5 Great Anime Mascot Characters

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Sometimes it really feels like anime has more mascot characters than you can shake a stick at. Even discounting those shows that are basically made up of mascot-friendly characters like Pokemon and Digimon, it seems that a huge number of titles – old and new, comedic and serious alike – find the time to utilise cute animals or other forms of chirpy critters in all manner of ways.

Some of them annoy the hell out of people (I have a good friend who would apparently like nothing more than to punch Mokona Modoki, pictured above, in the face), while others seem to delight audiences the world over. For this article, I’ll be narrowing down (in no particular order) the top 5 mascot characters that have stood out the most to me over the last couple of decades.

Warning: potential spoilers ahead.

Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)

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Making his official on-screen debut in 1988, Totoro is easily the oldest mascot character to make this list. For something that doesn’t talk (or, you know, do much at all besides sleep and stand around in the rain), he certainly has an undeniable charm. Likened to Winnie-the-Pooh or Mickey Mouse in terms of his fame, Totoro has made a huge cultural impact on Japanese audiences, and has also made non-Japanese cameo appearances in the likes of South Park and Toy Story 3. This is perhaps not surprising given just how recognisable Totoro is; such an enormous supernatural creature would normally be intimidating, if not downright scary, but to most people, he’s the epitome of all things cute and adorable.

Pen Pen/Pen² (Neon Genesis Evangelion)

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Another of the ‘classic’ choices, Pen Pen, like Totoro, doesn’t actually speak – although, given his penchant for reading newspapers, watching TV, and drinking beer, he sometimes feels a lot more human in nature than one or two other Evangelion characters. Ostensibly Misato’s pet, Pen Pen clearly has a fairly high level of intelligence and, given his retractable claws, seems able to fend for himself just fine. Unfortunately, his fate remains a mystery, as Pen Pen is given to Hikari for safekeeping after Zeruel’s attack on Tokyo-3 and is never seen again. However, I’d like to think that he’s still chilling in his own personal refrigerated room somewhere, cracking open another beer and thinking deep, deep thoughts about the world around him.

Kyubey (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

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Contrary to the above two mascot characters, Kyubey is one smooth talker. He’s also creepy as all hell – probably in part because of his completely unchanging expression, but admittedly also because he’s one of the only (possibly the only?) magical-girl mascot character portrayed as an antagonist. Oh, sure, he’s not ‘evil’, exactly, just… let’s say extremely goal-orientated… but I also don’t think many people would define the ability to literally rip souls from the bodies of young girls, or to replicate oneself after death and consuming one’s remains, as particularly endearing. Kyubey is, however, one of the most iconic mascot characters to have come out of anime in recent times, and no doubt taught everyone who watched Madoka Magica to double-check the terms of a contract before signing.

Tachikoma (Ghost in the Shell)

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I don’t know if there are any other well-known robot anime mascot characters are there, but if so, I doubt any of them could be as wonderfully portrayed as Tachikoma. There are in fact nine of these blue, multi-legged combat vehicles assigned to Ghost in the Shells’s Section 9, all equipped with artificial intelligence and synchronized every night so that they can start the next day with identical consciousnesses. This does not stop the Tachikoma from possessing individual personalities and opinions – resulting in several lively and sometimes rather humorous philosophical discussions between them on such topics as humanity, memory, and sentience. While some members of Section 9 view the Tachikoma purely as machines (causing them to accuse one character of bigotry), Batou at least has his own personal, hyperactively cheerful Tachikoma, which he pampers with natural oil and refuses to switch for any other model. I can honestly say that Tachikoma Days – the series of shorts that end every episode of both Ghost in the Shell TV seasons – are one of my highlights of the entire franchise.

Nyanko-sensei (Natsume Yuujinchou)

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It’s not often that an anime mascot becomes my favourite character of a whole series – but then again, it’s not often that a character like Nyanko-sensei comes along, either. Ordinarily taking the form of a fat and squishy maneki-neko, or Japanese beckoning cat charm, Nyanko-sensei’s true form is an enormous and very powerful Inugami, or dog god, named Madara. Despite his constant protestations of not being a cat, Nyanko-sensei is easily distracted by cat toys, and displays many of the playful and mischievous traits that anyone might expect a regular cat to have. Unlike a cat though, Nyanko-sensei is a bit of a drunkard and loves drinking sake, as well as eating sweets – particularly dango/Japanese dumplings. Selfish, proud, and condescending, his outward distaste of Natsume (despite his claims of Natsume being an emergency food ration) is belied by Nyanko-sensei’s obviously protective attachment to him. Now there’s a thought – could Nyanko-sensei secretly be a tsundere??

And now, a few honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:

– Ein, the Welsh Corgi “data dog” from Cowboy Bebop.
– Ryo-Ohki, the entertaining cabbit (and also spacecraft) from the Tenchi Muyo! metaseries.
– Kuroneko, the black cat (hence the name) that randomly appears in every episode of Trigun.
– The numbered trio of blue Penguins from Mawaru Penguindrum who only the Takakura family can see (but #2 is my favourite, mostly for his cockroach-spraying antics).
– Black Hayate, Riza Hawkeye’s Shiba Inu from Fullmetal Alchemist (who receives either excellent or abusive housetraining, depending on how you look at it).
– Jiji, the sarcastic black cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service.
– Last but definitely not least, Chiyo-chichi (Chiyo-Father) from Azumanga Daioh; the cat that sometimes appears in Sakaki’s and Osaka’s dreams claiming to be Chiyo’s father, and who may or may not be a flying, bullet-proof, baseball-playing Santa Claus.

Question of the post: Do you have any favourite anime mascot characters that aren’t mentioned here? How about any anime mascot characters that for whatever reason you just can’t stand?

