Hong Kong (CNN)It’s a situation that most stressed office workers can all relate to: Long commutes, odd co-workers and a never-ending task list.
But on this occasion, it’s not your average city dweller who’s confronting the harsher aspects of adult life.
Meet Aggretsuko or Aggressive Retsuko, a 25-year-old cartoon red panda that slogs away in a mundane office job in Japan.
She might be a slick professional at work, but her cute exterior hides a darker reality: After hours, she bashes out her pent-up rage through some serious beer-swilling and heavy metal karaoke and dreams of one day leaving her dead-end job.
She’s also Japanese company Sanrio’s — better known for Hello Kitty — latest creation.
“My target was working people or people who want to vent their frustration. I think (Retsuko) is a character that these people can empathize with,” Yeti, Aggretsuko’s designer, told CNN’s News Stream.
Pointing to the changing nature of ‘kawaii’ or cute culture, Yeti, who only wanted to be identified by her nickname, told CNN that traditional forms of cute from the Hello Kitty era were no longer making the cut.
“People are interested in seeing more dynamic and newer characters,” said Yeti.
‘Kawaii’ culture as rebellion
The kawaii or cute craze has dominated Japanese culture since the 1980s.
Back then, the word kawaii referred to someone or something that appeared childlike, sweet and innocent.
Yet Kazumi told CNN that daily work frustrations and difficulties crossed borders.
In January 2017, when Sanrio’s second English-language Aggretsuko video hit the internet,international fans were quick to relate to the cartoon’s plight with many referring to the red panda as their “spirit animal.”
“I’d wager that most young women who have worked an entry-level office job would be able to relate (to Aggretsuko),” Helen Tseng, a San-Francisco-based graphic designer, told CNN.
“And while Aggretsuko is probably Sanrio’s most feminist character yet, I have male friends who relate just as deeply to her plight (and love of alcohol and metal karaoke),” added Tseng.
Aggretsuko boasts a far slimmer fan base compared to her predecessor — at least when measured by her Twitter followers.
Hello Kitty has 195,000 twitter followers and the existential, depressive egg Gudetama has 745,000 twitter followers. However, her aggro-charm has undoubtedly proved a hit among a niche fan base.
“Aggretsuko appeals both those who are frustrated by whatever aspects of daily life are annoying, while also playing on this notion that feigned cuteness is simply fake,” Ian Condry, a professor of Japanese cultural studies at MIT, and author of “The Soul of Anime” and “Hip-Hop Japan,” told CNN.
“People want the real, and this becomes a way of highlighting that cute, adorable worlds often aren’t believable,” added Condry.
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