While she might not be the first character you think of when it comes to anime, but few icons personify the intensity of Japan’s pop culture influence more than Hello Kitty. The tiny anthropomorphic cat has been a fixture of fashion, video games, and Japanese TV since 1975. Starting today, however, fans of Hello Kitty will hear a new voice coming from her mouth as Megumi Hayashibara is retiring from the role after 33 years of playing the character.
Hayashibara first started voicing Hello Kitty in 1990, the same year The Simpsons started airing. Over the years, she has voiced the character in TV, films, and video games, but on 1 November she posted to her blog that her time with the character was coming to an end. Calling it a “graduation,” Hayashibara is stepping back from the role she has held for more than 3 decades.
In more than 16 anime series and numerous films, OVAs, and video games, Hayashibara has played the gentle, kind, and fashionable Hello Kitty, becoming a fixture for Japanese children for generations. While there is little doubt that the character will continue to be a beacon of Japanese television for years to come, she might feel just a little bit different after today.
Hello Kitty might be Hayashibara’s longest-running role, but she is far from the only iconic role in the voice actor’s catalogue. She’s had major roles in everything from Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Pokémon, making her one of the most recognizable and prolific voice actors in anime history.
Wondering what new anime is coming out in the next few months? We’ve got all of them along with upcoming TV shows for streaming and broadcast channels in one handy guide.