Connie: and then there was slime

January 28, 2011

My friend and I went to the second-hand shop today, a wondrous place called Tsutaya. They have everything from video games to clothes to instruments… to Slimes. There is a wall full of packets of kids’ toys that are 5 for 300 yen. So we indulged in 5 packs full of slimes.

What is Slime? It’s the mascot for Enix (now SquareEnix) as well as the most famous monster from the video game franchise Dragon Quest (which is probably the best-known video game in Japan, the original game having been released in 1986). I’ve always enjoyed the games and been charmed by these ever-happy critters. My friend never heard of them until she found the one lying in my room and was thus equally enchanted with it.

Lately they’ve been cropping up all over, thanks to me. I drew one on the whiteboard in the entrance to the dormitory. Soon all the other girls gave my little slime some friends. Then there’s the slime I draw every week on Monday in our classroom. The teacher painstakingly writes in circles around the thing so she won’t have to erase it. Slime seems to be making quite the impression (as if it’s 30-odd year fame wasn’t enough).

My room is slowly filling up with weird trinkets, and more than just slimes. Here are my top 5 favorite Japanese characters, after Slime.

1. Kuromi(クロミ)

This sassy girl is created by Sanrio, the same people who are responsible for Hello Kitty. She’s supposed to be a demon of some kind, calling herself the “プリティー悪魔” (pretty akuma), or “Pretty Devil.” I’m not exactly sure whether she was created before or after, but an anime was made featuring Sanrio’s My Melody (a cutesy rabbit based on Red Riding Hood who first appeared in the 70′s) with Kuromi as her rival. As with any Sanrio character, you can find just about any product under the sun with her shape.


2. Lugia (ルギア)

Actually, I’m generally a Pokémon fan, even if I am in my 20′s. Lugia has just always been my favorite. I mean, that thing is badass. It sings and has psychic powers and looks like a dragon and stuff. Pokémon merchandise is all over Japan, and though most of the products advertised using Pokémon are intended for kids, I’m told there is a large number of university students who are playing the newest games in the series, Black and White versions. Lugia itself isn’t particularly easy to find, but it was the mascot for the previous generation games.

3. Gloomy Bear

Gloomy Bear is cute in a very twisted way. Though this particular figurine doesn’t show it, usually the bear’s mouth and claws are dripping with blood. The tag-line on Gloomy Bear merchandise typically says “The Naughty Adult Bear” (though the meaning isn’t nearly as sexual as it sounds). Apparently the creator of Gloomy Bear wanted to send a message that humans and animals aren’t meant to get along, and Gloomy Bear is typically portrayed mauling his “owner”. It’s ironic to me that something with that meaning has so much merchandise – aren’t you just owning your own Gloomy Bear that way? At any rate, Gloomy Bear is less universally popular than the other characters mentioned thus far. He seems to be more popular among the alternative crowd. He’s all over Harajuku’s street fashion district.

4. Keroro Gunsou (ケロロ軍曹)

Keroro Gunsou, literally Sergeant Keroro (Keroro being a play on the Japanese onomatopoeia for “ribbit”), is the main character in a kid’s anime. It’s about a strange race of frog-like aliens who come to earth with full intentions to conquer it… but nothing ever seems to go right for them. Even if you’re not a kid it’s pretty amusing. Keroro is fairly popular and can be seen here and there on things like cell phone charms, perhaps selling some kind of snack, and of course figurines. My favorite is the dark blue one named Tamama (another play on words coming from the Japanese word for “tadpole”).

5. Mameshiba (豆しば)

Mameshiba is part bean, part dog. For some reason, while you are eating beans of some sort, one of those beans will have the traits of a dog and will tell you a random fact.

No, really.

I always encounter Mameshiba in really random places, like, say, lotion bottles. And he’s always telling me that random fact. I don’t know why Mameshiba is a bean and a dog. I also don’t know why he comes with a random fact. But he’s so darn cute.

And an honorable mention to: Pedobear Rilakkuma

My friend here is absolutely obsessed with Rilakkuma, the incredibly lazy bear whose name derives from a combination of the word “Relax” and “くま” (kuma), which means bear. She dressed as him for Halloween. Her room is slowly filling up with him. She walks straight to him if she spots him from afar.

However, since he bears (haha, get it?) similarity to the internet joke/meme character Pedobear, Rilakkuma gets made fun of relentlessly. Must be tough having a weirdo for a cousin, huh?

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