Aggretsuko is all of us

Move aside anamorphic nude anxiety-filled egg yolk, Sanrio’s newest character is bound to steal all our hearts in 2017. Why? Because she is all of us at some point in our lives.

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Image Source: Sanrio. Aggretsuko ©2015 SANRIO CO. LTD. I am in no way affiliated with or claiming any ownership of Sanrio or any of its characters.

Aggretsuko is a cute, seemingly shy, single 25-year old red panda who works as an office associate in the big city of Tokyo, Japan. She’s always dreamt of working in such a highly respected office but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She works long hours and is constantly being taken advantage of by her apathetic bosses while being bothered by her talkative colleagues (primarily portrayed by a gluttonous, can’t take a hint, hippo). After work she lets loose by downing pints of beer and screaming all her  frustration, anger, and ever so familiar feelings of early 20s disenchantment into a microphone in a karaoke room. We are told to not be fooled by her cute appearance, because on the inside she is a wild animal who knows she’s worth more.

At the end of her introduction trailer, she is seen hobbling down the dark streets of Tokyo, supposedly after a night of drinking with her two office cohorts, declaring, “Tomorrow is a new day!”

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Image Source: Sanrio.

Her story is definitely not a new one, but certainly new in the world of super cute Sanrio. Historically, Hello Kitty and all her friends all have personalities and character traits but never ones that seemed so damn relatable. It’s almost as if Sanrio’s marketing team sat down and said, “Hey, let’s analyze where our initial audience is in this point and time in their lives now and make a character that will appeal to them now.” I’m actually almost certain that’s what they did because how else would they have developed a character that hit us so much in the feels?!

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Hello Kitty, Hello Art! by Sanrio & Roger Gastman

I mean, I absolutely love Hello Kitty, My Melody and their friends but never once did I think, “Wow I’m just like Hello Kitty. I also perpetually eat apples, bake pastries, and live in a small house in a 2D forest/small town and ambiguously go to grade school?…” Although, Hello Kitty’s simple design and lack of mouth may be Sanrio’s largest statement, as her character is open to interpretation and can be different symbols to different people. There is something about her plain and clean design that leaves much to the imagination that allows for her to be a muse to many artists and her audience alike.

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Image Source: Sanrio

 

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Image Source: Emilys Diary

Sanrio’s previous new addition, Gudetama, is arguably another attempt at targeting a niche audience. Gudetama is literally an egg yolk, who is so lazy to the point it would seem he is suffering from crippling anxiety. He likes retreating into his egg whites and hiding from the world. I would say that he was the product of a generation of Tumblr “sad girls” and “sad boys” whom unite via Internet and face enormous social anxiety. His plain and pained appearance is reminiscent to the self-depcracating trend of comparing yourself to a potato. Gudetama never appealed to me personally because of his unattractive appearance. I definitely sympathize with his character, but I wouldn’t want to own items with him on it because of his very pained, slightly constipated looking, appearance. I’m thinking Sanrio realized this and decided to go back to the drawing board with Aggretsuko.

The main reason I think Aggretsuko will steal our hearts is that she’s relatable. She faces real life problems, one that plights many post-college graduates who have no idea what they’re doing. She also faces the harsh reality of realizing our dreams aren’t always what we thought. Many times, we are told to shoot for the stars and we romanticize the images we see on social media of trust fund babies relaxing at beach resorts wearing Gucci flip-flops. In reality, when we graduate and actually land an entry-level job or internship we find ourselves paying off student loans and therefore making re-introduction to cup noodles. Besides being relatable, Aggretsuko actually has a solid personality as well as being attractive, indulges in adult vices such as alcohol and staying out late. In conclusion, I’m excited to see more of Aggretsuko and her character development this upcoming year. Sanrio, you’ve done it again.

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Image Source: Sanrio

 

The Hello Kitty Exhibit & What it means to be Asian

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Hello Kitty is an icon– a symbol, an “artifact” which represents some form of culture.

To me she is adorable, peaceful, cute, delicate, and in a way, malleable. As all symbols, definition may vary but an image stays constant.

She’s been criticized for her lack of mouth—“she can’t talk. She’s just another symbol for the oppressed Asian woman.”

But mouth or not, Hello Kitty sure does a lot of talking—she’s makes about $5 billion dollars yearly.

When I was a little girl, I adored Hello Kitty. She was the big huggable plush whose spotless white fur glowed under an expensive shop light. She was the face on expandable pencil boxes that magically opened up countless compartments with the touch of a button. She was on the smoothest pink gel pens and the fruit scented erasers. Her face beamed from dainty pastel colored tops with ruffled sleeves. But alas, being a first generation daughter from a family trying to make end’s meat in America—those fancy toys were just a distant dream. If it wasn’t found in a McDonald’s happy meal– it wasn’t found in my hands.

It wasn’t until college that I indulged in my Hello Kitty fascination. I wore a Hello Kitty backpack to class,  complete with triangle feline ears and a puffy sequined bow.

“Hey, cute backpack,” a random guy stopped me.

“Thanks,” I said.

“It’s like so Asian.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

He gave me a puzzled look, “oh you know, I don’t know any girls who like, admit that. Nobody wants to say they’re Asian.”

“Erm… Well, I am Asian.”

“Y-yeah…” He stammered. After a few empty awkward seconds he began to retreat.

My friend laughed when we had taken a few steps away, “that guy was totally bad at hitting on you.”

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To say I was ecstatic when the Japanese American National Museum announced the opening of its special exhibit, “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” would be an understatement.

The exhibit opened in October 2014 for her 40th birthday, and caused quite a stir with the whole “she’s not a cat!” controversy. Hello Kitty is 40 years old, a middle-aged kitty now.

