Even as grown women, we’re suckers for Hello Kitty – we cooed over Taiwan’s Hello Kitty maternity hospital and lost our shit over Hello Kitty wine. But there’s something about the adorable little cartoon – which is actually a little girl and not a cat, and is in fact British, not Japanese, FYI – that has never really resonated.
She’s just a little too cute to be relatable. Admittedly, as twenty- and thirty-something women with stressful jobs, long commutes and a never-ending list of chores to get done, we’re probably not the target demographic for the much-loved 40-year-old cartoon.
But not to worry, because Sanrio (Hello Kitty's maker) has created a new character with whom you might have more in common. Aggretsuko, or Aggressive Retsuko, is a 25-year-old red panda with a dull office job and a lot of pent-up anger (yeah, you’re not the only one). By night, she drinks beer and sings heavy metal songs alone at karaoke to release the stress caused by her dead-end job, annoying boss and weird colleagues. If Hello Kitty was the icon of our childhoods, Aggretsuko is our adult spirit animal.
Aggretsuko came about through a popular vote of characters submitted by Sanrio employees and others on the theme of “salaryman” or office workers, the BBC reported. The winning character was created by an anonymous designer, who goes by the name of Yeti. The designer took inspiration from Japan’s extreme work culture, a phenomenon known as karoshi, or "death from overwork".
"I observed office workers who are at the centre of Japan's corporate culture and I could hear their heartfelt screams," Yeti told the BBC. "Japan's working environment often becomes an issue and I think there are many people who are enduring a lot of stress."
Politeness is particularly important in Japanese culture and it’s rare for anyone to express their unfiltered emotions in public – especially not at work. In fact, the Japanese language doesn’t even contain many of the swear words we use to express our frustration in English, reported the BBC. Moreover, there is pressure on Japanese women and girls in particular to act “properly” and not subvert social norms – something which Aggretsuko clearly couldn’t care less about.
Daily life is messy, annoying and can be a drag, especially when you’re working a mind-numbing job. Most of the time it’s far from kawaii and, luckily for Japanese women, a little drawing of a red panda is helping to hammer this home.