With Japan’s endless fascination for mascots, we were convinced that one for Tokyo 2020 had already been selected, but apparently not. The organising committee today revealed three sets of options (one mascot each for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) that will now go through a ballot, with the winning duo set to score the two open jobs.
Who will get to vote? Well, kids. The final pair of mascots is set to be picked by elementary school students from across the country: 21,000 schools and their classrooms will be asked to cast their vote for the best set.
Voting runs between December 2017 and February 2018, while results are expected between late February and March. We're hoping for the second or third pair, but what the kids want is king.
In the meantime, let's take a closer look at the three options... (Olympic on the left, Paralympic on the right)
These Olympified Powerpuff Girls lookalikes are characters that 'blend the old and new'. They're supposed to call to mind old faves in the anime world while still referencing 'the new' – and both pack some serious superpowers.
The Olympic one can move anywhere in a flash and 'has a strong sense of justice', while the Paralympic mascot possesses 'immense mental strength' – so much that it can move things merely by looking at them.
Throwing in a bit of mythological flair, these two are both modelled on things you often find at a temple or shrine. The Olympic mascot is based on a fox and is associated with the 'fire and earth' that fuel Japan (in the form of protecting us from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, we hope).
The Paralympic one is a stone lion, which guards the entrance to temples and shrines and, hence, the sky and the gods. The two are therefore a perfect set: heaven and earth, there to bring attention to both and bring out the best in each other.
Another set making good use of traditional Japanese imagery, this pair has a fox (Olympics) and a tanuki or raccoon dog (Paralympics). The fox is said to be an all-round sportsman with a friendly personality.
The tanuki might be more laidback and slower than its other half, but has 'great reflexes' and apparently knows how to work the crowds. The 'scarves' both of them are wearing are based on the celebratory ribbon-esque ties (mizuhiki) put on cards and envelopes when giving gifts.
If you want even more in-depth info on the fuzzy creatures, head over to the official mascot website, where you'll even find videos introducing each set of characters.
What's your favourite duo? Let us know in the comments!