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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogJapanese Cartoon Characters: Five Secret Ones to Know!

Japanese Cartoon Characters: Five Secret Ones to Know!

By Devon Lord-Moncrief
May 30, 2024
A pair of pink anime eyes against a future funk background. Many Japanese cartoon characters use this aesthetic.

Japanese cartoon characters created over the years have become more than simple animated specials. They are mascots for towns and cities, figureheads for social movements and public works, and extensions of people’s dreams. Here are a handful of animated characters that deserve more recognition than they’ve received over the years!

Anpanman

Anpanman is a famous Japanese cartoon character loved by kids nationwide. He was created in 1973 by Takashi Yanase. Anpanman has a big head shaped like an anpan, a sweet bread filled with red bean paste. He has a big smile and fights for good every day. Anpanman tries his best to help everyone he can. Anpanman’s story has a sad beginning.

Anpanman with his friends.
Anpanman is one of the most famous superheroes in the world! Image via The Movie Database

During World War II, Yanase endured tough times and often didn’t have enough food to eat. He dreamed of eating anpan bread. Years later, he created Anpanman as a character in a children’s storybook. Even though Anpanman’s origins were difficult, he became a symbol of hope and goodness. Today, Anpanman is one of the most popular cartoon characters in Japan. He shows that even in hard times, we can find the strength to spread kindness and positivity.

Hamtaro

Hamtaro is a cute little hamster who loves going on adventures. He was created in 1997 by a Japanese artist named Ritsuko Kawai in a comic book series. Hamtaro doesn’t go on adventures alone. He has a group of hamster friends called The Ham-Hams who accompany him. Together, they explore the big world around them and make new friends.

Hamtaro, one of the lesser-known Japanese cartoon characters.
Hamtaro briefly aired on Cartoon Network in the United States! Image via CBR

Hamtaro’s adventures have been told in many different ways. Storybooks, cartoon shows, and video games about Hamtaro and his Ham-Ham friends exist. While Hamtaro is very popular in Japan, he didn’t become as big of a star in the United States. Even though Hamtaro isn’t as famous in the US, his cute looks and exciting adventures with friends have made him a beloved character in his home country of Japan. Kids there have enjoyed following Hamtaro’s fun stories for over 20 years.

Oshiri Tantei Detective Buttface

Yes, you read that right. His name is The Butt Detective. And before you assume he is a detective that only takes cases based on butts, he is, quite literally, a detective with a butt for a head. With several books, games, and anime to his name, the Butt Detective is a top-rated crime fighter in Japan.

A shot from the show: "Oshiri Tantei Detective Buttface". He's one of the lesser known Japanese cartoon characters.
This unusual character always gets the job done! Image via Gematsu

He is earnest to a fault, leaving no clue unexamined as he searches for the truth behind every mystery. While merchandise of the Butt Detective can be found abroad, his primary source of popularity remains in Japan, mainly because, well, his face is a butt.

Gudetama

Everyone knows how nice it can be just to be lazy every once in a while. Sanrio’s Gudetama was created in 2013 when creator Amy prepared tamago kake Gohan for dinner one night. She thought the egg looked how people feel about surviving modern life: tired and hanging on.

Gudetama, an egg shape character from Sanrio.
Gudetama is trying his best. Image via Wallpapers Clan

Gudetama has been featured on countless objects and clothing and has had video games and shows made for him. For anyone who’s ever decided to just lay around for the day, taking it easy and being happy just to be sleepy, Gudetama is the character just for them.

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Hana Kappa

Hana Kappa is a Japanese cartoon about a kappa named Hanna. Kappas are creatures from Japanese folklore that look like little green people with dish-like shapes on their heads.

A screencap from "Hanakappa".
Hana Kappa is a popular kid’s cartoon! Image via YouTube

In the show, Hanna’s flower on his head never changes like other kappas. This inspires him to go on an adventure to earn his adult flower. Hanna runs into trouble with an evil kappa named Kuruwaneya Chyoubee during his journey. Chyoubee will do anything to get Hanna’s rare, unchanging flower.

While Hana Kappa is popular in Japan, it’s not very well-known in other countries. This is because kappas are unique creatures from Japanese stories and legends that many people outside Japan aren’t familiar with.

Why are these Japanese cartoon characters important?

Luckily, with the internet and streaming services today, discovering and watching lesser-known Japanese cartoons is easier than ever. Kids can now explore a whole new world of entertaining characters and stories from Japan that they may have never known about before.

A person with brown hair wearing a large hiking backpack.
What other lesser-known characters do you know about? Image via Shutterstock

The sense of discovery that comes with them makes watching these characters so much fun. These characters carry with them years of history and culture. While often directed to younger viewers, their adventures and stories still impart authentic Japanese culture that would otherwise never be experienced by Western viewers.

What are some of your favorite Japanese cartoon characters? Did we cover them, or did we forget to include them? Why do you like them so much? Please let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear who your favorite Japanese cartoon character is!

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