Thunder is the national champion … of anime
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Finally, there’s a way to celebrate Grand Canyon University’s national championship.
Wait, you didn’t hear about it? GCU beat the University of Arizona for the title …
… in Tokyodachi Mascot Madness.
The anime likeness of Thunder beat Wilbur The Wildcat in a vote of 12,000 fans — 51 to 49 percent.
The contest, held during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, means Thunder will wear a crown on some of the new apparel available in the Lope Shops by Welcome Week, which starts Aug. 19. That will include socks, hats, pins, T-shirts and key chains.
“GCU was our first champion,” said Erin Pavlin, licensing coordinator for Zephyr Graf-X, whose founder spun off his sports hat company to create Tokyodachi in 2018 because he liked Japanese anime. “Today’s audience sees it as an emoji for the school character. The goal is to create a personality and life behind the character.”
Basically, the characters look angry. A short-armed teddy bear-ish critter with a wide head who is very mad.
“I’d call the face competitive,” Pavlin said. “A couple schools wanted a smile, but once they saw our whole line they opted for the mean mug.”
Thunder should be smiling. He was tops of more than 200 other universities on the strength of fan voting, beating UC Davis in the first round, then rattling off wins versus the University of Houston, Stanford, Mississippi State, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Colorado before whipping the Wildcats.
“Thunder’s big Instagram following got involved, and everyone started to vote,” said Shelly Ann Schrimpf, Assistant Director of Campus Retail and Licensing. “We also needed to have the school and Lopes Shop Instagram to win. We beat the University of Arizona, which was even cooler.”
The full display of Tokyodachi Thunder items should be available by the end of July.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.