Why is kawaii so popular in the West?

Angela Chen wrote about the popularity of cute culture from Japan, known affectionately as “kawaii”. The main focus of the article was Hello Kitty, with its global popularity a source of contention from some who thought it “infantilized” the country:

The widespread Japanese embrace of cute has always been self-aware and political, according to Yano. Icons like Hello Kitty were always intended to be global and the Sanrio’s founder even said that it was meant to be “the Japanese cat that overtook the American mouse.” The attitude toward kawaii has, of course, at times been mixed. Op-eds and critics have suggested that it infantilizes the country, calling Hello Kitty a potential embarrassment abroad, linking Japan too closely to kitsch.

The aggressive development of this aesthetic was not fully organic, but in fact developed with a “global wink,” as part of Japan’s plan to build cultural cachet overseas. Being associated with coolness and youth, especially globally, brings a lot of power—just ask any of the social-media sites desperate not to lose their teen users.

The fact that Japan has a cartoon culture ambassador (hi, Doraemon!) is cool to me. It’s not for everyone as many people see cultural icons such as Hello Kitty and Pokémon as “stuff for kids” but these phenomena have bypassed generational boundaries. Have the Looney Tunes made the USA look childish (it’d probably have to get in a long proverbial queue if it did)? Is Peppa Pig an embarrassment to the UK (same sentiment as before applies)? These cultural moves from Japan may be laced with capitalist ideals but they’re no worse than any other Western country doing the same. Keep it cute and keep it moving.

Toy Galaxy on Samurai Pizza Cats

The Many Controversies of Samurai Pizza Cats: Racism, Gag Dubs & Disney Trying to Kill It!

They’re cats who are also samurai and they like pizza. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, racism and a bunch of other issues stopped Samurai Pizza Cats from being greater than the premise was and Dan Larson tells the story of its history.

If you want to see what all the fuss was about, you can stream it for free on Peacock or Amazon Prime.

20 minutes of Tim Curry's voice acting

Many Voices of Tim Curry (Wild Thornberrys / FernGully / Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Tim Curry is an icon but I had no idea of the breadth of his voice acting. The Wild Thornberrys and FernGully I knew, but not Star Wars: The Clone Wars, TaleSpin, Tiny Toon Adventures, or Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? (amongst others).

Voice actor related: Phil LaMarr on his most iconic voices and Jim Cummings telling stories behind 4 fan-favorite characters he’s voiced

J. Wellington Wimpy, the patron saint of hamburglars

I saw this on Twitter today and thought it was hilarious and oddly poignant, from a modern political perspective.

In the panels, Popeye asks Rough House where J. Wellington Wimpy was to which RH replied “I ain’t seen him and I don’t want to see him—he hasn’t been around today.” Popeye calls Wimpy “arful” before showing pity for him, although RH didn’t share the sentiment:

Well, I don’t. Why, say—that fellow would commit a crime for a hamburger.

We then spot Wimpy taking out razor of some kind as he starts cutting through a barred window into a jail where incarcerated people are eating from a plate full of hamburgers. He sits down to their disbelief and says:

Ah, good evening, gentlemen. Pleasant weather, isnt it, we’re having?

Wimpy literally broke into jail, not to free the people incarcerated there, but to get some of his favourite delicacies, thus breaking the law that could have extended his voluntary visit. It reminded me of how we have the power to abolish jails or and attempt to dismantle the system behind it all but only show glimpses of that for moments that benefit us (i.e. how I’ve seen a lot of performative activism since last year’s BLM protests)

I’m probably reaching but so was Wimpy—behind bars, for another hamburger.

(via Popeye Otaku on Twitter)

A Tribute to Karl Hubenthal, One of the All-Time Great Sports Cartoonists #

Through pure coincidence, I’m posting this on what would have been Karl Hubenthal’s 104th birthday.

This from Bob Staake:

Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960’s, there were two types of people — those who read the Los Angeles Times, and those who read the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner — and our family was of that latter persuasion — Dad not knowing that the “Herald” wasn’t the best of papers, Mom not really caring, and me delighted just to be able to see Hubenthal’s cartoons each day.

Hubenthal. I’d heard it said as “hoo-ben-thal” once or twice, yet Dad had always pronounced it (rightly) “hugh-ben-thal”, and while at the time I wasn’t sure which was correct, one thing was certain: this Hubenthal could draw.

What happened to 'Hey Arnold!'?

the strange disappearance of hey arnold

Hey Arnold! was one of my favourite cartoons growing up. It was childish enough to be relatable but had an adult element to it that was weird and melancholic but endearing.

And then there was the Helga/Arnold storyline. And yes, I shipped them (before I knew what shipping was).

