In the fall of 2018, America was introduced to Nyango Star. A death-metal–drumming, roly-poly, too-cute-for-words mascot of inexplicable design to us in the Western hemisphere, Star is a massive hit in Japan and represents part of the country's yuru-chara culture, which translates loosely to "chill mascot." Now in an informative video by Vice News, Nyango Star's origins and purpose have finally been revealed to outsiders who only knew the character as a meme until now.
Star is one of the most popular yuru-charas in Japan, and represents Kuroishi City, a rural farming community in northern Japan that's been hit hard by the declining population of the country over the past decades. By going viral and putting on performances where the character can impress crowds with his incredible drumming chops, the mascot generates revenue for the town via ticket sales and merchandising, and boosts morale through the international attention garnered by his intensely cute and kitschy presence.
The mayor of Kuroishi took Nyango Star all the way to Tokyo to generate buzz about the mascot and get some help marketing his unique presence and skills, introducing him to entertainment company the Being Group, which now produces products bearing the character's likeness — they've even managed to collaborate with the cartoon giant Hello Kitty. Tee shirts, plush animals, tote bags and more help raise money to increase the character's visibility, and he has been featured in several national commercials in Japan for products like Pepsi, apple-flavored yogurt and the recent film Bohemian Rhapsody.
Closing out the video is footage from a live Nyango Star gig, where the character is adorned with black stripes to make him look more "metal" as he bangs out drum solos at breakneck speed. The enthusiastic crowd contains longtime fans and newcomers, one of whom is interviewed and admits that his inital skepticism has dissipated, and he is now interested in purchasing Nyango's merchandise. Go, Nyango Star!