by Chris MaGee
Tractor salesmen? Weather reporters? What does this have to do with Japanese films? Well, not a hell of a lot, but if you're into Japanese television and pop culture then this story will definitely be of interest to you.
In June of 1959 Yanmar Co., a Japanese company that manufactures tractors, farming equipment and outboard motors tagged animator Yasuo Nakamura to create a pair of mascots for them. The result was Yan-bo and Ma-bo, to cute kids who not only extolled the virtues of Yanmar's product line, but also hosted dinner hour weather reports that Yanmar sponsored. Since then the two cartoon boys and their theme song that goes "My name is Yan-bo! My name is Ma-bo!" have become as recognizable in Japan as Kellogg's Tony the Tiger, or the Michelin Man are here in North America, and this month they are celebrating 50 years on the air. The really great part of the story is that for all these five decades Yasuo Nakamura has continued to bring life to his original creation.
You can check out Yan-bo and Ma-bo in action in the YouTube video below, but you'll just have to get past the 30-second mini-tractor commercial first. Remember, these kids are product mascots! Thanks to The Mainichi Daily News for this story.