She is a 25-year-old Scorpio with Type A blood. She works as an office associate at a trading company in Tokyo. Each morning she wakes up and commutes to work on a crowded train, her tiny head stuck in the stink of a man’s armpit. Her job deserves its own Office Space sequel; whenever she’s done with work, her drawling boss asks for just one more thing. Then she gets mad. Really mad. Her eyes start to bleed, and she turns to alcohol and heavy metal karaoke for comfort.
This is Sanrio’s newest character, Aggretsuko. The Japanese company is known for creating adorable pastel characters like Hello Kitty, but it’s the more bizarre characters like Kirimichan (a salmon filet) and Gudetama (a sleepy egg) that have kept Sanrio’s defining kawaii aesthetic relevant for decades. And all the round edges and big heads mean that even when a red panda has a breakdown at the office, it’s still kinda cute.
Sanrio has managed to maintain a global cult of fans (Hello Kitty’s current designer Yuko Yamaguchi is something of a celebrity) since its launch in 1960. Sanrio’s success is based at least partially on a cuteness that’s hard to define but easy to see. In an interview with Racked in 2014, Sanrio’s senior director of brand management Dave Marchi said the feeling fans get when they look at a character is “almost like being in love.”
But Sanrio isn’t just selling infatuation, it’s also selling Aggretsuko merch.