Say hello to the Four Heavenly Kings of Center Listening.

While some Japanese universities have their own individualized entrance exams, many of them rely on a standardized examination called the Center Test. Held every year in January, the Center Test is similar to the American SAT, testing students’ proficiency levels in a variety of subjects.

So when examinees sat down for this year’s Center Test last Saturday, they expected there to be a listening section that would gauge their English comprehension abilities. What they didn’t expect, though was for the multiple-choice answer options to be a series of bizarre illustrations of anthropomorphized fruits and vegetables.

The very first question in the listening section featured a conversation between two people, with the dialogue as follows:

Person A: “We need an idea for a new cartoon character.”
Person B: “I agree. How about a vegetable?”
Person A: “That sounds OK. But, for a stronger impact, give it wings to fly.”
Person B: “Good idea.”

In a way, it’s not such a bad question. The vocabulary is all pretty useful terms that a competent English speaker should be able to quickly recognize and understand, and the grammar, likewise, is all common, practical phrases. But the sheer weirdness of the topic, and the drawings students were asked to choose from, has people across Japan scratching their heads…and artists reaching for their pencils and paints.

The Center Listening characters have since become Japan’s newest illustrated meme, with the question’s correct answer, the seraphic carrot man, proving the most popular.

▼ He’s got a bit of a Dragon Ball Super Saiyan thing going on here.

Other artists have decided to take the entire group as their collective muse, also drawing Winged Apple Man and the group’s beefy biceped cucumber and grape bunch, giving the group names such as “The Four Heavenly Kings of Center Listening” or “The Center Listening Four Musketeers.”

One Piece’s dramatic backs-turned-hands-up pose meets a Your Name-style flare effect.

▼ The quartet in the style of hit indie video game Undertale

▼ The Four Heavenly Kings of Center Listening as a live-in-concert boy band

▼ Winged Carrot Man as a kigurumi-style costume for a handsome anime boy

▼ These extra-cute redesigns look like they could star in their very own four-panel gag manga series.

▼ There’s even been 3-D fan art for the suddenly famous four.

Again, as mentioned above, weird as the subject matter may be, there’s really nothing unfairly difficult about the test’s question. However, that still leaves the issue of why the test’s creators chose to include such a strange dialogue. Maybe they thought that an absurd premise without any real-world context would be the best way to gauge pure linguistic skill, or maybe they just thought that showing students some ridiculous artwork right off the bat would give the kids a laugh and help them stay relaxed through the rest of the test.

Sources: IT Media (1, 2), Jin
Featured image: Twitter/@hatocircle