What, Hello Kitty isn’t a cat? Instead, she’s a little English girl who looks like a cat. I have to wonder what kind of interbreeding went on in her family. Actually, according to the Wikipedia article, a Sanrio spokesperson later revised that to say that she’s a gijinka, basically an anthropomorphic animal. I’ve written before about how such animal-people belong in a confusing category, where we can’t be entirely sure what they are. The design of the character is apparently based on the Japanese bobtail cat, even though she lives in the suburbs of London.
Her full name is Kitty White, daughter of George and Mary White. She has a twin sister named Mimmy and a pet Persian cat named Charmmy Kitty.
And if you think an anthropomorphic cat having a real cat as a pet is weird, don’t forget that Minnie Mouse had one as well. The reason given for why she doesn’t have a mouth is that she “speaks from the heart.” Wait, does that mean she’s telepathic? I assume she did have a voice in the animated series. Also, without a mouth, how does she eat cookies and pie?
Hello Kitty and some of the other Sanrio characters originated in the 1970s as cute characters for rubber sandals, and now they adorn everything from purses to electric guitars to microwaves to sex toys and guns. My wife is a fan, and we’ve been to both the Sanrio store in Times Square and the one in King of Prussia several times. It does seem that they’re very much weighted toward Hello Kitty. I know she’s the most popular, but it’s not like when you go into a Disney Store you see nothing but Mickey Mouse. I can understand not always wanting to get the most popular character. When I get Super Mario Bros. merchandise, I try to focus on characters other than Mario himself.
Beth has had several Chococat purses, and I thought the sleeping cat Nemukko Nyago was cute. Unlike Kitty and Chococat, Nyago appears to be an actual cat instead of a human-like one.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to be marketed anymore. Badtz-Maru, the tough-guy penguin with a pet alligator, has been consistently popular, possibly because he’s one of the few characters they try to market to boys.
I kind of like Kuromi, introduced as the nemesis of the rabbit character My Melody, who has a look that’s both tough and cute at the same time.
There are some human or humanoid characters as well, like the Little Twin Stars who have been around almost as long as Kitty herself.
There are several characters that show up occasionally that I’m not really sure are part of the same universe, like the Shinkansen bullet train and the Dokidoki Yummychums.
Oddly, the train and the hamburger DO have mouths, even though many of the animals don’t. Go figure.