Two Character-Art Cats

Like the differences between emoticons and kaomoji, there is a distinction between ASCII art and Shift_JIS art.

A promotional music video featuring a character-art cat recently aired in Japan to some controversy. The issue? The cat, “Noma Neko,” was derivative of piece of character-art, “Mona,” the mascot of 2channel,* the biggest internet discussion board in Japan - and the world. Now members of 2channel are crying foul over the band’s derivative logo appearing in merchandizing.

The distinctive mouth of Mona reveals that he isn’t precisely ASCII. Like most character art appearing on 2channel, he is actually Shift_JIS art, a superset of ASCII art including Japanese characters. So embedded is Mona in the scene that the open project to create a standard, proportion font for Japanese character-art is called “Mona Font.”

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Interestingly, the name “Mona” is itself a discussion-board joke. The cat began life as a retort on a discussion thread, saying “Omae mo nā” (you too), later shortened to “mona”.

Mona vs. Nomaneko

While I can’t read the rants written in Japanese on 2channel, and I don’t understand Japanese law, this doesn’t seem to be about copyright or trademark so much as respect. One of the remarkable things about stories like this is that even cultures of anonymity (such as 2channel) and appropriation (such Shift_JIS art) can be outraged when their images or traditions are in turn appropriated.

It is also remarkable how appropriation is in some ways more demonstrable in an electronic document subculture like 2channel, whose conversational tradition is both written and searchable, and whose history has been auto-ethnographically recorded in Wikipedia to an amazing extent. My piece is mainly a compilation of a few news articles and a slew of Wikipedia entries - and the authority of those entries lies in the fact that their creation was negotiated and they are open to challenge and consensus.

It is interesting seeing a character-art news item on a figure (rather than a trend or a technology). How many other recognizable personas are there whose origins lie in character-art? Are there any western ASCII equivalents to Mona?

* a.k.a. 2ch, Ni-channeru, Ni-channel….

4 Responses to “Two Character-Art Cats”

  1. 1 EJwriter

    Jeremy! GJ!
    Thanks for your help!
    Please contact our HP and tel us how you find this issue!
    English is OK and someone could be available.
    Do you live in Japan?

    News Source

    Update tips


    If you have anything to ask, please come our home BBS
    English is OK and someone could be available.

    FYI, community - just for understanding

  2. 2 Jeremy Douglass

    Thanks for the useful links, EJwriter. The newsroll and the pictures are very helpful.

    I first read about this issue in an article on the Mainichi Daily News, which I received through a Google News feed for ASCII Art. While I do not live in Japan, I follow events there (and elsewhere) with interest….

  3. 3 EJwriter

    Hi! Here I brought a update.

    Press Releases: Row over public domain ASCII art in Japan

    Save our beloved MONAR! We do NOT need a copy!

    Comprehend “Noma-Neko” case in 5 minutes???v1.7???

    Home Office for “Noma Neko” problem for foreigners (English only)

  4. 4 EJwriter

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