Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hello Kitty, Child of the Netherlands?

Japan has had great success in marketing its characteristic and simply-drawn "characters" throughout the world, especially in Asia (such as Hong Kong and Taiwan). These characters are perhaps best epitomized by the arguably most famous of them all, Hello Kitty, who was created by the Sanrio company in 1974, leading way to even more characters of the same sort of aesthetic. It is this sort of aesthetic that is often seen as"Japanese" now, especially that other companies in Japan have also created similar characters (such as San-X's popular Rilakkuma, created in 2003).

However, it is important to note that Miffy, a rabbit character very similar to Hello Kitty, was created in 1955, 19 years before Hello Kitty, by Dick Bruna in the Netherlands (Miffy's Dutch name is Nijntje). Dick himself thinks that Hello Kitty is a clear copy of Miffy, as he noted in the July 31, 2008 edition of the British paper The Daily Telegraph:"'That,' he says darkly, 'is a copy [of Miffy], I think. I don't like that at all. I always think, "No, don't do that. Try to make something that you think of yourself'.'"

Perhaps it is important to give credit where it is due - Japan owes its current character aesthetic to Dick Bruna,whose Miffy is often mistakenly thought of as a Japanese creation today. (Japan has, however, characteristically worked very hard to mass-produce a huge number of characters based on this aesthetic, though, which has ironically ultimately resulted in the very misconception that that aesthetic is natively Japanese.)

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