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This English-language Japanese textbook unwittingly spawned a viral fandom — much to its creator's distress

The hot English teacher from this manga-style children's textbook has taken the internet by storm.

Ellen Baker points at a chalkboard
Ellen Baker
mabo300 (Twitter)
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

What do you get when a children's textbook update morphs into viral fandom? A public relations disaster, as far as its creator is concerned.

That's the situation in Japan, where a cute teacher featured in the New Horizon line of textbooks named Miss Ellen Baker has taken the public by storm after the textbook got a manga-style overhaul. The friendly fictional English-language teacher has spawned fan art, cosplay, memes, and more.

Meet Miss Ellen…

Google cache

…and her many fans:

How did Ellen Baker take over the internet?

New Horizon is a classic English-language textbook in Japan. It's been around since the late '60s and has become a staple of Japanese classrooms. It's known for its friendly cast of characters who may change over time but all help guide Japanese kids through the ins and outs of learning a new language.

Here's how the New Horizon characters used to look:

A group of characters from New Horizon English-language textbook, drawn in classic American comic strip style.
A group of characters from New Horizon English-language textbook.
remi814 (Twitter)

But the publisher's most recent update gave the art a total overhaul, introducing a manga-style aesthetic and a cast of new characters:

Updated New Horizon cover shows anime-style aesthetic
Updated New Horizon cover.
Ikigaine Network

The inner pages look even more like a happy anime opening:

Miss Ellen waves goodbye to a student.
Miss Ellen says goodbye to a student in the new New Horizon English-language textbook.

Miss Ellen Baker introduces herself in the pages of New Horizon as a Boston-born Red Sox fan who's moved to Japan and is eager to teach her students English. Apparently it was love at first sight for many anime and manga fans across the globe:

But not everyone was happy — specifically Ellen's creator, Japanese artist Denchubo. In an interview earlier this week with BuzzFeed Japan, he confessed he was a bit worried about Miss Ellen's more, er, avid fans. You know, this kind:

According to RocketNews24, Denchubo worried that if her fandom began emphasizing explicit artwork and fantasy too heavily, it might make parents and teachers think twice about buying the book (though there seem to be no signs of that yet).

Still, Denchubo was clearly enjoying the phenomenon. On his artist website Friday, he contributed to the Miss Ellen craze with a little art of his own:

Miss Ellen Baker smiles at the viewer surrounded by pink flowers.
Ellen Baker by Denchubo.

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