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!”– Sanrio
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!
If you’ve followed me at all anywhere online, you most definitely know that I’m incredibly particular when it comes to finding perfect plushes (or any cute collectible for the matter). Even if it means searching for months or years, I’ll hold off buying anything that doesn’t meet a certain criteria that comes much too naturally for me in my head.
Of course this all applies to one of my latest cute obsessions: Rowlet, one of the three starter Pokémon announced for the new Sun & Moon 3DS game due out this November. (The other two are named Litten and Popplio, but come on, let’s face it: they don’t even compare to Rowlet!) Not only is his character design ridiculously on point, but I have a big crush on owls. If my story (more like “critique”) about owl quality control for the Wizarding World doesn’t give it away, I honestly don’t know what would.
I can’t wait a second longer. Here he is in all his glory– my perfect, my eternally sweet, sleeping Rowlet!
While the search for the perfect Rowlet plush was short, the wait for his arrival was a journey in itself. As always when it comes to my “new toy arrival” photos, there’s a story involved. It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s still important to me. So here it is.
The Pokémon Sun & Moon starters were officially announced to the public by Nintendo this last May. No less than a half hour after the big reveal, fan art started popping up just about everywhere online– Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, everywhere. My team and I excitedly started taking note of just about every cute sketch and digital painting we could find, and we even composed an article dedicated to showcasing a bunch of the art pieces. It was obvious that all the other Pokémon fans were just as anxious to see more of the newly announced Pokémon as we were, and they weren’t about to wait for Nintendo to reveal official artwork to appease their cravings. And I’ll be honest; part of the appeal of loving a character so much, even when knowing nothing about it, is speculating and creating ideas and personalities with fellow fans. Needless to say, the whole day was extremely upbeat, and seeing so much Pokémon prettiness appear out of nowhere only added to the good time.
I’m constantly amazed by the talent, brilliance and speed of some of these fans. Not only were drawings being shared through communities, but physical toys were appearing within the next 24 hours as well. Just as you might have already gathered, the Rowlet plush my heart so desired was one of them.
In fact, this sleeping Rowlet plush was the very first tangible piece of art I came across while browsing my daily Nintendo stops. I couldn’t look away when I first saw it. Its size, shape and sleepy facial expression was too perfect to be real, and I knew I needed it for myself. So back in May, I contacted Piquipauparro through her Etsy shop and asked for a commission. I didn’t just want any old Rowlet plush; I wanted that one. While I waited for a reply, I scoured the internet for more plushes with the hope of maybe finding another one that could ease my longing for owly cuteness… to no avail. And I can honestly say that to this day, not one other Rowlet plush, including the official product from the Pokémon Center, has caught my eye, or my heart, as much as this guy.
I figured the customizer had been swamped with messages and attention due to the excitement over the starters, and she definitely received a lot of love from people due to the circulation of the Rowlet photos she’d taken in May. I was right– so I was patient, and I waited. Two months later, a reply from the designer appeared in my Etsy inbox. I’d never been so grateful to see a message on Etsy, ha! Over the course of the next few months, she and I exchanged messages here and there; and finally, after many months of hoping and dreaming, my perfect sleeping Rowlet plush arrived just today.
Packaged beautifully, hand-drawn and signed tag in tow, sleeping Rowlet appeared, and I couldn’t have been more smitten with his amazingly adorable appearance. The craftsmanship is impeccable (just as I expected after seeing Piquipauparro’s original photos) and the materials used to bring him to life are rich and lush. A huge portion of my plush collection– that’s been in the works now for over two decades– is composed of one-of-a-kind and/or handmade specialty plushes by artists I’ve found from all over the world. I’m used to high prices when it comes to that particular collection of mine, so I wasn’t at all surprised or put off by the higher price tag. Rowlet may be small, but he’s high in quality and craftsmanship, and I’d find it a crime to see a lower price attached to him. Every single penny was worth it. (For quotes, contact Piquipauparro through her Etsy shop.)
