Make way, folks, Retsuko has entered the building

February 10, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Heart Day is almost upon us and the celebrations have already started at the Happily Candied headquarters! The funny thing is that I’m honestly not that into celebrating the holiday. The general concept is nice, but I also think the whole thing is a bit overhyped. That’s why I keep celebrations simple, and I don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day every year. This time, however, I was feeling creative with gift giving and decided I needed to extend happy-love feelings over to Jen, my long-lost twin. We might not be related by blood, but we’re the same person in heart, mind and soul.

Jen’s gift was a two-part package, the first of which was edible (cookies!), and the second being the main topic of discussion: Retsuko, Sanrio’s newest character. Retsuko, also known as Aggretsuko (short for Aggressive Retsuko) is a 25 year-old red panda who landed a job in the corporate world. She was just introduced to Japan early last year, and to the rest of the world months later, through an introductory video (below). A series of similar shorts about Retsuko followed by airing on TBS in Japan.

“She is a cute Red Panda, working as an office associate in the accounting department of a highly respected trading company. She works in one of the biggest metropolitan areas of Tokyo. It’s always been a dream of hers to work in this field, especially in this part of the city. But in reality, her bosses are unsympathetic and give her harsh deadlines.

She ultimately has become a pushover within the company. When she gets pushed to the limit, she goes out after work and takes out her frustration and stress with heavy metal Karaoke sessions!”

That rage face! I can’t get enough of her singing heavy metal. I laugh every single time I watch one of her videos.

What I love most about Retsuko (translated from Kanji to “rage child”) is that she’s incredibly expressive– and because of that, she’s also relatable to just about everyone. Even if you’ve never worked in an office environment before, her natural ability to show human feelings through very honest facial expressions and body language is something that every person understands. Westernized culture is overly prudent in many respects, causing people to quickly hide their true feelings for the most basic situations. While sad in retrospect, that’s also the reality of an American’s emotional makeup. I know I might come across as a primarily positive person– and for the most part I am– but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience moments of intense rage. There are days when I feel pure anger, sometimes for rational reasons and other times not so much. That’s what makes me human. Somehow, this red panda cartoon is able to capture that private, inner part of myself that’s difficult to show in a solid, visual form. That’s why I find Retsuko so fascinating and lovable: her honesty reflects my inner identity, even the seemingly negative parts that make up who I am, and that adds a humorous and forgiving nature to the whole package of human emotions.

Like most pairs or groups of friends, Jen and I relate on a number of levels. When I watched Sanrio’s introduction of the new character back in December, I immediately thought, “Oh my god, yes. This is me.” And I know that’s how a lot of Retsuko fans feel. I had the urge to share this new favorite character of mine with Jen, so I jumped at the chance to find the perfect plushes for us both. Kind of like those friendship necklaces teenage girls exchange and share in high school, but in plush form!

Note: I took this photo of the two plushes together right before I sent off the left one to Jen.

Because of Sanrio’s staggered release of Retsuko products over different regions, affordable items are shockingly difficult to find at the moment, especially the ones showing Retsuko’s rage face. Most of the items on eBay and Amazon are terribly overpriced. A simple stamp or small keychain, for example, are priced over $100 on Amazon. Supply and demand, I suppose… A couple products with decent price tags have been popping up every now and then on eBay though, and that’s where I’ve been able to take advantage of “deals.”

Obviously, Retsuko’s much easier to come by in Japan, and that’s where I ended up importing the two 13 inch plushes from. From what I understand, however, these particular large pieces of stuffed sweetness aren’t even available in Sanrio stores as regular items; they’re only attainable in UFO catchers (claw machines for those of you in the US). And like most Japanese UFO catchers, the quality of the two do not disappoint! They’re much better quality, and a lot more cuddly, than a lot of plushes found on actual store shelves everywhere else in the world.

What a lot of people don’t realize about Hello Kitty-centric company Sanrio is that it’s actually produced dozens of “strange” and unique characters ever since its entry into the Japanese world of marketing, most of which received quieter, low key releases. So as much as Retsuko might seem to stray from the lovable Hello Kitty norm, she actually fits right in with the bunch because of her dynamic and genuine nature.

So how did I choose which one to give Jen and which one to keep for myself? I honestly loved both plushes to death when I first saw them, and I knew Jen would feel the same way. In the end, I kept the blushy cutie for myself since her facial expression is my favorite to use among all emotes/Emojis. The happy, bashful appearance represents who I am inside and out, but that doesn’t change the fact that she has an inner rage underneath all that sweetness– and that’s what I feel like I can relate to the most. I’m human, after all, and my emotions are all over the place!

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