Hello Kitty travels with me wherever I go. Her red bow snaps shut the wallet I have carried for the last seven years. She keeps my cards together, safe from prying eyes. Essentially, she guards my collective identity. Together we made it through university, where I consulted her a little too often. She nestled by my lap while I sat on a hill beside the boy I fell in love with. I have lost her, left her behind and dropped her into puddles. Eventually, I always find her, somehow intact. Her iconic features make her easy to describe. And yet, more than 40 artists fill the pages of Hello Kitty, Hello 40 with wholly original answers to the question, what does Hello Kitty mean to you?
Viz Media takes the collaborative concept employed in Bravest Warriors: The Search for Catbug to a grander scale with this anniversary tribute. Their previous effort captures the chaos of a multidimensional quest with stylistic diversity, a change in art style synonymous with a new galaxy. In contrast, Hello 40 tells many stories.
"Hello Kitty embodies cuteness to the core of her fuzzy oversized heart, and still her adventures manage to be universally heartwarming without becoming cloying."
Hello Kitty embodies cuteness to the core of her fuzzy oversized heart, and still her adventures manage to be universally heartwarming without becoming cloying. Habbenink’s Sweet Dreams sequence portrays a sleeping and satiated Hello Kitty covered in crumbs, caught in a sticky tokidoki dreamscape. She celebrates her birthday a dozen different ways, and in between spoonfuls of cake are insightful comments about coming of age. Lark Pien’s Baby Cup shows Hello Kitty finding just that. The back cabinet discovery prompts her to recall moments spent with her mother.
These one-shots rely solely on imagery to work their magic. Once Upon a Hello Kitty Wedding by Martin Hsu features a beautiful succession of panels that depict quiet acts before the occasion. Hello Kitty fastens her obi and straightens the hem of her kimono. Hsu uses selective color and purposeful framing to expose deeper truths in small pieces.
"You don’t have to be young or female to be a fan. Embracing Hello Kitty in adulthood recovers the glimmer of youth that saves us from becoming bitter."
Hello 40 exhibits a spectacular breadth of styles. With the flip of a page, watercolor whiskers are remodeled with tiny strips of colored paper. The variety not only makes for visual interest, but showcases Hello Kitty’s reach. You don’t have to be young or female to be a fan. Embracing Hello Kitty in adulthood recovers the glimmer of youth that saves us from becoming bitter.
Contributors include medical illustrators, printmakers, comic book artists and animators from around the world. Uglydoll creators Sun-Min Kim and David Horvath author a section. The Eisner award-winning artists behind Babymouse, Jennifer and Matthew Holm, thoughtfully pen the introduction. Whether hailed as an ambassador of happiness or respected for masterful iconography, Hello Kitty inspires on a global level.
The afternoon I spent with Hello 40 felt unusually poignant. I am tempted to resort to boiler plate phrases to convince you that I laughed, cried and experienced every half emotion in between. I expected to like this book. Viz Media’s Perfect Square line has been consistently delightful, and I’ve yet to see a poorly designed product from Sanrio. And with its gorgeous construction, Hello 40 fulfilled that expectation. What I did not expect was such a strikingly personal anthology.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: VIZ Media