I didn’t think I would actually be able to see the exhibit with my own eyes—JANM is in downtown LA and I live in SF. But when my boyfriend and I drove down to Disneyland, I demanded we go.

It was a feast for kawaii-hungry eyes. She was painted everywhere, her image spread across massive walls and her kitten eyes watched you from above. Sparkling pink items shouted from neatly peppered glass cases.

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Under a subtle spotlight, a small plastic coin purse the size of my thumb hung above a stepped pedestal behind a glass case labeled simply, “Coin Purse.”

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The classic Hello Kitty stationary items I admired as a girl were arranged precisely so that each piece called your eyes but the case itself was unified in visually satisfying set.

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It was quite the collection—bags, figurines, a panorama of Hello Kitty plushies through the ages.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the art. A sign called her, “A Muse for Artists” whom inspired many from across the globe with her “Zen-like disposition.

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She was cute, ferocious, demonic, surreal, beautiful, classic or downright ridiculous. Despite being a cartoon cat, she was painted with the elegance of a geisha to the pink patriotism of Old Abe himself.

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Towards the end of the exhibit was the dress that adorned Lady Gaga herself—a plush piece sewn from dozens of stuffed kitties. Stepping into the last room, was stepping into the secrets of the ancient Egyptian pyramids. Darkness clouded the air, rudely cut by beams of beautiful gold emitting from the center of the room. Oh great Pharaoh Kitty towered over our mortal souls, Cleopawtra herself engraved in glimmering gold as she sat upon her sprinkled donut thrown.

After we exited the Hello Kitty exhibit, is where the museum took a stark turn.

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The exit spat us out into the internment camp exhibit. A few seconds ago we were in the super cute world of Hello Kitty, and now we were in a dark history that America tends to forget. It felt like I was Dorothy and after exploring the Land of Oz I was thrown back into sepia toned Kansas. Photographs, video tapes, and momentos documented the stay of families torn away from their homes. A quiet dreary kind of sadness hung in the air, permeated by a calm instrumental folk song.

The eyes that stared at me from those black and white photos looked very much like my own.

“My grandfather was in an internment camp,” my boyfriend said as we looked at photos.

The photos varied, some children were playing while some looked lost. I wondered if at a young age if they knew what was going on. They had done nothing wrong, but were incarcerated for the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, their native tongue. They were labeled prisoners for a land far, far away.

I stood before a wall built entirely of dark brown, blue and black suitcases. How much of their “homes” could they fit into these? How could you blame them for the actions of an unfamiliar land? Most people come to America for a new life, new opportunities, and a place to call “home.” I know that’s why my family did. But here, these people were denied their home, denied their hopes, and had their dreams deferred. Displaced blame resulted in displaced lives. What happened to their American dream?

Such a problem still exists today. We tend to blame an group of people for the actions of a few individuals. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everything is just black and white.

At the exit, a poem shadowed in sunlight called out to me.

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“Community in not just where you live.

Community is also about who you are.

We are on common ground with all Americans,

with all peoples.”

When we were about to leave the museum, we decided to take a picture with a Hello Kitty statue. One of the museum curators, a friendly older Japanese man asked us if we needed help taking a photo.

“Look Asian!” He smiled.

“What?” My boyfriend looked puzzled.

“Like this,” I held up my right hand up in a peace sign and flashed a wide grin.

By then, I had a better idea of what it means to be Asian.

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Hello Kitty a Faux Feline?

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Has your childhood has been a lie?

Remember that feeling you felt when you discovered Santa Claus was nothing but a charade of your mother and Amazon.com? Or the Tooth Fairy was just a farce to make you feel better about losing your pearly whites? The World was struck with shock and confusion just last summer when it was discovered that Hello Kitty is not actually a cat.

What?

When you type “Hello Kitty” into Google, one of the most top searched results is, “Hello Kitty not a cat.” It’s been months, but I still hear chatter and read comments of people proclaiming, “Hello Kitty is not a cat!”

I’m here to set the record straight.

So here’s what went down: Hello Kitty turned 40 in 2014 and in honor of this milestone, the Japanese American National Museum and Sanrio organized a special Hello Kitty exhibit. Christine Yano, the curator of this event was corrected by Sanrio when she described Hello Kitty as a cat.

“That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature,” Yano reported to LA Times.

So what does this all mean? Is Hello Kitty a little girl dressed up in a costume? But if she is, where is her zipper like Sanrio’s other character, Rilakkuma?

Kotaku decided to get to the bottom of this mystery and contacted Sanrio. According to an interview with Sanrio, they were told that, “Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It’s going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat.”

Is a personified cat still a cat? Kotaku asked for clarification, “Then, it would be going too far to say that Hello Kitty was not a cat?”

“Yes, that would be going too far,” Sanrio answered.

Kotaku explains that the exact word Sanrio used to describe Hello Kitty was, “”gijinka'” (擬人化), which means “anthropomorphization” or “personification.”

So keep calm and carry on everyone, Hello Kitty is a cat. A personification is when you give human-like qualities to something inhuman. For example: Mickey Mouse, Arthur Read, the Kool-Aid guy, and the GEICO Gecko. They are all animals–or drinks, that behave as humans but are not. After all, Mickey has a dog named Pluto and Arthur has his puppy, Pal—Hello Kitty also has a pet. She’s a fluffed up looking feline with the same face as Hello Kitty but does not stand upright. It makes as much sense as your Neopets having Pet Pets but does it really matter? Hello Kitty is a kawaii cultural icon. She’s timeless; children and adults alike admire her. We still swoon over her products.

In conclusion: Everyone’s fears can be put to rest because Hello Kitty is indeed a cat.