You’ve probably heard of Gudetama. An animated egg that is lazy and unenthusiastic about anything. If any person were to behave in this way, they probably would be diagnosed with severe depression. This has become very popular in Japan, and has spread in the U.S. as well, so much so that you can find many translated videos on YouTube.
According to what’s available on YouTube, one episode is an approximately 15-minute video of Gudetama encountering certain situations and hiding, avoiding, or commenting on it. The format may be different on actual Japanese television. At the end, there is an animated human who dances in a yolk costume to the Gudetama song.
Growing up watching Japanese TV, I found this to have heavy Japan odor. It’s very cute and relatable, but also strange, and there’s a weird dance at the end. It follows what I “grew up” with as Japanese TV that it was almost a nostalgic feeling of Japan when a friend showed it to me, here in Utah.
What really surprised me about Gudetama, that you may not know, is that it came from the same company as Hello Kitty: Sanrio (Winn). Yano specifically discussed how Hello Kitty was supposed to be odorless in Pink Globalization, and that’s one of the reasons why she’s so popular in both countries. Therefore, to see this new character, who I found to be the complete opposite, in terms of odor, become so popular in the United States was unexpected.
My initial thought was the relatability to Gudetama. While I’m sure most Gudetama fans are not severely depressed, we can all relate to that feeling of “I can’t do anything today” from time to time. And personally, that’s what made me like it so much. While watching it, I thought, this is me and it’s so cute! Possibly the more relatability allowed Gudetama to become popular both at home and across borders.
It’s no question that in Japan there are many animated characters that express awkward or unhappy situations. I remember that children’s potty training videos were always using animated characters and the poop and pee would sometimes have faces on them too. Matt Alt talked about how certain drug store companies have mascots that express illnesses like constipation or diarrhea (Winn), and I remember these characters he’s talking about from my childhood in Japan.
Just like Hello Kitty is everywhere, and you can almost get anything in a Hello Kitty version, Gudetama is following the same path. He can easily be found at Hot Topic (where I got my own Gudetama sweater), hundreds, if not thousands, of online stores, and in many more places. He’s on clothing, stickers, keychains, appliances, accessories, etc. If the popularity stays up, you might be able to buy anything “Gudetamafied.”
What will be interesting to see is if Gudetama can stay as popular as Hello Kitty has. If this will make as much of a lasting impact.
Winn, Patrick. One of Japan’s most popular mascots is an egg with crippling depression. Public Radio International, 31 Jul. 2016, https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-07-31/one-japan-s-most-popular-mascots-egg-crippling-depression. Accessed 25 Mar. 2017.