The Nova Usagi
, or "Nova Rabbit," is the mascot of the latest ad campaign by Japanese eikaiwa
. The Usagi is a rather shapeless hot pink
cartoon rabbit-like thing distantly reminiscent of the rabbits in Matt Groening
's Life in Hell
comic strip. In just a few months, the Nova Usagi campaign quickly became the most successful in Nova's history. The Japanese have gone wild for the Usagi, and there are Nova Usagi T-shirts, hats, mugs, plush toys, and fan clubs. The Nova Usagi's strange song is one of the most requested at Karaoke
Bars throughout Japan.
The Japanese evidently find the Nova Usagi amazingly cute, but to most westerners he (it?) is simply bizzare. The latest commercial shows the Usagi in a wet suit riding a surf board across a wave. The first reaction of most Japanese is, "Aww, he looks sooo cute in that wet suit," while the first reaction of most everyone else is, "Why is he bending over backwards until he has completely folded in half?" Strangest of all is the Usagi's appearance. A hot pink rabbit may be slightly unusual, and its yellow bird beak may be a tad disconcerting, but its iris-less, soulless, all-whites eyes are downright demonic.
Most westerners associate cartoon animals with products aimed at children, but Nova's ad campaign is aimed almost entirely at adults. This is less surprising when one realizes that many major corporations and products in Japan have cute cartoon mascots, and that the Japanese see nothing strange with middle-aged men and women going crazy for cutsey cartoon creatures like Doraemon, Pikachu, and Hello Kitty. Moreover, whereas in Western countries people tend not to proudly wear cloths with the mascots of big soulless corporations and often try to "be different," the Japanese, with their desire to fit in and not stand out, tend to feel that the more popular and trendy a mascot is, the more worth buying its products are.
Pictures at: http://www.nova.ne.jp/novausagi/wallpapers/index.html