Going further than a classic bento is the kyara-ben, or "character bento", which is especially loved by kids, and increasingly getting international attention from people of all ages. In this type of bento, food is shaped to look like pop culture characters, such as anime and video game heroes and cute mascots. Kyara-ben are all about kawaii, which literally means cute, or lovely. In addition, the cuteness aspect can often entice children to eat some foods they're not too fond of!
Preparation and meticulous care goes into putting together various food items to recreate a famous character, and it's an acquired skill to be able to create these masterpieces. Traditionally, kyara-ben were prepared by mothers to surprise their kids with a fun and endearing lunch. But nowadays, kyara-ben have become more elaborate and complex, thanks to the availability of bento-making equipment (such as rice molds and seaweed cutters), magazines, books and special tv programs on the subject. There are even national contests featuring this form of art, and entire blogs dedicated to these beautiful creations.