Called “Tonari no Onigiri-kun,” or “My Neighbor Rice Ball,” the Japanese snack was created by one of the studio’s top animators, Katsuya Kondo. The character’s story is told over three short video clips, produced as part of a promotion for Ito En, Japan’s premier manufacturer of bottled tea drinks.
The first video stars a rice cooker and ladle, who give us a quick introduction to where Onigiri-kun originally came from. One of the things that has fans swooning is the opening screen for each clip, which cements its authenticity as an official Studio Ghibli title. Despite being simply drawn, all the characters have a beautiful sense of life about them that immediately draws us into their tale.
The second video in the series shows us one of Japan’s most perfect meal combinations: hot green tea and a tightly packed ball of white rice. This cute rice ball, however, has a mind of his own! The two-legged Onigiri-kun comes to life and immediately runs off, while the cup of green tea looks surprised by the whole situation.
The third video brings the story to its neat conclusion. All the characters join Onigiri-kun on his adventure, running alongside him until a bespectacled man stops them in their tracks. And now the family of onigiri-loving characters is complete, taking a bow to rapturous applause as if they’ve just performed a stage play.
The collaboration with Ito En is part of a campaign to encourage customers to purchase specially marked bottles of Ito En tea. 10,000 people who register special codes from the bottles online will be chosen to receive prizes like fresh rice and other gourmet products. Everyone who registers a code online will be able to receive one of several free “photo frames” featuring the cute rice ball character, which can be used to liven up online photos. Be sure to pick up a bottle of tea and visit the campaign website for more details!
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