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Has No Mouth and She Must Scream

Created in 1974 by Sanrio, Hello Kitty has become the single most popular cartoon character in Japan. While most popular universal characters like Snoopy or Mickey Mouse have scads of creative output that led to the merchandising of their images, Hello Kitty has avoided that time-consuming process and cut right to the chase. Hello Kitty (and related Sanrio characters) have been licensed out to so many items in so many ways that it's almost untraceable. If an item is capable of sustaining a Hello Kitty-shaped icon for any period of time, then that item has been made and sold.

"Surely, you're being dramatic" you might say. No, no we're not. Hello Kitty notebooks? Yup. Hello Kitty computers? Done it. Motorcycles? Yes. Toasters? Yes. Vibrators? Yes. Sanrio might know the exact number, but over ten thousand items have recieved their permission to put Hello Kitty's visage upon them.

In the quarter-century plus that this Feline Merchandise-ball has rolled back and forth across Japan, it's only stressed the obvious: Japanese are weird, strange people who do odd things in large groups. Hello Kitty is just an easy-to-demonstrate manifestation of that. "The universalization of cute" or "The icon-laden society of cutting-edge-japanese", the media will write, grappling for the right combination of words to describe a general trait in the Japanese Population: Adapt it, sell it, improve it, and sell it again, hopefully all within the same week.

Speculate all you want about the "meaning" of Hello Kitty, but realize that the whole of the philosophy can be summed up in one cry, one single sound: The sound of a cash register going ka-ching.

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