , oil shocks, Lockheed case).
With the 1980s, character culture, until then centered around television and manga, diversified significantly. The appearance of the family game console illustrates this development well.
Right after launch by Nintendo from his family computer in 1983, the games Super mario bros, Dragon quest and Final fantasy meet an enormous success which, even today, has not been denied.
Likewise, infatuation is common for characters associated with products such as chocolate. Bikkuriman, the erasers Kinnikuman, Nameneko.
The heroes of Mobile Suit Gundam particularly stand out. With their intricate human shapes and sophisticated robot design, they are the ultimate in Japanese character culture.
Japan enters the winter years symbolized by the bursting of the economic bubble. They are marked with the Kobe earthquake and thesarin gas attack in the Tokyo metro.
Enjo-kosai (prostitution of young Japanese women) and hikikomori (young people cloistered in their room) are becoming worrying social phenomena.
During this time, the character culture also changed. Family game consoles are becoming more and more popular with the appearance at the beginning of the decade of the “Super Famicon” and the ” Playstation “.
The Tamagotchi, a portable electronic game from Bandai, is enjoying unprecedented success. The Purikura (“print club”) and Hello Kitty are all the rage with high school girls, preceding the fashion for soothing characters such as TarePanda.
The 90s are also the time when Neon Genesis Evangelion becomes a social phenomenon and where the otaku culture takes shape.
Franchise Pokemon is undoubtedly an icon of the beginning of the 21st century.
Since their appearance in 1996 as a video game for the Nintendo Game Boy, the Pokemon have appeared in cartoons for television, films, collectible card games and other related products, as well as in international events.
The Pokemon brand has grossed over 3 billion yen. When it comes to Japanese character culture, Pokemon can be considered a must see.
At the same time, the character market is entering a phase of maturation. Products are marketed in the short term, and the emergence of social phenomena comparable to Pokemon is increasingly difficult.
In such a context, the adorable Rilakkuma and the animated series Haruhi Suzumiya, whose heroine is a young and beautiful otaku, are beautiful popular successes.
Living in the realm of characters
When talking about Japanese culture, it is essential to emphasize theomnipresence of derivative products in everyday life.
They are everywhere: not only in children’s rooms, but also in places used by adults – students, office workers, etc. They are of course found in private spaces, but it is common to see them too. in workplaces, placed on desks or adorning common areas.
These are undoubtedly the high school girls who have integrated the characters the most into their daily lives. Hanging from their schoolbag and cell phone are an incredible number of large, extravagantly shaped figurines, and their school supplies and cosmetics are covered in figures.
The future of the characters
In recent years, characters created from a different kind of philosophy and innovative means of expression have appeared and are enjoying huge popularity.
The keywords characterizing this phase of the characters’ history are “yawarakasa” (softness, suppleness) and “yurusa” (softness, openness).
With the advent of Adobe Flash technology, it became possible to create and upload high quality animated films at low cost.
Since then, many creations have followed one another with the qualities of flexibility and openness specific to this new medium. From these Flash animations were born characters as popular as Yawara Tank and Eagle Talon.
At the same time, in the realm of real CG animation, The World of Golden Eggs, which describes the singular Golden Eggs living in the legendary town of Turkey’s Hill, has attracted a large audience.
The innovative “soft” and “mellow” expression of his characters has, in turn, opened up new possibilities.
On the other hand, characters such as Hikonyan and Sento-kun (known as “yurukyara” or “soft characters”) created by local communities have also drawn attention.
Since they were not designed with commercial logic, they have a strength and charm that earn them a multitude of fans.
Characters integrated into Japanese society
The characters have become an essential part of the daily life of the Japanese today. They have integrated into society, for some without seeming to, for others with a certain boldness.
Men and women, young and old, all Japanese love characters.
It is therefore not surprising to come across a two-year-old boy on a tricycle wearing a T-shirt, helmet and bag adorned with characters, schoolchildren absorbed by a card game of characters, students reveling in a kyaraben (character-shaped bento), an office worker warming up with a character-patterned blanket, the director of a renowned company wearing the transformation belt he had dreamed of since childhood, a businessman staring at a plastic figurine of a pretty girl or even an elderly man drinking tea from a cup covered with figures offered by his grandson.