Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yesterday's International Herald Tribune also ran the article (2831792) Japanese shopping center mascot accidentally named for slang term used to describe gay-themed manga. Since this is Japan, he is now wildly popular with nation's youth

A few years ago the Asashi Evening News rolled itself into the International Herald Tribune and got a major boost in quality and quantity. A much better paper was forged out of this. Especially when compared with the typo-heavy Daily Yomiuri. Anyway the Asahi website has the full article: : KYOTO: Queer coincidence turns shopping center's mascot into 'otaku' superstar - ENGLISH

It appears that there is a local shopping street in the area around a shrine in Kyoto (please, kyo-toe, not Ki-yoh-toe. Write your MP) needed a mascot and a young girl designed one.

801-chan, pronounced "Yaoi-chan," is the mascot for the Misonobashi 801 shopping district, not far from Kyoto's World Heritage Kamigamojinja shrine. And true to its roots, the character was inspired by Kyoto-grown vegetables.

But what really made the mascot an unexpected smash with young otaku geeks is the accident of its name. "Yaoi," which was chosen by locals as a pun on the shopping center's name, is also a slang term for a cult genre of manga comics on homosexual themes.

If you're wondering about Yaoi it's because of the Japanese and Chinese pronunciations of the numbers (8 -- yattsu -- ya, 0 -- English 'O' and 1 -- ichi -- 'i'). It's done with phone numbers a lot as well.

But in February 2006, strange things began to happen. Suddenly
Misonobashi 801's Web site was getting 20,000 hits and over 100 e-mail
messages a day.

"Most of the shoppers who visited our area were oblivious to
801-chan," he added. "We were kind of suspicious whether the popularity
was actually there."

Then in the fall an 801-chan fan began running a comic strip
on a blog and it became a hit. A publisher contacted the association
seeking clearance to publish the manga comic in book form.

The association was surprised but agreed, hoping the publicity would bring in business.

"Tonari no 801-chan" (801-chan next door) came out in December. The response was immediate.

The comic book became a runaway hit, selling more than 100,000
copies. According to Haruna Nakae at Ohzora Publishing Co., which
handled the book, "It is extremely rare to see a book from a
non-general genre sell this well."

Some stores in the otaku hangouts of Akihabara and Ikebukuro
districts in Tokyo sold 500 copies of the 801-chan book in a month.

Now think of what would happen in the States if this happened? Why Jerry Fallwell would rise from his grave and wander the land in search of someone to blame.

Oh, wait, he already has:

Pharyngula: The restless spirit of Jerry Falwell roams the world, possessing people

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