Appreciating World Flags: the Tokyo Olympics anime samurais

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have got underway, we’ve been having fun taking in the sheer joy of Japan’s reimagining of countries as anime samurais. And we thought if you hadn’t seen them already that you probably should! Who knew we would see a modern Hetalia carried out as an online project after so many years?

How did this come to be?

The project, World Flags, started up back in 2018 where its leader, Kamaya Yamamoto, wanted to unify people through the concept of “education x entertainment”, where character designs using country flags would capture their culture and show off Japan’s manga art style.

It’s more than just a design based on a flag, however; alongside the visual design is each samurai’s profile, listing a few personality traits such as strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, favourite food, and other personal information (birthday, blood type, height). This provides some insight into each country’s characteristics beyond just their flag’s design.

Yamamoto wanted to hit two birds with one stone when conceptualising each samurai design, whereby each character would illustrate a samurai with clear Japanese influences but also feature each country’s traditions and values in a splendid mixing of different cultures.

World Flags

The result was a wide variety of different designs as other artists joined in with the endeavour as a way to celebrate the Olympics. Due to constrictions in regards to COVID-19 still affecting events in our physical realms, the team of 15 behind the World Flags project has been aiming to increase the appeal of the Olympics online through their illustrations.

Out of a proposed 200 flag designs, the total completed has remained at 84 since since the Olympics started. The World Flags project has done well in accepting and listening to responses online, making use of polls on Twitter to decide on each country’s most defining and important features.

The project is continuously garnering attention and support, with the samurai flag boys appearing in a manga, as well as certain figures being received very highly and becoming popular illustrations in their respective countries — Sri Lanka’s has proven particularly popular in this regard.

Gushing about our top 5

And in typical Rice Digital fashion, I’m here to pick out our favourite designs from the World Flags boys as a way to celebrate the effort put into them and to hopefully continue to spread the word of their appeal.

Batistuta of Argentina

World Flags: Argentina

Now doesn’t he look like he’s straight out of an otome game? Or the spitting image of Fire Emblem: Fates’ Hinata? Either way, Argentina’s design in the World Flags project is immediately appealing, with snug and comfy attire fit for the harshest of weathers, and whose flag is instantly eye-catching, displayed proudly and clearly across his chest.

Batistuta may initially look like one of the least obviously creative designs from among his fellow flag samurai boys, but the snazzy and colourful design of his pants is such a charming detail that adds much more depth and dimension to the piece.

Alongside the bright and comfy design is his character description that provides plenty of references to the country, such as his hobby being travel to Brazil, and his weakness being wild boars. And his personality being “sunny” is eminently fitting, what with the great big sun in the middle of the flag and all.

Axamu of Malaysia

World Flags: Malaysia

Next up is Axamu of Malaysia, who probably needs no explanation as to why his design is so appealing. Once more he looks like he would be at home in another franchise — specifically Sengoku Basara. Malaysia’s flag has been extremely well implemented across the entire design from head to toe, making for an all-round great and appealing design.

Although it may err a little too heavily on the “samurai” influences, the merging of the two intentions of the World Flags project –education and entertainment — through the clear, colourful flag-based design and samurai-style overall look and feel makes for a memorable character.

Vargas of Peru

World Flags: Peru

Now we have possibly my favourite of the whole World Flags bunch for the fashionable shades alone, Vargas of Peru. All of the colours of the flag are well captured in his attire, and especially so in the lovely addition of the leafy green ensemble as his neck piece.

On top of such a great character design, his personality seems to be more “happy-go-lucky” than the rest of the guys, and as a “protector of his people” type of samurai, I do not doubt that he has plenty more fans out there other than just me.

Sa-sa of Chile

World Flags: Chile

If there is one creation under the World Flags project I want to see animated, it’s Sa-sa. His hobby is penguin observation, his weakness is talking, and he makes stuffed animals to sleep with because he is unable to bring his animals into his room. Talk about adorable. And speaking of animals, the pair that are depicted alongside Sa-sa brings so much more character and memorability to Chile against the majority of his fellow flag samurais. And his entire attire looks gorgeously grand overall.

Mandela of South Africa

World Flags: South Africa

And finally, closing off my top 5 World Flags boys, we have Mandela of South Africa, who seems to be the most wholesome and charming of the lot. With a relatable character trait of struggling with arithmetic, and with a keen eye for detail and consideration due to his hobby of searching for diamonds and making flower arrangements, Mandela is a treasure.

His overall look and character design again reinforces his sweet nature. His glossy and shining overalls look rich and detailed, and the amount of friendly and warm colours across his attire reinforces his fittingly title of “rainbow sword”. He seems to just exude positive vibes, with a love for surprises, and an attitude of being kind to and uniting others. What perfect representation for the project as a whole.

In closing

The project has run into its fair share of problems as mentioned above, such as their original look for Spain being bullfighter inspired, but it is evident that its creators have their hearts in the right places for the right intentions. In the end, it has left a feel-good impression on many of us, and it’s a positive approach for unity and togetherness we were desperately needing in 2021. Be sure to follow their Twitter for more news and releases of upcoming illustrations, as well as gorgeous fanart plenty of their fans have been creating and sharing on the platform too!

And finally, be sure to share with us your favourites below!

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Lilia Hellal
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