It's not just Hello Kitty: Japan's character craze
Well, I like 'em. People tend to love their cute characters here and there are some artists who really know how to bring it. The cute, that is.
Hello Kitty, or Kitty White if you prefer, is the undisputed Empress of Kawaii. I never imagined when a Sanrio shop opened in the mall in my hometown I'd ever learn to love Kitty. Eventually, I had to surrender to her charms. I blame a close friend who spent the happiest portion of her professional art life working for the company and handling their North American website. If you sent a Hello Kitty themed e-card during the 2000s, chances are she created it. She even did some of their product design. She has internalized kawaii and I've picked up an appreciation of it from her, I suppose. Also some stationery.
Our local cute character is a version of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a person I think is a bizarre choice for kawaii-ification, but the kids are really into his round head. We call him Ieyasu-kun. Kumamon is a particular favorite of mine. I find the simple design very appealing. Funashi is freaky fun. There are even Funashi impersonators on TV from time to time. That's impact.
More fuel for my love for these cute characters comes from having designed hundreds or even thousands of characters in my life, and not having a single one of them gain any sort of popularity. Not even within my circle of friends. To do something that gains broad popularity takes talent and skill that has eluded me. But I recognize it in others and bow to their winning ways!