Messaging App Line’s Kawaii Characters Get Their Own Cartoon Series In Japan

Line’s animated characters, which helped it become one of Asia’s top messaging apps with more than 120 million users, now have their own cartoon series.

The TV show, called “LINE TOWN,” premiered on Tokyo TV Channel 6 last week (h/t Asiajin). “Line Town” features half-hour-long episodes and a prime 6:30PM to 7:30PM slot, and has already been picked up for syndication on BS Japan. According to Asiajin, the series also has the distinction of having a theme composed by Japanese pop idol and actress Shoko Nakagawa, the former presenter of Pokemon Sunday. Tech In Asia found a “Line Town” clip on YouTube:

This is not the first time the characters from the NHN Japan messaging app have popped up on television. In January, a 5-minute long animated short featuring the characters called “Line Offline: Salaryman” was broadcast on Tokyo TV.

Line’s characters, which users can add in the form of “stickers” to their messages, are among a host of innovative features, including integrated video, images, and doodles, meant to increase user engagement. Found in top Asian messaging apps including Korea’s KakaoTalk, China’s WeChat, and Taiwan’s Cubie, these features are now making their way to American apps like MessageMe.

Line is keen, however, to be known as more than just a messaging and free calls app. Last month, Line’s U.S. CEO Jeanie Han told TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas that the app wants to position itself as a social media alternative, and sees itself as an entertainment–not technology–company. Line has its own main characters (including Brown the bear, Cony the bunny and highly emotive Moon), who appear in the new cartoon series, but it also relies on cultural research to create new stickers for different markets like Spain and the U.S.

Of course, Line is not the first app that has spun-off its characters into an animated series. Most notably, Rovio Entertainment announced last month that it is launching a cartoon based on its megahit “Angry Birds” characters. The Finnish company said last week that it doubled its revenue to $197.8 million in 2012 thanks in large part to Angry Birds titles like “Angry Birds Star Wars” and “Bad Piggies.”

It will be interesting to see if Line’s characters enjoy the same success and eventually join Pokemon, Totoro, and Astro Boy on the roster of Japanese hit animations that have achieved international fame.