Okay, we have a question for you. How many of you personally know someone who’s fallen under the spell of Sanrio? We’re guessing, quite a lot. The sheer number of characters the company has come up with during its 54-year history is truly amazing, not to mention the immense appeal and popularity some of these characters enjoy across the world. Even if you’re not a passionate fan, if you have even a remote fondness for anything kawaii, then you’re bound to have a favorite Sanrio character, which is why Sanrio has a popularity poll for its characters each year, called the Sanrio Character Ranking.

Now, considering that most people probably think of Hello Kitty as the undisputed queen of Sanrio, you may expect the international feline celebrity to have an iron-clad hold on the top place in the rankings, but apparently, that hasn’t always been the case. This year in particular, the preliminary results from the first stage of the polls seem to be surprising Sanrio fans, specifically with regards to the votes Hello Kitty has managed, or not managed for that matter, to earn. Could it be that there’s something amiss with Hello Kitty’s reign over the kingdom of Sanrio?

The Sanrio Character Ranking actually has a longer history then you might expect, as this is its 29th year running. During that time, our beloved Hello Kitty has ranked first in the polls a total of 14 times, which unsurprisingly is more than any other character.

For the ranking, 100 characters are divided into five groups (Groups A-E) for the initial “group stage” of the polls, which this year is being held from May 10 to June 15. During that time, fans can vote for one character in each group per day. Once the group stage is completed, the top four characters from each group will advance to the “final stage”, which will last from July 8 to July 21. The final results are scheduled to be announced on August 2 on the Character Ranking website and at participating Sanrio stores.

Although the contest is currently still in the middle of the group stage, Sanrio recently announced the preliminary results for online votes as of May 25, and the numbers have been causing a bit of a stir. Why? Because it looks like Hello Kitty, who with her popularity and business acumen single-handedly paid off her company’s debts, hasn’t collected as many votes as expected. Could it be that Sanrio’s Queen is struggling to gain votes?

Here are the results that were announced by Sanrio (online votes only, as of May 25):

chara list

According to these results, the top 10 characters by number of votes overall are:

1. Pompompurin  40,281 votes
chara 1
2. Cinnamoroll  32,694
chara 2
3. My Melody  27,067
chara 3
4. Little Twin Stars  24,949
chara 4
5. Hello Kitty  20,687
chara 5
6. KIRIMIchan  18,347
chara 6
7. Gudetama  17,586
chara 7
8. Turfy  17,268
chara 8
9. Fukuchan  16,640
chara 9
10. Pochacco  16,154
chara 10

Wait, Hello Kitty is in fifth place? Granted, she’s at the top of her group, but she’s almost 20,000 votes behind the overall leader, Pompompurin. And she’s not that far ahead of the anthropomorphized food characters KIRIMIchan, the salmon fillet, and Gudetama, the lazy egg.

Some Japanese Internet users apparently felt that this was a less than satisfactory result for the most famous cat in the world. However, there were also plenty of others who commented that “Hello Kitty is just taking it easy and biding her time for now, but just wait until it gets closer to the end of the group stage and she’ll massacre them all!” Well, we may not quite feel the need to use the word “massacre”, but we tend to agree with the latter opinion. Hello Kitty has been number one in the ranking for the past two years, and with all the positive publicity surrounding her 40th anniversary, we have every reason to believe she has what it takes to make it three years in a row.

So, to answer the big question here, no, we don’t think Hello Kitty is losing favor with Sanrio fans. We still think she’s pretty darn hot (especially considering she’s turning 40 this year), and we’re quite sure many people around the world feel the same way. And you have to admit, with all the hard work she’s done over the years, she’s certainly proved herself worthy of being ranked the most popular Sanrio character. Whether you’re a die-hard Hello Kitty fan or not, if you want to show your support for your favorite Sanrio mascot, there’s still time for you to participate in the rankings online from the Sanrio Character Ranking’s English site.

Happy voting, and may the best character win!

Source: Sanrio Character Ranking official site, Wikipedia (Ichigo Shimbun; in Japanese)
Top image: Sanrio Character Ranking Twitter account
Inset image: Sanrio Character Ranking official site