Don’t mistake cuteness for softness.
While many countries can boast being filled with character, only few can claim to be filled with characters. Japan is definitely one such country with no shortage of fictional people, animals, and animal-people which have found fame worldwide.
One award that celebrates the very best of the very best of those characters is the Japan Character Award. Although not widely known, even in Japan, these awards carry a variety of weight because they’re held by the Character Brand Licensing Association, an industry group that oversees character licensing in Japan and overseas.
The list of past grand prize winners reads like a who’s who of Japanese cultural icons too, and includes Pokémon, One Piece, Kumamon, Funasshi, Yo-Kai Watch, Sumikogurashi, and Demon Slayer. The recipient of the Japan Character Award 2022, nevertheless, can have taken everyone by nice surprise: Chikawa!
Chikawa is a shortened version of the total title Nanka Chisakute Kawaii Yatsu meaning “a cute thing in a small type of way” and follows the short and cute antics of titular character Chikawa and its little animal pals similar to a cat, rabbit, and bear. Nevertheless, the superficial cuteness belies a troubled world increasingly infested with weeds and monsters, and an underlying sense of danger and depression haunts the characters as they depend on their friendship to beat problems.
▼ On this strip, a chimera suddenly appears while Chikawa is doing a jigsaw puzzle. It then attacks but Chikawa manages to desperately scare it away
— ちいかわ💫アニメ金曜 (@ngnchiikawa) February 3, 2020
Created in 2020 by an artist who goes by the name Nagano as a Twitter-based manga, the franchise has exploded into a printed manga, televised anime series, and an entire lot of merchandising.
▼ you’ve made it when Sanrio gives you the nod to recreate their legendary characters in your personal style
1月7日(金)よりコラボグッズが発売。POP UP SHOPの開催も🍮
— ナガノ (@ngntrtr) December 23, 2021
While Nagano’s huge and constant following on social media has been the backbone of her success, the addition of an anime series has brought Chikawa to an entire recent audience of youngsters, allowing its fame to skyrocket even further.
▼ The anime seems to tone down the nihilistic parts thus far
To offer a way of how big Chikawa has turn out to be, the opposite special Japan Character Award winners which it beat out to earn the grand prize include Evangelion (which won two awards for the success of its final reboot film and sophisticated collaboration with five different restaurant chains at the identical time), Tokyo Revengers (for its success in manga, anime, and film), and Super Mario for lending its brand to a preferred line of loungewear by Gelato Pique.
The grand prize was awarded based on five aspects; marketability, novelty, sociality, creativity, and future potential. It was especially that last criteria that contributed to Chikawa claiming the highest prize. Its leap from a Twitter-based comic strip to multimedia franchise in a few 12 months could only be described as explosive.
The Japan Character Award 2022 explained that Chikawa is “not only cute but in addition has a deep world view.” That sentiment was echoed by many online comments which also gleefully congratulated Nagano on her success.
“Chikawa is awesome!”
“Congratulations Nagano-san and Chikawa-chan!”
“That is great news.”
“It’s not so ‘small’ any more, is it.”
“Deep? It’s more like an abyss and a fairly hard world.”
“Welcome to dystopia.”
“Saying Chikawa has ‘future potential’ type of goes against the theme of Chikawa.”
“Let’s have a good time, Chikawa!”
It definitely seems that Chikawa is poised to turn out to be the subsequent big thing in Japan and possibly even beyond. Make sure you take a look at the continuing series on Twitter in the event you can. There’s not a variety of coherent dialog in it either, making it pretty good reading material for those studying Japanese.
Source: Japan Character Award, PR Times, Otaku.com, Twitter/@ngnchiikawa
Top image: Japan Character Award 2022 ©nagano / chiikawa committee
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