Sanrio's newest mascot, a red panda with a hidden side

Aggretsuko is Sanrio’s newest mascot character, recently introduced to English speakers by Sanrio in a tweet.

She is an adorable twenty-five year old red panda working as an office associate in a Tokyo trading company. Aggretsuko’s introductory video in the tweet soon reveals another hidden side to this red panda as the stress of unreasonable demands and boorish co-workers begins to take its toll on her.

Aggretsuko snaps- but not in the cute, cupcake-filled way we’ve come to expect from Sanrio; Aggretsuko vents her anger by means of office passive-aggressiveness, Japanese sake and death metal music. This single, Scorpio female red panda whose name literally translates to ‘Aggressive Retsuko’ will definitely strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt work has been pushed onto them unfairly, or that their efforts aren’t being recognized. It’s definitely a savvy marketing move by Sanrio, along with their minute shorts of Aggretsuko coping with the constant stream of bad luck that seems to keep coming her way.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvClxgjYJZ4]

Aggretsuko is new- we’ve just met her, but she does bear a striking similarity to another mascot by Sanrio- Gudetama. Gudetama is a lazy raw egg with a severe case of depression that can barely muster the motivation to do anything beyond clutching onto his bacon blanket. Like Aggretsuko, his main selling point is an attribute typically considered negative- his laziness. But the question is: will Aggretsuko have the same longevity as Gudetama? Gudetama is a lazy raw egg who has (ironically) spawned an ambitious merchandising empire, spanning cute models to themed cafés in multiple cities to credit cards and much more.

It’s clear Sanrio is trying to capitalize on the resonance people feel with these cute mascots, and certainly, making these mascots so obviously flawed makes them far, far easier to relate to than Hello Kitty or Little Twin Stars. Aggretsuko and Gudetama are also definitely meant to be taken with a grain of salt (if not the whole salt shaker)- life isn’t that depressing nor is it a constant stream of bad luck.

But by acknowledging that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows has put Sanrio in an interesting position. Sure, these relatably flawed characters are having their moment- but when does it become all too one-dimensional? When does Aggretsuko’s aggression and Gudetama’s laziness become irritating, rather than endearing? Still, there is something that these characters could do- they could teach us how to deal with laziness, depression or pent-up aggression in a way that isn’t detrimental to ourselves- a great boon in today’s fast-paced, hectic society.

Japanese Kami surrounding Emperor Meiji and his wife

But looking at Gudetama’s use since its release in 2015, it seems all too unlikely. Gudetama has stayed consistently lazy since, and the furour shows no sign of abating. This everlasting laziness actually makes more sense when you look at the abundance of mascots in Japan. There’s a mascot for literally everything, (there is a literal poop mascot) and they express all ranges of emotions. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and this is coming from a country that has a longstanding tradition of symbolic mascots. Shintoism, Japan’s official religion has eight million kami- Japanese gods. This number is so large it’s almost uncountable. These Shinto kami represent everything living in one way or another, but they’re different from the concept of one omniscient being. They make mistakes too, and they’re flawed. And there are plenty of evil kami as well- it’s easy to draw a parallel between mascots and these kami. It wouldn’t be remiss to say that Aggretsuko and Gudetama are the evil kami mascots of Sanrio, a counter balance to the angelic presence of Hello Kitty.

It might not be as extreme as pure good versus pure evil, but this little red panda and raw egg are certainly a wild deviation from Sanrio’s family friendly image. They present a more chaotic and realistic image of the hurdles we face in living our stressful modern lives. Aggretsuko represents the pent-up stress we have, and perhaps Sanrio could use her and Gudetama in more judicious ways to educate us about proper mental health care- but on the other hand, even having them feels like a small victory because it reminds us that it’s okay to be flawed, and it’s okay to have problems. It’s okay not to be always right, or perfect like Hello Kitty.

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