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Mameshiba (豆しば) is a series of Japanese animation shorts featuring anthropomorphized characters resembling a variety of beans, candies and nuts with dog‘s ears and an animal-like face. Each cartoon or comic begins with a snacker about to eat some of the beans, when one bean suddenly wakes up and introduces itself before providing a piece of random trivia that ruins the person’s appetite.
The first Mameshiba cartoons were created by Korean artist Sukwon Kim and produced by Dentsu Advertising Agency. With a length of just 30 seconds, the first episode (shown below) aired via TV and mobile phones across Japan on March 1st, 2008, showcasing an irreverent exchange between a boy about to eat a plate of fried rice and a talking green pea.
The name mameshiba (豆しば) is an intentional pun in Japanese, blending mame (豆) or “bean”, with the phrase mame shiba (豆柴), which refers to a toy or puppy Shiba Inu. Additionally, the phrase, mameshiba sounds similar to the word for “trivia,” mamechishiki (豆知識), which translates literally to “beans of knowledge.”
The debut skit was uploaded via Nico Nico Douga the following day, March 2nd, 2008. Well before the official debut of Mameshiba to an international audience, the original episodes in Japanese were uploaded via YouTube later that same month. As of October 2012, there are 20 Mameshiba episodes and 24 different bean characters.
Although the series was intended to be an interstitial filler for empty commercial slots due to marketing budget cuts, the simple, quirky cartoons were received positively by Japanese audiences. As early as August 2008, Dentsu began licensing the Mameshiba brand for merchandise (shown below) including stuffed toys, dishware, bags and stationary as early as August 2008. The popularity of the commercials was also covered by a number of Japanese TV programs.
An official YouTube channel for English translations of the cartoons was launched on April 23rd, 2009, opening the cartoons to an international platform. On English language blogs, the characters have been featured on LaughingSquid, Crunchyroll and the Daily What. In August 2009, an official Facebook fan page for Mameshiba was launched, which has accrued more than 28,000 likes as of October 1st, 2012. Responding to international interest, Dentsu began marketing Mameshiba to the US, launching an English-language website in February 2010. The next year, English language Mameshiba comics were published.
According to an article published by entertainment news magazine Variety in February 2010, Japanese sales in 2008 and 2009 totalled over 7.5 billion yen (USD $85 million) and its brand recognition among under-40 year-olds in Japan was 78%. The Mameshiba merchandises now range in 250 different products, including stationery, soft toys (from tiny to absolutely enormous), stickers, straps, stamps, miniature figures, various toys, juggling balls, kitchen utensils, downloadable mobile phone artwork/emoticons, books, DVDs and biscuits. In September 2012, a virtual pet video game featuring Mameshiba characters was launched for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan.
Fans of the series have produced several parodies and MAD remixes on YouTube and Nico Nico Douga as well as giving rise to a notable selection of fanart on online arts communities deviantArt, Flickr and Etsy. In November 2010, the single topic Tumblr Mameshibas was launched, featuring a series of Mameshiba fan art. Another single topic Tumblr was launched in 2011 focusing on Mameshiba GIFs, and merchandise photographs. In 2011, a Mameshiba subreddit was established.
Related: “Did You Know?” Blogs
In 2011, a single topic Tumblr blog titled “Did You Know?” was launched, featuring various trivia and factoids (shown below, left) on a wide range of subject topics, as well as odd news stories and popular misconceptions that are factually inaccurate. The image posts follow the format used by the narrator behind Mameshiba commercials, prefacing each trivia or factoid with the phrase “did you know?” Following its rise to popularity on Tumblr, several spin-off blogs were created, including parody sites with fake trivia (shown below, center) and blogs dedicated to a specific type of trivia (ie: gaming, shown below, right).
Laughing Squid – Mameshiba, Japanese Bean Characters That Tell Unsettling Trivia