Hello Kitty has long been the star of the Japanese company Sanrio, since stepping onto the scene in 1964. Since then, numerous characters have been released through the decades, with characters such as Cinnamroll, Bad Badtz-Maru, and Chococat gaining some popularity and recognition.
However, there are two Sanrio characters, both of which are two of the company’s newest characters, have taken not only social media, but also pop culture, by storm. The first of these two is Gudetama, who’s name is derived from “gude” (the Japanese onomatopoeia for having no energy), and “tama” (taken from the Japanese word for egg, tamago), is exactly what his name prescribes: a lazy egg. Released in Japan in 2013 and internationally 2014, the egg gained almost immediate popularity among Millennials and Generation Z kids for his adorable appearance and lazy attitude. His character release was accompanied by a series of online shorts displaying his daily “adventures”, and little emotes that display his range of laziness.
Gudetama maintains popularity as a result of his cuteness, but also his lazy attitude. Young people relate to his lazy attitude, because they want to be like him, lazy and having no problems to deal with (work, school, taxes, etc.). They want to be able to just do nothing. They also like his “kawaii” nature, his simplistic design making him absolutely adorable.
The character also has a very recognizable aesthetic, adding to his popularity: orange and yellow. Two colors that might otherwise be seen as garish and non-kawaii colors are made a central part of Gudetama’s aesthetic, which works incredibly well. It makes his aesthetic unique. All his merchandise is sold in this aesthetic, with shirts, jewelry, stationery, and other items being sold in the pastel yellow and yoke orange colors. Even the plushies of him tend to center around those colors, adding all the more to his absolute essence.
The second character, Aggressive Retsuko, a.k.a Aggretsuko, is a red panda who is an assistant associate at a Japanese company. Her work is oppressive, and she vents her frustration by getting angry, drinking, and singing death metal at a Karaoke bar. She was initially released in Japan in 2016, and then abroad in 2018, paired alongside the anime series about her life. She takes a much more adult perspective than Gudetama, and gained instant popularity because of the fact that she has to deal with her terrible boss (who is an actual pig) and fake coworkers. Many people entering the corporate work force have to deal with these same issues, and only wish they could vent all their frustration in the same way.
Although I haven’t seen much of her merchandise, I know it sells. She’s too popular for it not to sell. She holds a place at anime conventions, and has become a staple for the fact that she’s so relatable. It does help that she’s also very cute.
Both of these characters deal with issues that Millenials and older Gen-Z kids can relate to, although they represent opposite perspectives. Gudetama represents the joy of being able to be endlessly lazy, with no real troubles to deal with, while Aggretsuko deals with releasing stress when faced with the worst of work conditions. It’s interesting to see how they’ve taken off in popularity, and continue to remain popular.