November 25, 2008

Spot the Monster!

It's been about 10 years since I last bought stickers, but seeing these in a bookstore, I couldn't resist. Of all the things to turn into cute stickers, ancient Japanese monsters would be the last thing I could think of. These one-eyed, long-necked, fire-breathing creatures all have names, and can be traced back to literature and folklore from hundreds of years ago. As with so many mythical creatures, they were most likely conceived to explain the inexplicable, but they also have their roots in the Shinto religion.

These demons and ghosts gradually made their way into pop culture, as can be seen in the animated short "A Fox and a Badger in Rivalry”, below. Made in 1933, this film tells the tale of a badger who holds a competition to see which can out-trick the other. (Both animals are said to have transformative powers, which they generally use for evil, according to Japanese folklore.) The animation may remind you of Disney, but the appearance of one-eyed kiddie goblins, demons with iron rods, and snakelike ghosts, the resulting short is distinctly Japanese.

Kids nowadays will recognize these monsters from folktales and ghost stories, though some of the creatures, such as the laquer umbrella with one eye and one leg, or the red lantern breathing fire, invoke images of Japanese life so far removed from what we know today that their scare factor is debatable. With these stickers, it seems, they have transcended their mythical origins and finally emerged as yet another batch of cute Japanese characters.

1 comment:

Ryo said...

I have those stickers in my drawer!
But I never had a chance to use them.