The rise of Sonny Angel

by Athena Mansour

Sonny Angel appeared out of thin air. The small unassuming angel babies were created by Japanese toy maker Toru Soeya, who named the cherubs after his own nickname, “Sonny.” The small toys have grown a cult following for many factors including their hard-to-come-by nature, cuteness factor, after-market value and packaging. The little dolls come in discrete packaging so buyers never know what they’ll get, like a 21st-century rendition of Kinder Surprise eggs without the chocolate.

One day as I was scrolling through TikTok, I was introduced to a collection of 100 of those things. I stared at my screen wondering what these little dolls were, and once the Sonny Angel bug bit me, I was addicted. The whole point of the toy isn’t just to bring joy or visual pleasure to adults and kids, but to provide them with a companion. As the generation of 2000s kids grow up into adults, some of us still want to highlight our inner child, and Sonny Angel allows that.

The Sonny Angel website writes: “Sonny Angel is a cute and angelic little boy who wears all sorts of different headgear. Although he can’t talk, he will always be looking out for you. You can place him on your desk at work, at home on your shelves … anywhere you want to see his cute smile.” In my opinion, the cult following may not even be about their cuteness or rarity, but instead for the support and community they offer. One thing I noticed in the cult of the Sonny Angel figurine is that the market is young adult women, the same generation that grew up with American Girl dolls and Barbies. As the generation grew up and out of those toys they grew into the fad of Sonny Angel. They don’t only watch over you like angels, but they have also created an aspect of community around them. As people grow their collections like Pokemon, young adults are finding community in sharing their collections and trading them with one another. Even here at UCLA, there’s a community of people on a Reddit form who trade them.

Nadine Kayed, a third-year English student, sat down with me to share her Sonny Angel collection. “I first learned about Sonny Angels from a friend who is an obsessed collector,” she said. “Eager to start my own little collection, I went to my local Japanese store and picked out a couple of boxes. The excitement of opening a cute little mystery box brought child-like joy into my life, a feeling that often only exists in the distant past. As adults, many of us mourn the end of our adolescence, but it is important to rediscover our youthful happiness as we age and never judge ourselves for indulging in the things that bring us that joy. I’m grateful for my babies, and will add more to my collection soon.”

In my final opinion, the dolls did not only gain popularity through their overwhelming cuteness and mystery factor but also through their ability to bring joy and comfort to so many of those who just need a little angel watching over them, or a push to go be a part of something.

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