A 16-episode anime that ran during the TV show Wonderful. Around 3-4 minutes each, and full of non sequitur and occasionally gastric humor. 10 year old catgirl DiGi Charat (Dejiko (no relation)) from the planet of the same name (she's a princess, mind), 5 year old catgirl Petit Charat (Puchiko), and 8 year old, floating, upside-down blob with arms Gema arrive via spaceship in Akihabara, where Dejiko plans to become a pop idol and actress. Once they realized they couldn't live in the spaceship (no good place to hide it), they work at Gamers, a trading card and video game shop frequented by finger-people (their faces were on what would be the fingernail) and occasional human-shaped customers.
There's not much plot to the show - Dejiko fights with her rival in idolatry (and co-worker) Rabi~en~Rose (Usada Hikaru - her nickname is the Japanese spelling of "la vie en rose"), loses and finds her tail, has a fanclub of two otaku types she calls "bukimi" (Takeshi and Yoshimi are their names, and the kanji of their names together can be read as "bukimi," which means spooky), shoots beams from her eyes, has an imposter that steals food and farts, insults and laughs at most everything, and other equally random events. The three main characters also have their own dialects - Dejiko adds a "nyo" (meow) at the end of every sentence, Puchiko adds a "nyu," and Gema adds "gema-gema" (usually in place of words like "desu" or it's counterparts "desu wa," "de gozaru," "da," etc). It's considered fairly offensive, rewriting the language to suit their styles.
The show isn't drawn in typical anime style outside of the main characters. It looks (and flows) more like Radiohead's Paranoid Android video than traditional anime, which only adds to the strangeness. One of the recurring characters, an odd teddy bear in a flying box, reminds me of Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, only after getting beat up. The animation was done by Studio Madhouse (also did Trigun and Card Captor Sakura) and this seems to be a strange direction for them.
DiGi Charat was originally created by then-doujinshi artist and OL Koge Donbo and commisioned by Broccoli as a set of trading cards to be given out at their Gamers chain of trading card/game/anime/character goods shops, then Dejiko and crew became the mascots for their main branch, Gamers Akihabara. Dejiko was soon featured in a Gamers TV commercial in animated form, singing her "Welcome to my House" song. From there, it became popular enough to get it's own show. Once the show ended, the characters became pop idols of sorts, releasing their own CDs, which was kicked off with the CD release of the anime's opening song "Only One, No. 1" (by Okui Masami), and later performing live concerts. Broccoli also has several "Kobeya" CD-ROMs (email clients not unlike Sony's wonderful/despicable PostPet software).
The whole DiGi Charat concept is little more than amazing marketing. The characters are endearing and cute, but are a very small part of the whole. DiGi is everywhere in the anime industry right now - selling goods at Comiket, holding autograph sessions at Tokyo Game Show (the seiyuu, at least), popping up in the Aquarian Age trading card game (and at several sanctioned competitions), garage kits, posters, shitajiki, software, cameos in other shows, commercials, concerts, drama CDs, tons of fan art, fan zines, fan websites, doujinshi, window stickers, pencil cases, cell phone covers and straps, cosplay outfits, lifesize cutouts, action figures, paper dolls, UFO catcher dolls, ceramic dolls, on vending machines and billboards, and so on. There are even DiGi Charat bandages and "DiGi Charat Candy 2000." And of course the limited edition "Di Gi Charat Brandy" and "Di Gi Charat Mineral Water," both referenced in the anime and later made real. The characters are slowly becoming the mascots of the whole industry, ready to take Hoshino Ruri's place as the visual definition of "now anime." She's even gaining a foothold in the US anime industry, since Broccoli partnered with the LA-based Omochabox.com, who dubbed the "Welcome to my House" song to English and has been airing local TV spots for their new Broccolified name, AnimeGamers.com.
Most of the marketing popularity of this is because of Broccoli - they decided that, since most people already associate Dejiko and friends with Gamers Akiba, it wouldn't hurt to let other companies and fans use the imagery to promote themselves as well. They've made it relatively easy and cheap to use the DiGi copyright on most anything, and they encourage fans to keep making garage kits and fanzines and most anything that's not too adult.
The anime was continued with the "DiGi Charat Summer Special 2000," a TV special of 4 half-hour episodes which introduced a couple new characters, including Dejiko's arch-nemesis Piyocola Analogue III (AKA Piyoko). Then a Christmas special, then a Spring special, and a theatrical movie in 2002 called "Digi Charat: Hoshi no Tabi" (Trip to the Planet), with still more to come. Dejiko & crew have also branched out into the video game market with "Di Gi Charat Fantasy," an "alternate world" exploring Koge Donbo's original concepts, and the recursive marketing genius of "Deji-Communication," a simulation for the GBA where the player gets to manage Gamers, stocking and selling loads of Di Gi merchandise (Di Gi pens, Di Gi t-shirts, Party Night CDs, and other real Di Gi merchanise).
Charat is pronounced "carrot" or "kyarat," as in "Pia Carrot." And the name comes from "digi chara," or digital character. Also, the names "DiGi Charat" and "Di Gi Charat" are interchangable by Broccoli's standards (they've used both at different times, though seem to be settling on "Di Gi Charat" of late).
- Hitoshi Doi's huge anime info site (www.tcp.com/doi)
- Broccoli home page (www.broccoli.co.jp)
- TBS home page (www.tbs.co.jp)