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When you’re in charge of marketing for an organization with a name as bland as Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association, we can see how you’d come to the conclusion that your employer could use a quick injection of stylishness and visual appeal in the public eye. This being Japan, there are two quick ways to do this.

The first is to hire a popular actress or idol singer, dress her up in a short skirt and/or revealing top, and get her to pose with whatever product you’re promoting, which in the case of the Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association is currently amaebi, or sweet shrimp.

We’re not sure if this was cost prohibitive or if every spokesmodel on the company’s shortlist turned out to have a shellfish allergy, but the marketing team instead went with plan B: turn the shrimp they’re selling into a cute anime girl.

Thus was born Ai Ebina. We have to admit, she’s got a fairly cute design, especially considering that the inspiration for the character was this.

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Proving there’s no starting point from which Japanese line artists can’t arrive at cuteness from, here’s the full-length version of Ai.

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Just with a quick glance, we can spot at least three tie-ins between the plucky, petite lass and the delicious crustaceans, starting with her hair being the same bright-red hue as amaebi. Ai’s also got two pigtails (shrimp tails?) sticking out of the top of her head, mimicking a shrimp’s feelers. And then there’s her family name, Ebina, which includes the kanji character for 海老, which is read ebi and means “shrimp.”

Of course, you can’t have an anime spokesperson without also giving her a backstory. According to her official profile, the 16-year-old Ai was born on Yagishiri Island in Hokkaido, but at the age of one moved to the nearby town of Haboro, which just happens to be where the Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association is headquartered.

▼ By the way, how did “create an anime mascot” got priority over “choose an official acronym for Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association”?

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Ai’s father is a local fisherman (of course), and her mother runs a beauty salon. The first-year high school student gets good grades in history class, and on her days off enjoys grabbing her camera and heading out to take pictures of the area’s mountains, Yagishiri Quasi-National Park, and the old Haboro coal mine where her grandfather used to work. She also has an interest in fashion, which is puzzling, seeing how she’s dressed like a dock worker, but who are we to judge?

Far less surprising are her professed favorite foods, which are shrimp miso ramen, shrimp pasta, tempura shrimp bowls, and just plain old amaebi sweet shrimp.

▼ As a marketing shill, we know she’s obligated to like shrimp, but shrimp tempura bowls are undeniably awesome.

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Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association plans to use Ai in a number of upcoming promotions, and is hoping that potential customers in a wide range of ages will eat up her cuteness first, and the company’s shrimp next.

Source: Jin
Top image: Kitarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association
Insert images: Iwafune Gyoko, itarumoi Fishery Cooperative Association, Yaizu Uonaka