The origin of ‘Asian Ken’ – Revealed?

By Arturo R. García

Still wondering where Mattel might have gotten the idea for its’ new Asian Ken Doll? You’re not alone. A number of blogs have tried to place the inspiration for this questionable choice for the first Asian Ken doll. As Dolls Of Color put it:

But is this really the best image for the FIRST ASIAN KEN? – Ken who is totally American and CONTEMPORARY… and by American, I mean a person from the USA but NOT neccessarily of European** ancestry? Now, last time I was in America… I did not see even ONE person who dressed even vaguely like this Ken doll… oh wait he’s supposed to be “Japanese”… well last time my partner went to Japan, he didn’t find anyone who wore anything like this either…

In that same post, DOC noted speculation that the doll was inspired by Shan Yu from Mulan.

Disgrasian places him as a dead ringer for Vietnamese singer Tuan Anh

And AATheory went with Lars Alexandersson from the Tekken 6 video game.

All good guesses. All off the mark. See, I don’t believe there’s any “historical” basis for this figure. It’s really based on somebody from the here and now. Meet pro wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi:

Let’s take another look at that jacket:

I’m half-joking, of course. But Mattel should at least stop trying to pretend it’s going for something “true to life” and embrace kitsch, if it’s going to make dolls like this one. And let’s not even get into A-Ken’s compation, “Asian Barbie”: