Book: Sanrio Design The 70s and 80s

In which nostalgia pulls me close like a hug, and I’m reminded of the power of Sanrio in bringing people together.

Back when I was a kid approximately 3.41 million years ago, I absolutely loved Hello Kitty and Sanrio characters in general. Although I credit anime with making me want to study Japanese and go to Japan, I have a very concrete memory of my mother telling me that Hello Kitty came from Japan (well, in a manufacturing sense at least) and being enchanted that something I loved so much came from a place so far away and just knowing I wanted to learn more.

I think, in some way, it was thoughts like those that made me want to have pen pals and friends from all over the world and watch movies from all sorts of different countries as I grew up. To me, Hello Kitty was really like an ambassador of friendship. And so of course seeing this book — 70s and 80s Sanrio Design — led instantly to buying it, and once it arrived I was extra impressed. The book is large and full of colors that just scream 1970s and 1980s and it’s absolutely amazing.

I honestly don’t know what’s cuter: the dust jacket (on the left) or what’s underneath.

The book starts with the very earliest Sanrio merchandise, as below:

I had both of the plush on the lower right as a little girl. I didn’t know one was Kitty and one was her twin sister Mimmy, though. I just thought she was Hello Kitty in another outfit.

While there’s a ton of merchandise, the book’s major focus, there are also supplementary materials like this Patty and Jimmy comic:

Lots of these supplementary materials come from Sanrio publications like Ichigo Shinbun (Strawberry News). Below is one page of several just featuring the cute covers:

Notice all that Snoopy? Sanrio’s relationship with Disney, Peanuts, etc. characters is…complex.

And also several pages on its furoku:

As I was reading, I thought some of these items looked familiar despite knowing I’d never owned them. Then it struck me — I had picked up some used miniatures based on early Sanrio merchandise a long time ago. They weren’t in perfect shape when I bought them and time hadn’t been great to them, but it does lead to fun comparisons like this:

And this little chalkboard:

And this small lunch box:

And oh hey, here’s something else that looks familiar:

I never realized that’s how you dial that phone before — always wondered, actually!

I like how, especially with the 1970s designs, it’s not just pink. I think the fact that Purin has a yellow color palette is one of the reasons he’s remained a favorite, and I like seeing the old oranges and browns with characters like Kiki and Lala. If pink isn’t my favorite color, it’s definitely in my top three, but my favorite Hello Kitty is the one in overalls eating an apple I grew up with.

I love that giraffe and elephant more than anything.

By now you might know about how weak I am for anything at the intersection of cuteness and candy, so I extra loved things like this:

Right at the intersection of two of my happy places.

Although the book tends to organize things more by chronology and item type, there is nice coverage of all characters including some of the more obscure favorites of mine, like GoroPikaDon:

Or my absolute favorite Sanrio character of all time, Hangyodon! I feel like he would fit in really well as a major San-x character today. From his tragic romance with a goldfish (upper right below) to the fact that he’s got some issues with self confidence and collects his own merchandise, Hangyodon is just my mind of awesome.

All Sanrio characters are cool, but I think Hangyodon is the only one I’d call shibui.

Or Nezumi Kozou, whose name is a reference to Jirokichi Nakamura and who changes his guise by eating the dango you can see him holding.

There are even some characters I wasn’t familiar with, like these Youkai Kids. Instead of only the type of youkai you might be expecting like kappa or oni, this is also more like Monster High; it has the offspring of movie monster and Halloween types like Dracula, ghosts, and mummies.

There’s literally no page of this I didn’t love; it’s at the very best intersection possible of informative, complete, cute, and utterly able to transport you to what might have been a happier time. This was yet another purchase from CD Japan, well well well worth the $21-ish price. With EMS out of commission and DHL better for these small and heavy packages, I’m having a ton of fun boosting my book collection, and this definitely has a place of pride now.

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