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Gununu (ぐぬぬ) is an illustrustor’s meme based on a close-up exploitable image of Ana from Strawberry Marshmallow, a manga series created by Japanese illustrator Barasui. In Japanese, “Gununu” is an onomatopoeia which can be roughly translated into English as “Grrr.”
As early as in 2007, the image trend was picked up by 2chan illustrators and incorporated into hundreds of instances depicting a great variety of fictional characters in similar vein to 4chan’s Fsjal and Give Pikachu a Face.
Origin: Strawberry Marshmallow
Strawberry Marshmallow (苺ましまろ, Ichigo Mashimaro) is a Japanese manga series by illustrator Barasui about the adventures of four elementary school girls and their older sister. First published in the manga magazine Dengeki Daioh in 2002, the series was eventually adapted into an anime series and PlayStation 2 video game in 2005.
In the 2nd episode of the anime version, first aired the 21st of July 2005 and titled “Ana”, the plot revolves around an encounter between 3 Japanese girls and Ana Coppola, a foreigner from England, and the friendship they develop
Around the end of the episode, the Japanese girls eventually find out about Ana’s family name, much to her embarrassment. In order to “solve” that problem, one of the girls, Miu Matsuoka (nicknamed Micchan), writes down a nickname for her. Upon reading it, the following picture shows Ana’s reaction face that can be best described as “grrr-ing” out of frustration.
Her reaction can be seen at 5:01 in this episode clip via Youtube (last of 3 parts):
Exploitable Trend on 2chan
According to the Lurkmore Wiki, the exploitable trend was first picked up by Futaba Channel (2chan). Initially, the Strawberry Marshmallow anime has a peculiar style which emphasizes on the cuteness of the characters, especially the little girls heroines. The close-up face, offering an expression mixed between crying and anger, was seen as a typical moe effect, or a kind of cuteness overload.
The meme name “Gununu” is a Japanese onomatopoeia which can be roughly translated into English as “Grrr” according to the this 2009 archive where Futaba users discussed the meme’s origin. From that thread, one user claims the oldest Gununu’s image was from June 11, 2007.
An archived picture, from Futaba channel, shows a memo in japanese stating that “Gununu got over 1000 images at November 28, 2007, 2000 images at March 29, 2008, 3000 images at September 27, 2008, 4000 images at May 30, 2009 made in Futaba website only.” There is a picture describing the modus operandi behind the meme, available here (In Japanese)
Pixiv & NND Development
To date, it has led to 24 pages of pictures there.
One of those hit Youtube in December 2007 :
This became popular on the Japanese web, as the following links talking about it show :
- ネタなべ。 (Netanabe)
- Nico Nico Douga’s tag
- Another Futaba archive from 2009
- Japanese google image result for the meme
- Even on Japanese Twitter
On the Western Web
- The imageboard Gununubooru was started in May the 18th 2008.
- A flash animation was made the 1st of October 2008 and hosted on Dagobah.biz.
- The song used, Call on Me, marks a possible cross-over with another meme : X doesn’t change facial expression
- Another flash animation Gununu Deluxe : Strike Witch