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Last month, while browsing through Facebook, I came across a video that caught my attention. This video was a short animated clip of a cute panda who bought bread which turned out to be bad. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing because it was so funny (well to me at least). I wanted more. I started a search for the character on the web and came across the Instagram page for WaruPan. I fell in love. This character was so unique from the typical Japanese characters and the fact that it was a panda, made it even better. I love me some pandas. But what, rather, who exactly is WaruPan? I needed answers so I reached out to the creative mind behind this fun character, to find out more about who they were and where WaruPan came from.
Keirn: Tell me about yourself.
Jiri: My name is Jiri Mills, a 28 year old Jamaican living in Japan.
Keirn: What and who is WaruPan?
Jiri: WaruPan is short for Waruii Panda or Bad Panda . He is a character I created in June 2017. Don’t be disarmed by his cute looks; WaruPan is meaner than your average bear. He believes in “instant karma” and pet peeves include stupidity and anything remotely annoying. However, instead of dealing with these problems internally, like most, he always retaliates by doing something bad which he feels is fair.
Keirn: Wow! That’s freakin amazing! How was the concept developed?
Jiri: Thanks Keirn. After going into a sticker store, seeing the effect the designs had on people and how something so simple made them happy, I set my mind to commence the design of my own brand . The initial idea was to focus on fashion but since there were so many things I wanted to design I decided to make a lifestyle brand instead. As I am currently a practicing teacher I asked students in my classes what animals they liked. Many of them said pandas and to my surprise there weren’t many popular panda characters created. So from that point WaruPan was created.
Keirn: That is absolutely amazing Jiri! I’m so proud of you. How is it managing a brand such as this in Japan?
Jiri: I appreciate that you like it. The immediate obstacle faced was being in a foreign country which speaks a completely different language and the need to find a way to bridge the gap with my brand. Japan for most people is known for its cute characters, whether it’s an anime, games or mascots. So the decision was made to promote my brand, I would create a cute, likable and relatable character.
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Keirn: I like that you found the perfect market for your brand. What have you achieved thus far under your brand.
Jiri: Trust me, it means a lot to hear you say that. Well, so far under the main brand PABANDA, the first designs for WaruPan were done as a set of 40 LINE stamps/stickers.These were then followed by 5 different physical stickers and a limited set of WaruPan Dad hats. The first episode of the WaruPan series was launched via Instagram and Facebook on Sunday November 12, 2017 and one episode will be released every month.
Keirn: I have to tell you, I want one of those hats, even if my big head can’t fit it. Haha!
Jiri: Haha! You can expect to see more in late January/ early February 2018, in the form of dad hats, T-shirts/sweaters and various merchandise including phone cases, stuffed WaruPan and much more.
Keirn: I honestly am blown away by your dedication to crack the Japanese market with Warupan. Can we expect anything else?
Jiri: 1 Episode every month, physical stickers and new LINE stamps/stickers.
Keirn: Thank you so much for doing this interview, Jiri. I look forward to seeing more from you and WaruPan. Any last thoughts you’d like yo share?
Jiri: My hope for this character is to help people feel confident and comfortable enough to be true to themselves, their feelings and to create a connection among all peoples; Black, White or Asian.
I was hugely impressed to see a young Jamaican male, using his creative talent to break into the Japanese market with WaruPan. I’m sure it’ll do well in the coming months.
To to find out more about WaruPan,
check out his Instagram (here)
and Facebook (here).
stickers, click here