Aggretsuko has had enough! The 25-year-old red panda— and the latest Sanrio character to be introduced to the United States market — is tired of her co-workers handing off their work to her at the end of a long day. Aggretsuko is ready to scream out her aggression, death metal–style, at karaoke.
Sanrio unleashed the first English-subtitled video starring Aggretsuko on Jan. 5. Styled like a movie trailer, the clip garnered an immediate response from folks who could relate to the character's pent-up rage. "Sanrio is always striving to create characters and products and experiences that relate to our fans," David Marchi, vice president of brand management and marketing, says by phone. "I even see it with Hello Kitty. People have always related to her and connected to her on a deeper level."
But Aggretsuko may not seem like the typical Sanrio character. In a lot of ways, she's like many of the fans who turned up for events such as the 2014 Hello Kitty Con at MOCA; she's an adult with grown-up responsibilities, but she hasn't given up on a need to have fun.
"The uninitiated sometimes think, it's Sanrio, they make little pink backpacks for 7-year-olds, which, of course, we do," Marchi says. Longtime fans of the Japanese character product company, whose U.S. headquarters are in El Segundo, know that's not the case for the long-standing brand. "We constantly strive to offer designs and products and activations and activities and experiences aimed at a very, very wide range of fans, and that includes 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds and 40-years-olds."
With Aggretsuko, it's the older fans who can feel for the character. "A 7-year-old can still enjoy this cute little Aggretsuko red panda plush, but I think someone who is probably in the workforce — or at least understands what Aggretsuko is going through — can probably relate to her a little bit more and be a little bit more connected to her," Marchi says.
As Marchi points out, there are more than 400 characters in Sanrio's adorable arsenal. Those range from a menagerie of anthropomorphic animals to a fridge-load of food characters to the occasional human. While the characters are always cute, their personalities can be a little more complex. Aggretsuko has a bit in common with other Sanrio rebels, such as Badtz Maru and Kuromi, in that she can be both cute and unpredictably wild.
Aggretsuko was created in 2015 as part of a design challenge for Sanrio's Tokyo team to develop characters with a workplace theme. She started popping up on products and in content the following year and, while the company quietly added Aggretsuko pieces to Sanrio.com and a few Sanrio stores, it wasn't until last week that the company officially introduced her to the U.S. market through its social media channels.
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Marchi compares the reaction to Aggretsuko to Gudetama, the series of eggs whose existential crises have similarly captivated fans since hitting the United States in 2015. In part, he says, that is the result of video clips that have been shared widely on social media networks. "[People] either understand it themselves or they connect to the situation or are entertained by the situation, but it definitely involves a level of connection, whether it's emotional or humorous or relatable in some way."
For the company, which was founded in 1960, that online resonance has been key to the brand in the 21st century. "People have connected with us through our products, and it's been more about word-of-mouth and organic growth," Marchi says. "So the onset of social media has given us a very powerful tool to essentially extend that message and share the message with fans in that authentic and organic and engaging way. It's been a natural fit for us to share our characters, share their stories, share their content with fans across these platforms."
Now that fans took a glimpse into Aggretsuko's world, there is more on the horizon.
"Aggretsuko's story will continue," he says, "and we will continue to share it."