But after Hey Arnold!: The Movie and the show ending in 2004 (it really ended in 2000 but they delayed the final episode by 4 years which is explained in the video below), that was it. Well, until 2017 when another movie was released. So what happened to the show and why such long periods between episodes and then a film 13 years after the finale?

Nerdstalgic analysed the situation in his video:

Hey Arnold was one of Nickelodeon’s most recognizable shows. The best Hey Arnold episodes, one’s that focused on Gerald or Mr.Wynn, we’re some of the best that animation had to offer on the network. Yet, one day, the show just kind of disappeared, tossed to the side for seemingly no reason. But there was a reason, Hey Arnold got the short of the stick and this is the story of why.

And as for a reboot? It’s dependent on how well the Rugrats reboot goes according to creator Craig Bartlett in 2019. We’ll see what happens.

Stream it below.

The Strange Disappearance of Hey Arnold

The history of Toonami according to Toy Galaxy

The history of Toonami according to Toy Galaxy

Last September, Toy Galaxy discussed the history of Toonami and how a block of cartoons became an evening staple for children and adults alike to enjoy anime.

Toonami—a portmanteau of the words “cartoon” and “tsunami”—started in 1997 as a weekday afternoon cartoon block hosted by Space Ghost villain Moltar. From there, it took on many iterations, eras, new hosts, cancellations, revivals, and programming changes.

It also helped to popularise shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, and Samurai Jack, and influenced a slew of artists and gamers.

Today, in its current form, it lives as a late-night block on Adult Swim, airing mostly mature Japanese animation.

Stream the episode below.

The Packed Story of Toonami & How It Helped Make Anime Mainstream

Conflict in Literature (with Daffy Duck)

Twitter is a dumpster fire but sometimes it can provide humour and escapism.

Conflict in Literature is a meme that started as a comic in 2014:

On May 22nd, 2014, Grant Snider of Incidental Comics published a comic entitled “Conflicts in Literature.” In the comic, stick figures act out the classic conflict scenarios present in narrative art, such as “man vs. nature” and “man vs. technology,” as well as the movement in literature (“modernism,” “post-modernism,” etc.)

From there, a series of unique versions were made including one starring Daffy Duck. The original creator, Instagram user @rad_shiba, posted it on their page but has since been taken down.

I like the concept but adding Daffy Duck to each one is a masterstroke. I wonder what a Nancy version would look like.

(via @johnarmenta)

Saul Steinberg on art and philosophy in 1967

Saul Steinberg

At work, I nearly fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole but stopped myself at Saul Steinberg. The reason I even got there was because I was looking up Slash from Guns N’ Roses and discovered he was named after the artist (Slash’s real name is Saul Hudson and he was born in Hampstead, London if you didn’t already know).

Saul Steinberg was born in Romania in 1914. He studied architecture in Milan and started cartooning for humorist newspaper, Bertoldo, in 1936. Anti-semitic laws in Italy forced him to leave and he fled to the Dominican Republic in 1941. He stayed there for a year waiting for a US visa but his cartoons were already well known by the time he entered the country. Many of his drawings had featured in The New Yorker.

After World War II, his work cropped up in more popular publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His name was included in the “Fourteen Americans” show at MoMA and he embarked on an illustrious career. In 1967, he was the subject of a documentary called Saul Steinberg Talks.

Here’s a quote from early in the documentary

I think it is very important for people to run away…from home, from the mainstream, from their family, from the culture, from the society that produced them…because the moment I have to learn something new, like new habits, new languages, I myself have something like a rebirth. I reduce myself to the lowest denominator and this is very healthy for an artist. To start all over again.

Steinberg was a deep thinker and one of the greatest artist of the 20th century. His legacy now lives on through The Saul Steinberg Foundation, in accordance with his will.

Saul Steinberg Talks (1967)

10 famous hippo characters


I love hippos. I think they’re wonderful creatures. Unfortunately, the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is classed as Vulnerable (pygmy hippos are Endangered) which absolutely sucks because they’re wonderful creatures and they’re being killed for meat, their tusks, and “sport”.

But this is a positive article and it’s dedicated to ten hippos from cartoons, literature, animated movies, and anything else I could think of.

Dirk Dickerdack from Tom Poes

Dirk Dickerdack from Tom Poes
Dirk Dickerdack from Tom Poes

Tom Poes (or Tom Puss in English) was a Dutch comic launched in 1941. Its author, Marten Toonder wrote the comic until it was discontinued in 1986 and it became one of the Big Three of Dutch comics.

