This Japanese franchise portrays real horses as cute girls

This Japanese franchise portrays real horses as cute girls

Starting in May this year, “Top Gun: Maverick” was promoted worldwide. Even though I’ve never seen a single film in the franchise, I couldn’t escape Tom Cruise every time I logged on to social media back then. I feel it’s important to note that most, if not all, of my followers don’t care about “Top Gun” either. I’ve curated my feed towards anime, TV, or video games. But for some reason, this picture of Japanese voice actresses in horse ears posing with Cruise swarmed my timeline. Coming from a verified Twitter profile with 1.4 million followers, I thought, “What is this account? WHO is these girls, and why are they with Tom Cruise?” While checking the answers, this the edit of Tom Cruise running with anime girls also stood out. Given the context clues, I had to guess that these were the characters these voice actresses were portraying. But many questions remained. Thus began my descent into the lore of “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby,” what would become one of my favorite multimedia franchises.

So let’s start by answering the dominant question: Why were these girls at the “Top Gun: Maverick” premiere in Japan? These actresses and characters come from the Uma Musume series, which I discovered collaborated with “Top Gun: Maverick” to promote the movie. It seemed to be a strange connection; from what I could tell, Uma Musume is just cute anime girls being cute anime girls, while the tone of “Top Gun” is more dramatic. However, one title character tied these two mediums together: Her name is Mayano Top Gun. Her character has nothing to do with guns, but she was chosen to promote the film because of her name. “Mayano Top Gun” is still an odd name for an anime character, so I Googled her to get an understanding of what her deal was.

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And here, ladies and gentlemen, is what I learned the twist of Uma Musume: Mayano Top Gun is a representation of a real Japanese racehorse. Each character in the Uma Musume series is a representation of a racehorse, repackaged as a happy anime girl. Rice Shower, Special Week, Vodka – these are all silly names because they are horse names. In the universe of Uma Musume, racehorses of the past can be reincarnated as horse girls who then train to become racers themselves, as well as making friends along the way. The attention to detail is wild – even the characters’ personalities are loosely based on each horse’s track record. For example, Haru Urara (character) is extremely enthusiastic but always loses races, just as Haru Urara (horse) is known for his consecutive losses. If you can’t already tell, Uma Musume is pretty absurd, endearingly enough.

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