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17 thoughts on “5 Great Anime Mascot Characters

  1. Well, One Piece is still one of the biggest things out there, so Tony Tony Chopper is probably a major contender in recognizability. Of course, there’s the perennial Doraemon. I’m rather fond of Cardcaptor Sakura’s Osaka-ben-speaking Kero-chan myself.

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    • Yeah, the only mascot character more recognisable than Chopper is probably Pikachu. Since I neither like nor watch One Piece though, he doesn’t get on my list. I did seriously think about putting Kero-chan on there though, what with my truly enormous soft spot for Cardcaptor Sakura. In the end though, I guess the others that made the list beat him out in terms of uniqueness and general awesomeness.

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  2. Nice choices! I especially like the addition of the smooth talking, deceptively evil Kyubey… how can he be so cute yet so creepy, all at the same time?

    Besides Pikachu (whom I consider the ultimate mascot character), I have always loved Yakul from Princess Mononoke. The range of emotion he shows through his actions alone makes him so endearing, and really adds to the message of the movie.

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    • It’s just so unusual to get a mascot character that’s presented as a ‘bad guy’ (well, in a sense), that I couldn’t help but want to put Kyubey on here, despite the fact that I don’t particularly like him per se. He definitely stands out a mile though.

      Pikachu’s undeniably cute, but I wanted to go with something a little more unique than that – and I honestly don’t have any strong, fangirly feelings as far as Pikachu goes in any case, no matter how adorable the little guy is. Yakul though… that’s a really interesting choice there! I hadn’t thought of him at all – nice thinking. 🙂

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  3. Mokona might be arguably punchable, but I always loved Kero (as a fairly balanced mix of mentor and ‘cute tsun sidekick/freeloader’). And while there are relatively few mascots I truly loathe, Chu Chu from Utena assuredly makes the list (practically the Jar Jar Binks of the series, tolerable only in terms of being backgrounded for Utena and Anthy’s most emotional scenes).

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    • Yup, Kero is indeed pretty loveable in his own right.

      Ahaha, I completely forgot about Chu Chu. I’ve never thought of him in terms of being the Jar Jar Binks of the show, but now that I’ve read this, I suspect I’ll never be able to forget. 😄

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  4. I sort of expected Kyubey on this list, but he (it?) didn’t make as deep of an impression on me as on the rest of the fandom. I mostly blame on being jaded, as in my mind, nothing can compare to antagonistic mascot character like Koemushi (literally “dung beetle”) from Bokurano.

    I think Kero and Mokona may not be the most unique mascots, but to me they are the standards that all other mascots must be measured by. For the record, Mokona was more likable when he (it?) only said “pu.” And then, SPOILER ALERT, in the manga turned out to be the Supreme Being that could swallow up all the other worlds.

    When it comes to mascots’ ANTICS, then nothing beats the Penguindrum trio.

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    • Oh snap, I forgot all about Koemushi. Yeah, that guy does kinda blow even Kyubey right out of the park, doesn’t he? That said, it’s not so odd to get such a screwed-up mascot in a psychological mecha series, whereas I don’t typically expect that kind of thing from a magical-girl series. I don’t particularly like Kyubey’s character, and he/it wasn’t the best thing about the anime for me, but I do respect that sort of innovativeness.

      I do like Kero and always have done, although as you say, he’s not especially unique. As for Mokona, I’m mostly ambivalent. He/it is just kind of there, but that’s basically it for me. I did know about the manga thing though, which is admittedly pretty cool.

      Haha, I’m with you on that last point. But again, number #2 especially is where it’s at for me. He can come spray my roaches any time.

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  5. I was thinking I could do without animal mascots entirely, but then you brought up Nyanko-Sensei. “Natsume! They’re selling dangos. Get me one!” Tachikomas I hadn’t even considered because they’re not animals, but hell, most of humans on that show aren’t human …

    As for “can’t stand,” that … thing from Utena comes to mind.

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  6. I’m familiar with all of these mascots except for Nyanko-sensei, haven’t watched that show yet. And my favorite is probably the Tachikoma. Plenty of people complained about the stand alone episodes of G.I.T.S. S.A.C., but the ones featuring tachikoma are some of my favorites. I’ve actually shed tears over those little spider tanks. And I wouldn’t mind having them as my pet/primary mode of transportation. If a genie gave me three wishes, I’m sure a tachikoma would be one of them.

    My least favorite would probably be Kyubey or Ryo-ohki. Kyubey for the obvious reason of being a creepy emotionless monster who felt no remorse for ruining lives. And I hate Ryo-Ohki because the very existence of the Tenchi Muyo metaseries annoys me.

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    • Natsume Yuujinchou is a really beautiful series. It’s supernatural slice-of-life with a shoujo bent, so I wouldn’t recommend the show to anyone looking for an action fix, but I adore it – and Nyanko-sensei is just fantastic.

      Likewise, the episodes heavily featuring the Tachikoma are some of my favourites, although generally speaking, I like all of Stand Alone Complex. They’re genuinely one of the highlights of the show for me.

      I don’t personally like Kyubey as a character, but I do very much admire the way he’s portrayed. He’s one of the reasons why Madoka Magica is hailed by many anime fans as such a breakthroughseries, I think – and fair enough. As for Ryo-Ohki, I neither love nor hate her. I kinda dig the fact that an animal mascot character can turn into an actual spaceship (!), but other than that, she’s a cutie and nothing much else. But then, I don’t have anything against the Tenchi metaseries. In fact, given that it was one of the first ‘adult’ anime I saw on TV, my feelings run nostalgic for the most part… although granted, I would never say that any of the shows are particularly good per se. Still, some are markedly better than others.

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  7. Pingback: Top 5 Feel-Good Anime | OTAKU LOUNGE

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