The main characters were Tom Puss, a little white cat, and his friend Oliver B. Bumble, a big brown bear who was the lord of a castle. Dirk Dickerdack was an affluent hippo who was mayor of Rommeldam, their home town. Unfortunately, he seemed to suffer from affluenza and cared more about the town than those who lived in it.

Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia

Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia
Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia

Hyacinth made her first appearance in Disney’s Fantasia back in 1941. She was a ballet dancer who appeared in the segment, Dance of the Hours. She represented the 12th hour, or “noon”. She also made a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Her only line was “Oh, excuse me,” when she passed Eddie Valiant. She was voiced by Mary T. Radford in the movie.

Hilda Hippo from The Busy World of Richard Scarry

Hilda Hippo
Hilda Hippo

Not to be confused with Hilda Hippo from Mickey and the Roadster Racers (voiced by April Winchell, daughter of Paul Winchell who used to voice Tigger from Winnie the Pooh). Hilda was awkward but pleasant and was allergic to roses. She appeared in numerous forms of Richard Scarry media, including the animated series which I loved as a kid.

George from Rainbow

George from Rainbow
George from Rainbow

British readers will almost certainly know George, the pink hippo from Rainbow. His shyness was said to represent shyness and introversion shown in children, as a way to relate to viewers. He was also a little camp which may have been linked to his pink exterior.

George and Martha from George and Martha

George and Martha
George and Martha

George and Martha were a pair of friendly hippos from a book series of the same name, illustrated by James Marshall between 1972 and 1988. They were later transformed into an animated children’s series in 1999, and spawned a musical in 2011. Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin voiced George and Martha.

Gloria the Hippo from Madagascar

Gloria the Hippo from Madagascar
Gloria the Hippo from Madagascar

One of the biggest hippo characters in recent times, Gloria (voiced by Jada Pinkett-Smith) was part of the gang who were taken from their home in Central Park Zoo and flown to Madagascar by mistake, where they had to learn to adapt in the wild. Gloria was the one who put the other animals straight in true Jada Pinkett-Smith style. Her daughter, Willow, voiced Gloria as a baby hippo in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.

Peter Potamus from The Peter Potamus Show and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Peter Potamus
Peter Potamus

I never saw The Peter Potamus Show so I only know him from Harvey Birdman but he was a sleazy hippo in that. He was also lazy despite his status and success and had a weird obsession with sandwiches and strippers. His catchphrase was “Did you get that thing I sent you?”

Tillie Hippo from Cats Don’t Dance

Tillie Hippo
Tillie Hippo

A more obscure hippo, Tillie starred in animated movie Cats Don’t Dance. She was voiced by Kathy Najimy (Sister Act, Hocus Pocus, King of the Hill) and played a “happy-go-lucky hippopotamus who tries to find the best in every situation”. In many ways, she was like Sister Mary Patrick from Sister Act with her penchant for giggling.

The hippo from Silentnight

The hippo from Silentnight
The hippo from Silentnight

When I was younger, I used to stare at the hippo and chick from the Silentnight logo on my parents’ mattress. The hippo was dressed in his stripey pyjamas and I always thought he was so cute. Then, Silentnight started making TV adverts and gave him a deep Northern accent which made him even cuter (I’m Northern too so I’m biased).

Hugo the Hippo from Hugo the Hippo

Hugo the Hippo
Hugo the Hippo

The final hippo of the list might be one of the most obscure hippos of them all, from a global perspective. In 1975, a Hungarian animated film called Hugo the Hippo was released in the US and a year later in Hungary. It had a budget of $1m and the English-speaking version starred the likes of Jimmy and Marie Osmond.

The film was about a hippo called Hugo who escapes captivity in Zanzibar and flees to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Meanwhile, an advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar tries to catch him. Interestingly, the US production of the film was run by Brut Productions, a subsidiary of Fabergé cosmetics – the same brand that made the ornamental eggs.

Honourable mention: Pablo Escobar’s hippos

X-Men Fan Creates Web Show Based On The 90s Animated Series

X-Men Danger Room Protocols Episode 1 Full

The web series will be called X-Men: Danger Room Protocols and see teams of X-Men characters up against Marvel villains in Professor X’s notorious Danger Room.

Each episode will be based around a single Danger Room battle and the first one will be called “Survival,” starring Jean Grey and Wolverine (we get the feeling Cyclops won’t like that one). X-Men: Danger Room Protocols will debut on 19th January with subsequent episodes freely available on his YouTube channel.

UPDATE: It turns out X-Men: Danger Room Protocols was cancelled after one episode. Why? Because Marvel said so. According to Joel himself (via CBR):

“When I set out to make this project, I never really thought this was going to be an issue. I didn’t think that Marvel was going to react this way, and this outcome, for me, is a little bit shocking.”

Marvel declined to comment.