Ferocious 5 sheds light on a whole universe of pop and geek culture connections with bite-size lists. Explore topics, properties, fandoms you never knew existed in this article series on Bunkazilla.
Sanrio, Japan’s global kawaii-merchandising juggernaut, has been running the cute-character-show since 1973. Their characters exude pureness, comfort and charm. Audiences who have consumed Sanrio since their childhood have no intention of giving up on their Hello Kitty-collecting habit, because the vibes gained from this sweet consumer merch are like no other in this difficult world. When your main character is five apples tall, the rest of the brand’s affiliated characters are going to be equally as lovely and huggable, right?
Extremely relatable show to anyone who has worked in an office ever, “Aggressive Retsuko” expunges the frustrations and injustice of sexist postgrad worklife by belting out death metal bangers in her local karaoke rooms after work. Pushed into looking for a boyfriend by her mother, piled on with overtime by her colleagues who make her finish their tasks for them, Retsuko is also supported by non-judgemental cool women from other departments, Washimi and Gori; nosey but straight-talking social media junkie Fenneko and office colleague-slash-admirer-slash-band guitarist, Haida. The show looks cute but it absolutely cuts deep. You cannot help but admire the trials and tribulations that Retsie goes through, and how she comes out of them in the end.
Both dub and sub are available on Netflix. The dub is a little localised, but not as much as expected – both ways of watching are quality. The intro is also absolutely unskippable; in Japanese, the songs are sung by the shows’ creator, Rarecho.
Possibly the first character to consistently show us their bum to us, just as part of their character design, Gudetama (a name combining the words “gudē-gudē” [lacking in energy] and “tamago” [egg] – ぐでたま) is literally a Lazy Egg. Super lazy. Like, so lazy, pretty much everything Gudetama says, is a pun in Japanese, to emphasise the lackadaisical nature of their character. Not just lazy too, sometimes they can be quite gloomy, however the realistic nature of what they discuss or ruminate on can be quite funny for us as a viewer (don’t judge me for that!).
Nisetama-San (ニセたま) is a form of Gudetama that resembles a grown man wearing a yolk-yellow bodysuit. This person is the adult ‘support’ in the show, but is absolutely useless. The Gudetama shorts have some supporting cast humans who appear too, but they exist to be continually disappointed with Gudetama’s efforts to do.. well… anything. But Gudetama’s voice is very cute, so all is forgiven.
Gudetama is more well known for the merchandise, not having a TV show specifically available to stream, but with almost 700 subtitled shorts available directly from Sanrio Official, that’s pretty much more than enough. An extremely relatable character when the world gets on top of you, and all you want to do is curl up under your weighted albumen-blanket.
The Mouse and His Child
A joint venture of Walt deFaria Productions, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and Sanrio America, this is a 1977 American-Japanese movie by Murakami-Wolf Productions. The Mouse and His Child is a feature-length animation based on the book by Russell Hoban; a nostalgic – but also deeply upsetting – movie about adorable toys who get broken in their toy store. They are thrown out into the trash, and befriended by a predatory rat, who takes them under his wing but only to end up working for him as slaves to collect junk, with other broken slave-toys. They escape, and luckily, are helped out by animal friends along the way.
The story emphasises the importance of found family and independence; the film does not go into the more subtle contexts the book conveys, purely because of the length of the book – you may find reading the novel (and reading about it online) more fascinating. Unfortunately the film just skims over a number of these themes and isn’t done in a particularly engaging way for the viewer.
This film is not for the feint of heart due to the upsetting nature of all this toy-torture, which occurs a number of time throughout the film! The sadness also comes from the toys as they are victims of circumstance and have no autonomy about their own destiny until… another very sad thing happens… but I can assure you there is a happy ending, if you’re not too traumatised by all the blurred symbolism and outright emotional pain. I am also unsure how The Royal Shakespeare Company adapted the book in 2013 without too much trauma, but I am guessing they did a better job than this absolute fever dream of a film.
The Fantastic Adventures of Unico and Unico in the Island of Magic are two 80’s animated feature films based on Osamu “Japan’s Original Disney” Tezuka’s comic book series, Unico.
Sanrio published a full-colour comic anthology magazine called Lyrica in the late 70s, and Unico was one of the stories by Tezuka that was published. Unico was once owned outright by Sanrio, and the rights to Unico shifted to Tezuka’s company after his death in 1989.
Each self-contained chapter of Unico’s comic sent him on an adventure. A jealous bunch of Love Gods follow Unico, and because they believe happiness should be earned; each time Unico makes friends and bestows kindness upon those who need it, his memory is cruelly wiped so he has no recollection of the friends he made, and gets whisked away to somewhere else.
A Unico TV movie, “Black Cloud White Feather” was produced in 1979 by Tezuka Productions, followed by the two theatrical films, the latter of which were released globally. The first film adapts five episodic stories lifted from Lyrica magazine, but the second film is one long adventure, which emphasises the sadness of Unico’s loneliness.
Unico’s happiness-plus-unhappiness and the secondary characters’ moral grey areas show a complex storytelling melancholy that still holds up to this day. The cuteness of the character design and quality of the animation belies the simple looking stories’ deeper emotional and creative core. Tezuka’s stories always talk about core aspects of our humanity, which make them legitimately timeless. Similar to Marvel’s repertoire, much of Tezuka’s characters are inspired by classic Greek and Roman mythology too. Is Unico’s journey on a parallel with the myth of Sisyphus?
If and when you get a chance to watch a Unico film, please do.
Unico Double-Feature is available on imported DVD and BluRay by Discotek
Big Challenges (ビッグチャレンジ, Biggu Charenji) is a crocodile character created by Sanrio in 1977. Challenges’ Sanrio website entry reads, “Unique crocodile-kin with a blurry face. It looks like he is laughing!”, and was apparently never actually used on any merch for whatever reason, upsettingly.
Brought to the internet’s attention on Twitter by @chloi, Twitter then presented us a fanzine by mysterious author R25th, “Have You Heard About This Boy?”, the zine brings to our attention some of the other less well known characters Sanrio have created, alongside our beloved Big.
Big Challenges is the cute backup we need and deserve, to face some of 2020’s bigger challenges indeed.
An archived property by Sanrio, Big Challenges is available to stan via the internet and in our hearts…
That’s it for now! We hope you enjoyed this edition of Ferocious 5. Let us know your thoughts and share any of your favourite obscure Sanrio-related trivia with us in The Bunkazilla Stomping Grounds. If you liked what you read, please share this article too!
Until next time… stomp on monsters of culture, stomp on!
Laura Watton (PinkAppleJam)
Better known as PinkAppleJam, Laura is one of the hosts of Hardcore Genki Hour! Catch the show on Bunkazilla.