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ゆるキャラをどう説明する?

 
今週のMetropolisはYurukara Revolution The cult of cute rules Japan(ゆるキャラ革命 かわいさ信仰が日本を席巻)とゆるキャラ特集でした。ゼロから説明しようとすると大変なので、こういう記事を読んで説明をパクるのが一番簡単ですね。

Yurukara Revolution
The cult of cute rules Japan
By: Cal Widdall | Dec 5, 2013 | Issue: 1028 | No Comments | 351 views

There’s no perfect translation for yurukyara, the Kumamons and Hikonyans of Japan. The kyara is short for “character,” but the yuru part seems to be designated a different English word by everyone who tries: Weak? Soft? Gentle? None of them really fit. Perhaps the closest word we have is mascot, but suggest that to any English-speaking Japanese person and they’ll furrow their brow and inhale sharply, as though trying to suck the word right out of the air to avoid anyone else hearing your misguided attempt.

Much like their name, the concept of yurukyara doesn’t really translate to other cultures, this need for all-smiles all the time, for everything to be embodied by happy bears and cats in helmets. Their presence has seeped throughout the fabric of Japanese society and bled into more serious aspects of life where they simply don’t belong, like glitter from a Halloween costume still making an appearance on your work clothes in December.

ちょっと検索をして「ゆるキャラ」をどう説明しているか、比較してみます。

What is "Yuru-kyara"?
"Yuru-kyara(ゆるキャラ)"(loose characters) are cute, friendly and a little bizarre mascots owned by national government organizations, local governments, companies, individuals for the purpose of public relations. In recent years in Japan, more and more local governments(prefectures and municipalities) compete to create their own yuru-kyara. It is commonly called "yuru-kyara boom."

One of the most popular yuru-kyara in Japan is "Kumamon(くまモン)", which is a mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture. "Kumamon" is a combination of two words: "Kuma" is short for Kumamoto and "Mon" represents the local dialect that uses that word for the standard Japanese word for "things," or "mono(物)."

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Yuru-kyara literally means “a loose character.” Hundreds of local governments, companies and other entities use characters based on animals and imaginary creatures for promotional purposes.

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The popularity of yuru-kyara – literally loose characters in English – has rocketed thanks largely to the promotional activity of Kumamon, a rosy-cheeked black bear character from Kumamoto prefecture in southern Japan. Kumamon may look whimsical but his cash-generating ability is no joke: He generated ¥29 billion ($285 million) for his prefecture last year in sales of related goods. Kumamon has entertained the emperor and empress, visited France, Taiwan and the U.S. and even participated in an economics seminar at Harvard University since winning the national mascot contest in 2011.

メトロポリスの記事は分析的にこの現象を考えている真面目なものですが、この記事で知ったのですが、旭川刑務所もゆるキャラを出しているのですね。英文記事内ではAshikawa Prisonと、旭川のスペルが間違っていますが、やはり固有名詞が外国の人にとっては難しいことが分かります。

なぜ刑務所が「ゆるキャラ」を作ったのか?
(更新 2013/10/ 7 07:00)
週刊朝日記事

熊本県の誇る広告塔「くまモン」に、千葉県船橋市“非公認”の「ふなっしー」――。着ぐるみをまとった「ゆるキャラ」たちの勢いがすさまじい。そしてついに、刑務所にもその波が押し寄せた。

 その名も「カタックリちゃん」。北海道の旭川刑務所はこのほど、2009年から使用しているPRキャラクター「カタックリちゃん」の着ぐるみを作製した。もちろん、全国の刑務所で初めての試みだ。
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The most recent example of this mascot mania is Ashikawa Prison’s adoption of two six-foot cuddly characters to welcome convicts into incarceration. Human rights campaigners protested that harsh prison conditions were being masked by Katakkuri-chan, whose giant smiling face is topped with a purple flower, but a spokesperson explained their creation was necessary to reinforce the facility’s image as a rehabilitation institution that is connected to, and supported by, society. The underlying message was clear: regardless of any seemingly conflicting role, organizations don’t consider themselves part of modern Japanese society without a yurukyara to represent them.

やはりこの記事も、単調な事務仕事のうるおいというよりも、「町おこし」の部分に注目して書かれています。

The reason for their saturation of anything and everything, besides bored office workers looking for something other than administrative duties to do, seems to be the overwhelming success of regional yurukyara in promoting tourism.
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One factor that goes part way to explaining his prevalence is Kumamoto’s relatively lax control of his image rights, which also contributed to a staggering ¥30 billion (USD $305 million) of merchandise sales last year. To put that figure into perspective, it’s $63 million more than Barbie merchandise generated in North America during the same period and equivalent to 0.6% of Kumamoto Prefecture’s entire annual GDP.

With this kind of money attainable it’s no surprise every prefecture, city and ward wants their own Kumamon. Even the bafflingly high ¥5 million spent on producing Nara’s Sento-kun was a pittance compared to the estimated ¥1.5 billion worth of PR his controversy generated.

Though yurukyara are often designed by public competition winners, there’s little variation in their composition. The vast majority are a basic anthropomorphic combination of the area’s notable characteristics and a name to match (though choosing a name isn’t always so simple, just ask Fukushima Industries’ Fukuppy). For example, Yubari is famous for Yubari melons and bears, hence Melon-kuma, a part-melon, part-bear, all-terrifying monstrosity which regularly makes children cry and hide behind their parents.


最近人気のフナッシーももちろん紹介されています。


FUNASSYI
The unofficial mascot of Funabashi, Chiba had humble beginnings. Armed with a homemade costume and plenty of yaruki (motivation) this now international star is more famous (and possibly richer) than his kigurumi-clad compatriots. One of the few yurukyara that talks, he squeals and finishes each sentence with, “Nashiiii!” This smarter-than-your-average pear-shaped prodigy runs, jumps and shakes like a tazered would-be bag-snatcher. He jetted off to London recently, and was also the unfortunate victim of a prank involving the setting off of multiple explosions. His high-pitched voice and strange mannerisms make him a point of ridicule, but at the same time he’s just one of those characters you have to like.

個人的には何の思い入れもないんですが、雑貨屋みたいなところに入ってもゆるキャラがありますし、東京の地方自治体が出しているアンテナショップでもゆるキャラのお菓子が結構な値段(単なるスナック菓子なのに)で売られていたのが印象的でした。
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