Felissimo brings back the Papipu Penguins.

If you happened to stumble across the Papipu Penguins for the first time just today, you might be tempted to lump them in with so many other cute animal characters from Japan that made their debut in the ‘80s, trying to follow the blueprint for success that Hello Kitty had laid out a few years prior when she became a worldwide pop cultural phenomenon. And with nostalgia being a powerful force, you might not find anything unusual about the fact that Japanese lifestyle brand Felissimo has just released a line of new Papipu Penguin merch.

There are two things that set the Papipu Penguins apart from other character goods characters, though. The first is that their breakout gig was selling beer, as they appeared in an extensive series of animated TV commercials for Suntory, starting in 1983.

▼ When you need a drink after getting knocked out in a boxing match, make it Suntory!

▼ And when you’re sitting at a bar, drinking alone as you cry and remember your ex, make it Suntory again!

“But wait, Casey,” you say, “I remember you telling me that Hello Kitty also briefly sold beer!”, to which I’m grateful for you long-term readership (and also happy that your interest in alcoholic beverages hasn’t dulled your memory. So what makes Papipu Penguins truly unique is that out of all of Japan’s many, many cute character goods characters, they’re the only ones to star in a full-length anime movie about the tragic horrors of guerilla warfare and the difficulties of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And no, I’m not joking even a little bit.

The Papipu Penguins beer ads aired in 1983 and 1984, and their popularity led to the 1985 anime movie Penguin’s Memory, which follows protagonist Mike Davis, a soldier (and penguin) returning to his home country after a tour of duty in a conflict that’s a thinly veiled metaphor for the Vietnam War. Having watched two close friends be killed in front of his eyes, Mike finds work at a library, but his knowledge of man’s inhumanity to man (penguin’s inpenguinuity to penguin?) makes it difficult for him to reintegrate into civilian society.

However, Felissimo takes care to point out that its new Papipu Penguins roomwear T-shirt, zippered pouches, and toothbrushes feature Pakku and Bikki, the original Papipu Penguins, as opposed to Mike and his Penguin’s Memory love interest Jill. At the same time, there don’t really seem to be any visual distinctions between the character designs for Pakku and Mike or Bikki and Jill.

Due to their inherent cuteness, the Papipu Penguins also appeared on stationary, pencil cases, and other trinkets in the ‘80s. For those who primarily remember them for the surrealness of Penguin’s Memory, though, the new merch is yet another step in that direction, and definitely promises to be a conversation starter with other in-the-know-fans. The T-shirt is priced at 4,950 yen (US$37), the pouches at 2,750 yen each, and the brushes at 1,650 yen for a set of six, with all available here through Felissimo’s online shop.

Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: Felissimo, PR Times
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[ Read in Japanese ]