Can a Minion be accused of cultural appropriation?

We all know Minions love bananas, but now it looks like they’ve developed a passion for Japanese culture too. That’s because they’re now appearing as characters from the world of kabuki (classical Japanese theatre), thanks to a tie-up between NBC Universal Entertainment Japan and Shochiku, a Japanese movie studio, cinema chain, and production company for kabuki. 

The collaboration covers a wide range of goods featuring some of our favourite Minions dressed up in kimono as characters from a kabuki play called Shiranami Gonin Otoko (Five Men of the White Waves). In the play, the five men are actually thieves, and Minions Kevin, Bob, Stewart, Tom and Mel (left to right below) have been chosen to step into the title roles.

Kevin plays Nippon Daemon, the leader of the band of thieves, while Bob plays Benten Kozo Kikunosuke, Stewart plays Tadanobu Rihei, Tom plays Akaboshi Juzaburo, and Mel plays Nango Rikimaru, all young thieves.

Kicking off the collection is a trio of plush toys for 2,800 yen (US$26.18).

Bob/Benten Kozo Kikunosuke measures in at 16.5 centimetres (6.5 inches) in height.

▼ Kevin/Nippon Daemon is slightly taller at 19 centimetres.

▼ While Stewart/Tadanobu Rihei stands between them both, at 17.5 centimetres.

▼ There are also 12-centimetre to 14-centimetre keychains for 1,850 yen each…

▼ Adult T-shirts for 3,500 yen…

▼ And kids’ T-shirts for 3,300 yen.

You can bring your favourite Minions into the kitchen with a blue melamine cup for 900 yen and a white mug for 1,300 yen.

▼ And enjoy them as cookies or manju confections for 1,000 yen each.

There are pouches (1,300 yen), mini towels (700 yen) and clear files (400 yen)…

Along with pens (950 yen), memo pads (700 yen) and small tote bags (1,300 yen).

▼ And a range of acrylic keyholders for 700 yen.

While non-Japanese people who wear kimono often face criticism from those who label it cultural appropriation, these Minions, much like foreigners in kimono, not only have Japan’s blessing to dress this way, but are being adored for doing so.

For those who want to snare an item from the most kawaii band of thieves the kabuki world has ever seen, the collection will be available at the Kabuki-ya Honpo store inside Tokyo Station and online from 2 July.

Source: ©︎ Universal City Studios LLC. ©︎ SHOCHIKU Co Press Release
Images: Kabukiya Honpo
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