Small Gift, Big Smile

I didn’t grow up as a Hello Kitty fan.

Yes, I realize I am Asian, I grew up with HK and all of it’s trappings, but I was always more of a fan of the other lines from Sanrio during the time.  Little Twin Stars was my favorite, as well as My Melody, but there was something so forced about Hello Kitty that didn’t appeal to me.  She was too simple.  Even as a young girl I gravitated more toward Jem and the Holograms over Rainbow Bright, and don’t get me started on Macross and Voltron. Maybe because I’m allergic to cats, maybe because I’ve always been a dog person, whatever the case maybe, Hello Kitty wasn’t my bag.

When I was growing up, the neighborhood stationary stores would be chock full of Sanrio items straight from Japan.  I would still get my mechanical pencil cases, pencils, pens, erasers, wallets all decked out in overtly cute Sanrio characters, and even in my 20’s, I got my then 30-something year old boyfriend into the Sanrio line-up with Keroppi and Batz Maru.  As my neighborhood became more Asian, more ultra kawaii Sanrio items would easily be found.  There was no escaping the Sanrio explosion.  Kid make-up and perfume was now being transformed for an older audience, and by the time I was in my 30’s, you had make-up purveyor Sephora carrying Hello Kitty branded make-up and designers such as Tokidoki partnering with the brand to create designer bags.

As a disutopian 2nd wave of anti-socialistic angsty culture started peeking (ok, 3rd wave, if you count punk, and grunge), Sanrio followed the times with new characters such as the depressed egg Gudetama and the pent up rage fox Aggretsuko, both wildly popular and geared to an older audience.

As the brand and it’s main mascot, Hello Kitty, rolls into it’s 40’s, just like the adage “40 is the new 30”, Hello Kitty is showing up on the bodies of mainstream recording artists, models, and actresses.  She’s the acceptable cute, as well as Sanrio’s spin off brands.  Their small stature still offers up big smiles, now to audiences that are using their own money, not their parents cash, to push their buying power.

As an adult, I admit I own a few Hello Kitty items, but more complex, beyond what she once was and still is to a younger audience, however, I won’t get the inside of my car decked out in Hello Kitty.  Gudetama, maybe.

To get more in depth into the Sanrio history, check out episode 3, season 2 of The Toys That Made Us on Netflix and for more on Aggretsuko, you can check out the first season of her series, also on Netflix.