Toyota Gunma's New Mascot Doesn't Need a Jockey
posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Mascots are a hot commodity in Japan. With the right design, an original character can take off in popularity beyond its original intentions. Kumamon, Kumamoto's bear mascot, and Funassyi and unofficial mascot for Funabashi City are two such examples. At one point Kumamon was rolling in dough while Funassyi was practically everywhere with her own stage play and hit album. Both appeared on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight.
Replicating that kind of success isn't easy. Some mascots are outright rejected by the community they are supposed to represent. Originality can also be hard to come by in a country filled with mascots for everything. Fortunately, the Toyota car dealership in Gunma has originality in spades.
The dealership introduced G.U.M.B.A., a whole scenario based around its new mascot Mako Shimano. Mako is a cute high school girl on her way to school. Everything about her is completely normal from the waist up. Below, well, it's hard not to notice that Mako is a centaur.
A robotic centaur.
In fact, the G.U.M.B.A. acronym is short for "Gallop-Unit-Mobility Based on Automobile." Presumably, Mako can exit the horse robot tech. Toyota provided an image of the vehicle when it is unoccupied.
Toyota first introduced Mako in an ad taken out in a local newspaper in Takasaki City, where the dealership is based. According to the story that accompanying the images, Mako exists in an alternate Gunma prefecture where the area is designated as a special zone. GUMBA technology is only used within the prefecture. The new tech was designed to increase exploration of the prefecture regardless of physical ability or age.
The story also states that Mako took an interest in GUMBA after her mother, who attended the same high school. Students are able to get discounts on licenses to use GUMBA technology. Furthermore, students engage in high school GUMBA sports, like racing.
Hey, this is starting to sound a lot like a sci-fi version of that upcoming horse girl racing show.
Toyota Gunma first started working on their centaur girl back in September when the new GR Garage Takasaki IC location opened up. The staff turned to the idea of a horse mascot because of the prefecture's long history of horse-breeding. Character designer Urimo and mechanical designer Kyoryu Kuramo created the finished character.
Mako will continue to appear in newspaper ads and event flyers for Toyota Gunma events. Of course, fans can expect tie in merchandise soon, too.