Japanese Artists Turn Country Flags Into Samurai Gijinka Ahead Of Tokyo Olympics 2021, Added New Characters

Country flags turned into samurai gijinka

Back in 2017, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 unveiled popular anime characters such as Astro Boy, Sailor Moon, and Naruto as their official ambassadors. This announcement thrilled pop culture fans all over the world. But a group of Japanese artists decided they could do more and took it to the next level by turning country flags into samurai gijinka.

World Flags project – turning flags into gijinka

Image credit: @worldflags_samurai

The World Flags project was first launched in 2018 by Kama Yamamoto and a group of artists that he had previously worked with. Together, they turned country flags into anime samurai gijinka, in hopes of helping people learn more about other countries and cultures. Gijinka (擬人化) is a term used when non-human objects or things are reimagined as human characters.

In June 2019, World Flags released a series of personified country flags in conjunction with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics hype. Since the sporting event has been postponed to summer this year, the group is using this time to progressively release new characters in the lead up to Tokyo Olympics 2021.

Image adapted from: @worldflagsorg

Even though this project seems like a fitting promotional campaign for the Tokyo Olympics, World Flags is neither affiliated to the Tokyo Olympics nor the Japanese government. They are simply a group of artists who wish to introduce the participating countries and the meanings behind their flags in a uniquely Japanese manner.

How the samurai gijinka are created

Image credit: @worldflags_samurai

The personified country flags aren’t just designed on a whim. Instead, Kama Yamamoto researches the flags’ origins and meanings before getting the artists to incorporate them into the character design.

Each character comes with a short write-up on their personality, as well as background on the country’s flag and its meaning. 

World Flags occasionally holds polls on Twitter to get people to vote for the most iconic or popular thing of a country, which will later be incorporated into the gijinka’s design.

World Flags doing a poll on Twitter to determine Navas’ specialities
Image adapted from: @worldflagsorg

For instance, they did a poll to determine what comes to mind first when thinking of Costa Rica. Their followers voted for Costa Rican coffee. Therefore, the Costa Rican character, Navas, is a fan of coffee.

Spain flag gijinka in a tweet celebrating Spain’s National Day
Image credit: @worldflagsorg

World Flags also takes a collaborative approach when designing the characters. According to Kyodo News, the personified Spanish flag was altered after receiving feedback and criticism online. Previously, the Spanish flag was portrayed as a bullfighter. The flag is now anthropomorphised as a flamenco dancer as bullfighting has become a controversial practice.

Besides being open to feedback, World Flags also welcomes fan art and actively shares them on their Twitter page.

Examples of samurai country flag gijinka

Kirill representing Belarus
Image credit: @worldflagsorg

Nedved representing the Czech Republic
Image credit: @worldflagsorg

Some of the newly released country flag gijinka include Kirill, representing Belarus, and Nedved, representing the Czech Republic. Distinctive elements of the countries and their flags – such as the motif on the Belarus flag and the Czech double-tailed lion – have been incorporated into the samurai gijinka of the country.

Kamamoto representing Japan
Image credit: @worldflagsorg

Maharudika representing Indonesia (left); Gokensui representing Singapore (middle); Justin representing the United States of America (right).
Image adapted from: World Flags, World Flags, and World Flags

Other countries that already have their own anthropomorphic country flags include Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States of America.

Image credit: @worldflags_samurai

As of June 2020, World Flags had 74 personified country flags on their website. The tally has since increased to 79 and they are hoping to feature 200 personified flags by the end of 2021.

Check out your country’s flag gijinka on World Flags

The unique country flag gijinka designed by World Flags have been a hit online and many netizens have commented on how detailed the graphics are. Those who haven’t had their country’s flags personified have also been requesting for them. To check out all the samurai gijinka that have been released, head to the World Flags website or follow their Twitter page.

For more interesting news, check out these:

Cover image adapted from (from left to right): World Flags, World Flags, and World Flags

Ethel Chiang

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