Chiitan’s management claim a city rep in charge of happiness told them “permission wasn’t needed.”

The next few weeks will prove to be crucial for the future of Chiitan, the otter mascot who does stuff like this:

These adorably dangerous capers have earned the yurukyara mascot character an impressive 1.32 million followers on Twitter, eclipsing that of legendary mascot Kumamon (about 805,000 followers) and nearing the level of established international superstar Funasshi (1.44 million followers).

It is also well above the roughly 100,000 followers held by former Yurukyara Grand Prix champ Shinjo-kun who is the source of both Chiitan herself and her current problems. With both otters having been created in the same style by the same person, Chiitan is essentially a derivative work of Shinjo-kun.

▼ Since Shinjo-kun is an official mascot, his behavior is much more restrained, with DJing about as wild as he usually gets

This appeared to have caused no problems for over a year, but since last month Susaki City — the owners of Shinjo-kun — have been taking an increasingly aggressive stance against Chiitan, first disavowing her as their Tourism Ambassador, and more recently requesting that she cease and desist all activities.

Mayor Kusunose of Susaki City initially said that the cause of this was over 100 complaints from residents that Chiitan’s sometimes-violent behavior was having a negative impact on Shinjo-kun and the city. However, the timing was suspiciously close to the announcement of an animated Chiitan series trademark application filed for both domestic and international use by her management Kleeblatt.

▼ Kleeblatt also manages Kamen Joshi, the idol group on whose hair, feet, and sweat fried chicken has been based

On 8 February Kleeblatt spoke publicly for the first time about the issue, telling Oricon News that the reason they filed for a trademark in the first place was because of agreed upon plans from last year to market a Shinjo-kun & Chiitan line of merchandise and even an animated series featuring the pair.

This trademark is likely the main point of contention between the two as an overseas trademark given to Chiitan before Shinjo-kun would have given Kleeblatt the advantage over Susaki in that market.

▼ Were the people behind Chiitan planning a coup d’etat of intellectual property all along?

With regards to copyright infringement in general, Kleeblatt claims that they had long ago sought permission from Susaki City, saying:

“Other companies wanting to use Chiitan’s likeness raised concerns that her design infringes on that of Shinjo-kun. We again spoke to the person in charge, who had already confirmed Chiitan’s costume design, and asked them for permission because we were planning to do business with other companies.

This happened on 8 November, 2017 and we consulted with the person in charge of “genki [happiness] creation” in the “Genki Creation Department” of Susaki City and as a result were told that there was no need for Susaki City’s permission.”

If true, this could swing things in favor of Chiitan, but then again saying no permission is needed isn’t exactly the same as explicitly giving permission. Also, not to diminish the authority of the “Genki Creation Department,” but I’m not sure if they can technically give out such permission in the first place.

It’s a controversial situation and readers of the news aren’t really sure who to trust in the matter.

“It’s really suspicious that Kleebatt was basically hidden until now. I also checked their webpage and there is no mention of Chiitan there at all.”
“Wow, they are saying the complete opposite of Susaki. Maybe we should hear from the creator of Shinjo-kun and and Chiitan for some clarity.”
“Making Chiitan stop doing those extreme stunts isn’t a reasonable solution.”
“I wonder if I can believe this management….”
“Susaki City probably didn’t expect Chiitan to be like this when they first gave permission.”
“Both Chiitan and Shinjo-kun have fans. Hopefully they can work this out to everyone’s satisfaction.”

A lot of support is being given to Susaki from Japanese netizens, which is probably fair. The trademark application does seem sketchy in and of itself.

On the other hand, it looks as if the three groups seemingly in charge of the otter copyright — the mayor (acting on behalf of the city), the Genki Creation Department (who dealt with Kleeblatt), and the residents of Susaki (who the mayor said technically own the copyright in his remarks on 6 February) — unfortunately might not have all been on the same page with regards to the plucky otter baby.

Still, the downfall of Chiitan isn’t the in the best interest of anyone. Both sides seem to have their pros and cons, and poor Chiitan is trapped in the middle of it all. Luckily, throughout this turmoil, the mascot is managing to keep her spirits up.

“I became a hairstylist!”

On the bright side, Kleeblatt seem open to working with Susaki City in the future and perhaps some kind of arrangement can be worked out between them, especially before the Chiitan anime is set to air on 3 April.

Source: Oricon News, Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Chiitan