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It’s been a couple of weeks now since Kitty-gate, or “that time when someone at Sanrio said Hello Kitty wasn’t a cat and the world went nuts”. The issue has now, hopefully, been laid to rest, and we can all get back to watching videos of chubby cats pushing toy wagons around and debating things like which flavour of Pringles is best (answer: Sour Creme and Onion).

But a line in a recently published Japanese gaming guide has now suggested that yet another much-loved character is not what he first seemed. Rather than simply being the giant pink blob that we always thought him to be, it would seem that Nintendo’s marshmallow-faced mascot Kirby is actually “a person” – something that has greatly amused the internet-using public here in Japan.

The discovery of Kirby’s “true” identity was made by Twitter users analysing photos shared by Japanese gaming site Inside Games on Friday last week.

kirby shotInside Games

While the characters’ special moves were no doubt of great interest to those itching to play the latest instalment of Nintendo’s super-addictive fighting game, the thing that really caught gamers’ eyes was a line in the description of everyone’s favourite pink puffball, Kirby:

[Heiwa no hoshi, poppu sutaa no pupupurando ni sumu marui hito]

Those who have studied even entry-level Japanese will know that the very last word we see here, hito (人), refers to people. It crops up in all kinds of words and phrases, from 人間 (ningen/human) and 人類 (jinrui/humankind) to 人力車 (jinrikisha/rickshaw) and 外国人 (gaikokujin/foreign person). Cats, dogs, vacuum-mouthed pink blobs and the like, however, are never referred to as such, so this line mentioning Kirby as a hito is to Japanese people akin to an English-speaker hearing Donald Duck described as “a seafaring man who doggedly refuses to wear pants in public.”

As you might expect, the discovery of this conspicuous word in the game guide caused great amusement online, with tweets like Kirbypuro’s here being shared thousands of times.

▼ “[Newsflash] Kirby-man, Kirby-man, Kirby-man…”

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 12.22.43 PMTwitter – Kirbynopuro

But before this unusual wording sparks the gaming equivalent of Kitty-gate and the interwebs become filled with musings on what could possibly have caused Kirby to be transformed from a regular-looking human being into the pink blob we know him as, let’s be clear here: as odd as this line is, no one is seriously suggesting that Kirby is actually human. It’s far more likely that the writer of this game guide is either being a bit careless with their phrasing or simply having a bit of fun, much in the same way that some Japanese speakers, my own wife included, will playfully refer to inanimate objects as “kono hito” (“this person”) from time to time.

Kirby’s a lot of things. He’s cute, insatiably hungry, and surprisingly good to have around in a fight. But he’s not a person, so you needn’t worry that the same, blobulous fate could one day await you.

Unless, of course, as one online commenter pointed out, we’re all being a bit egocentric here. After all, on his own planet Kirby’s probably just a regular-looking dude, so who are we to say that he’s not a hito?

Source/insert image: Inside-Games via Jin
Feature image: Hoi Sokuhou