To not know Hello Kitty in this day and age seems almost ludicrous. For the past 40 years, Sanrio’s mascot has adorned everything, from toys, to clothes, to high-end jewelry. Her iconic appearance and adorable design ensured that Hello Kitty would become the most famous cat in the world.
There’s only one problem, though. Hello Kitty isn’t a cat.
Earlier today, Anime News Network reported a truly unusual turn of events between Sanrio and anthropologist Christine R. Yano. Specifically, Sanrio’s representatives stepped in during the proofreading stage of Yano’s script for Los Angeles’s Japanese American National Museum’s upcoming Hello Kitty exhibit.
“I was corrected — very firmly,” she noted in an L.A. Times article. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”
In addition to this, Yanno revealed that Hello Kitty is a citizen of Great Britain, who lives in London. Furthermore, the character’s real name is “Kitty White,” and she’s the daughter of George and Mary White.
Before you say anything, no. This isn’t the same family as the now-infamous Walter White.
Joking aside this really is an interesting revelation. Over the years, Hello Kitty’s been referred to as “the world’s most famous feline”, among other titles. Fans around the world commonly refer to the character as a cat, and the general consensus has always been that the character is a cat.
Since its first report, the story’s gone viral. The internet is blowing up at the news, as every outlet from Otaku USA to CNN is running the story. In addition, the news is running on TV via local and national programs alike.
To see this spread so far, so quickly is nothing short of astounding. Personally, though, I have to admit that I don’t see the hullabaloo lasting very long.
In the next few days, after the news makes its rounds, there is little doubt that we’ll see things settle down once again. The conversation about the matter will die out, and most people will stop caring once again. There will be some debate among the more dedicated circles, but to most people, the entire idea will seem silly, and Hello Kitty will again become the most popular feline on earth.
It will be interesting to see whether Sanrio ups their messaging on the topic going forward, though. Given that they are so eager to assert this, I wonder if we will begin to see a push to identify Hello Kitty as a non-cat in Sanrio’s marketing and merchandise. With the strength of the brand, the identity, and the characters, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see some actions taken by the company to really sell their views, and their ideal image of the character.
Of course, depending on how much money is on the table, I wouldn’t be shocked if they do keep quiet and allow things to stay the course for the time being, as well. It’s difficult to predict how a company will behave in a case like this, as both outcomes are very plausible. All we can really do at this point is wait to see what happens.