Astro boy is a Japanese TV show, or anime, as well as a comic, or manga. It revolves around this young boy who dies in a car accident and how his father brought him back to life by means of technology. The father restructures his son into a robot which battles both villains and the problems of not being a human.
Marc Steinberg who wrote “Candies, Characters and Merchandising: The Meiji-Atomu Marketing Campaign,” discusses one form of marketing that was very successful in Japan. This method was termed Character Merchandising in which a company would lease their character images to other companies in order to make a profit. These companies would then produce what we see today, like backpacks, pencils, erasers, etc. This idea was first brought to Japan by none other than Walt Disney. Yet one of the first industries to attempt this was the candy industry.
What better way to appeal to people than have a young boy, who died in a tragic accident, act as a model for certain industries? The chocolate industry, according to Steinberg, was a prime example that began to use Astro Boy to attract more customers, especially children. Steinberg says, “there was a growing taste for sweet through the 1950s owing to the prominence of Hershey’s chocolate—along with Wrigley’s chewing gum—as one of the two major handouts given by American GIs to Japanese children.” After the war, chocolate became high in demand and those companies had to think of ways to appeal to more customers.
What attracted children to Astro Boy were his crime fighting adventures, and when you mix that with a box of chocolates, the results will be outstanding. In addition to having Astro Boy as the label, the shape of chocolate was also changed in order to appeal to children. One company decided to call their chocolates “Marble Chocolates” which Kushima Tsutomu refers to as “toy chocolates.”
This was only the beginning for Astro Boy. Chocolates soon became too small of a vessel to hold the growing fame that was Astro Boy. Stickers, clothing, action figures, and candy are only a few of the new industries that have adopted Astro Boy. He appeals mainly to children but the sad and tragic origin may appeal to adults, or perhaps his appearance is something to note. I mean, who wouldn’t like an adorable robot kid who goes out and fights crime?