I really don’t buy too many items for most of my collections these days, so that’s one reason why Rowlet’s arrival is extra special to me. I’m still in awe that he’s sitting here next to me, after all this time! Happy day.
I have fewer opportunities to photograph my hobbies these days, but in a way, I think that helps me appreciate the moments actually can set aside for my personal photography. That said, I can’t complain.
So, what do we have here? It looks like a baby owl has stumbled into the midst of my Happily Candied world!
Just as the caption at the bottom of the photo reads, this is Boba Tea, my new little plush friend. I picked him up on a whim at one of my favorite local toy shops last night. The shop has a really lovely selection of plushes, including a decent number of squishies from Jellycat. While my toy collecting has dwindled down to a bare minimum these days, my love for two plush companies has remained strong– even if I’ve mostly admired their products from afar over the years. Jellycat and Bunnies By The Bay are the softest, most well made plush toys I’ve ever come across in my life! And trust me, I have a crazy amount of experience “testing out” plush toys, so I expect you to take my opinion very seriously.
Both companies specialize in products for babies and young children, which is probably why I find their plushness so very… plush. In fact, I find the quality and craftsmanship put into their creations even more luxurious and desirable than the very popular and pricy GUND brand. (“Gotta Getta GUND!” Or not.) I adore Bunnies By The Bay for not only the products themselves, but also the heartfelt story behind the company. Other than the sweet, yet sad, story that led up to the company’s creation, I’ve loved it for its past bunny products. Many of them were handmade and were created in very small runs or as one-offs for cute boutiques scattered across the United States. I happened to first take notice of the plushes when BBTB had a contract with Hallmark (a company I worked for way back when), and its darling pastel plush toys and matching home decor donned the shelves at the chain’s stores. To this day, the very first BBTB bunny plush I ever owned (a gift from my mom) remains to be one of my most cherished possessions.
A few years following Hallmark’s BBTB line, BBTB changed its tune and started focusing primarily on producing baby and toddler products. As sad as I am to see the unique pieces of plush art disappear from the world, I’m happy to know that the company is still alive and kicking with items full of soft love.
Jellycat is a newer love for me. I first discovered it a few years ago when a new Learning Express opened at my local mall. The mall had been without a toy store for over a decade (I had to say goodbye to KB Toys back in high school), so when I walked into the newly built Learning Express for the first time, I was taken aback with complete excitement. I immediately spoke with the manager, who still knows me and my family to this day, and told her how thrilled I was to see a toy store– and one filled with such unique products– pop up at the mall. From then on, she made sure to share her favorite products with me, one of the first being the Jellycat plushes. I fell instantly in love with the incredibly lush and plush toys. And because the manager was so smitten with the brand, she made sure that her store always had a solid stock of them!
Walking into Learning Express and seeing what new Jellycat plushes line the shelves is the biggest treat– and I try to take a moment to do that at least once every few weeks. Just like Bunnies By The Bay, Jellycat’s target audience is small children, meaning that the toys are unbelievably soft and cuddly. Picking up one and holding it for the first time is like experiencing a dream coming to life in my hands. That’s exactly what happened when I saw and held Little Owl (the official name given to the owl featured above) for the first time last night. I’ve been very strict with purchasing toys for a while now, but I couldn’t resist taking the little guy home with me. He’s perfection in plush form!
The name Boba Tea comes from my love for bubble tea (also called boba tea). Whenever I go to the mall, I almost always pick up a cup of green matcha bubble tea, and that stand happens to be very close to Learning Express. Also, if you’ve followed me online for the many years I’ve been blogging, you may already know that I’m slightly obsessed with Clash of the Titans and owls. In the 1981 film, the mechanical owl owned by the goddess Athena is named Bubo. Boba Tea naturally struck a happy nostalgia chord with me, and I went with that gut feeling to keep the name around for my fluffy new owl companion.