• How is Pony Doing in Japan? How Does the Japanese Fandom Respond to the Show? We Interviewed One of Them to Find Out!

    A few weeks ago, we posted up a bit of news about the possible bad situation for Friendship is Magic over in Japan.  Unfortunately, their online store looked to be getting the axe, and in-store displays shut down.  We haven't heard anything about a season three yet over there, so our half a year of Japan Time posts may have been the end of it.

    Japan is a curiosity for a lot of us over in the West. With anime ever growing in popularity, and both of our cultures melding on all sorts of oddities, sometimes it's fun to try to draw comparisons.

    So how does the land of the adorable anime eyes see our cute cartoon horses? What does the fandom over there celebrate about the show? We grabbed someone going by the name of Sakura Cheetah for a quick interview to get an inside look into Japanese pony culture.

    Applejack fans might be happy here.

    Head on down below the break to check it all out!

    Hey Sakura Cheetah! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Lets start it off with the usual; How did you become involved in Friendship is Magic? And who is your favorite pony? 

    It began with me browsing through the “What’s Hot” section of the DeviantArt page. I often came across these big-eyed creature like things and wondered what they were. After doing some research (Looking at those images and the related posts section) I found out that these things were the characters from the show “My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.” Looking at the name I knew it was a show for little kids, but since there were so many pony art, I just had to see what the fuss was about. Youtube. I started watching pony videos which I thought were the official show but turned out to be fan work (Which surprised me…alot). I felt that a show that influences this many people to create beautiful works had to be good. Eventually I watched one episode and well…We all know what happened next. The first ever MLP episode I watched was “Lunar Eclipse” and that Moon pony with an awkward personality caught my eye. My favorite pony is Princess Luna.

    Japan has always been an interesting place for pony, since a lot of us here in the US sort of see you all as the kings and queens of cute. Before Friendship is Magic started airing there, what was the reaction between some of the people that first ran into it?

    Well, to be honest, I am no expert about KAWAII, CUTE, or any of the anime…(I usually come across situations where exchange students knowing more about anime than I do). I was a quiet brony until the actual airing of the show in Japan, so I’m not too sure about the community before it, but I can probably say most of the reactions were pretty simple. 「え?何これ?かわいいじゃん!見る!」 To translate that: “Whats this? This is so Kawaii! Im going to watch this!” …Well not all reactions were like this but I guess the majority was. Many of us Japanese bronies were influenced by friends to watch the show and eventually were pulled in.

    A while back, an article popped up that mentioned Big Mac as one of the most popular ponies, but that was quickly dashed when other Japanese pony fans started to chime in. Which characters do you tend to see people polarize to over there? Did it change at all when it started actually airing?

    Actually it’s my first time knowing about Big Mac being the most popular. I can tell you facts about which ponies Japanese bronies love. During the First and Second JapanPonyCon, they executed a survey of which ponies they liked best. And the result was: Among the Mane 6…AppleJack. The whole cast: Princess Luna. So, if you were to say AppleJack was a background pony or something like that in Japan, you would probably be chased by many.

    Do the Japanese fans tend to watch the dubbed versions? Or did you all mainly grab the English versions and add subtitles?

    We watched the dubbed version while it was airing. Some people watched the livestream on NIKONIKODOUGA. Japan only aired up to Season 2, so people who wanted to see Season 3 and beyond went to the subtitled English versions. I guess others who have not, don’t know the story after Season 2.

    And speaking of episodes, how much did having it air over there help build up the fandom? Did you see an increase in membership in meetup groups? 
    Before the airing there were meet-ups, but the numbers were really small. However, after the airing of MLP in Japan, it really boosted the community for sure. Many meet-ups were done. The most significant is probably JapanPonyCon. Their attendee numbers grew every time (JPC1: 92 JPC2: 162 JPC3: 242 JPC4: 307). After con meet-ups were also done which had over 60 people. The Year-end meet-up which was held last year December had about 50 people. We also had a “Hanami (cherry blossom watching) meet-up” where bronies gathered together and had fun while watching the cherry blossoms. I’ve also heard there were many Pony Marathons done as well. MLP in Japan stopped airing but I guess the numbers are growing very slowly.

    Since we don't have a whole lot of information on demographics, who would you say primarily tuned into it? 

    Teenagers and above. The majority of the brony fandom here is teenagers. Bushiroad (The company that aired MLP) may have been targeting little children… but having MLP aired 7:30 am on a Tuesday… Not sure many children were able to watch it live (Judging by the time the majority of them should be going to school).

    Were a lot of kids sporting pony merchandise, or did it sort of go unnoticed? 

    I heard other bronies saying that they found little kids wearing pony shirts. I saw a small girl begging a mother to buy her pony toys at Costco. I can say some kids were sporting pony merchandise but not many.

    Once again, a few years ago we were told that cartoons with animals as the main characters were stigmatized to be just for kids. Is there any truth in this? 

    I can say that is pretty true. The majority of the animations with animals being the main character are targeted for children, but I think it is like that all over the world.

    How many Japanese fans would you estimate there are at the moment? Do The majority of them visit the English side of the fandom (via the art, music, videos, etc), or is it pretty segregated with it's own community of creators? 

    I estimate about under a thousand bronies, but fans... Maybe a little more. I know JP bronies here often visit the English side of the fandom (eg: Equestria Daily, Deviantart, Youtube, Tumblr…etc). But we often stick to twitter a lot. JP bronies tend to communicate and share things on twitter and Japanese people tweet ALOT. And I know many JP bronies head into Legend of Equestria when its server’s open. I wouldn’t say segregated, but since there is a language difference it’s hard for many of the JP bronies to take part in the mainstream of the fandom. But we do watch the livestreams when a new season starts.

    How well do you think Friendship is Magic is doing over there right now? With the merchandise site closing down, I think a lot of us fear it may have fallen flat. 

    I think the majority of the people think that the MLPJP version has fallen flat. We had hopes for season 3 airing but after what happened chances are slim. But as long as Friendship is Magic keeps airing, I think the community will stay strong. Even during this long wait between seasons, the bronies gather up at meet-ups, make fan works, and keep the community going.


    (I have no idea what this says so hopefully it's nothing bad!)

    And that about covers it! I know a lot of people around the fandom that would love if Applejack was the prime popular pony.   Maybe you should all move to Japan!?