The team at Vox shed light onto the development and popularity of the lovable egg with a bum.

Sanrio is best-known as the company that’s been producing Hello Kitty merchandise since 1974 (along with merch for newer characters like Aggretsuko the office-worker red panda). One of Sanro’s most popular characters these days is Gudetama, a melancholy egg yolk.

In a recent video, Dion Lee and Alex Abad-Santos of Vox explain what Gudetama is, how it was developed, and possible reasons the eggy icon has become such a phenomenal hit.

Despite only coming in second place in a 2013 company-wide competition to find a new food-based character (rather bizarrely losing out to a salmon fillet, who’s now a star in her own right), Gudetama has gone on to become one of their most successful characters. But why do people relate to an amorphous sloth-like egg? To explain, Vox go on to try and explain the cultural differences between Western and Japanese definitions of “cuteness” by using Disney characters as a comparison. Although in doing this, I think they overegg the differences a bit much.

They then go on to explain the causes of Japan’s affinity for “kawaii” culture by linking it to an acceptance by Japan of the Potsdam Declaration at the end of World War II, and the sense of vulnerability that this engendered.

In recent years, Sanrio’s characters have evolved from the mouth-less “blank canvas” characters onto whom you can project your own feelings, like Hello Kitty, to characters with personalities we can relate to like Aggretsuko or Gudetama. In our stressful, modern existence the guys at Vox posit the question that maybe all we need is an “egg yolk with a little bum, who’s given up on life”.

While its form may be sunny-side up, Gudetama’s disposition is rather less so, but maybe Gudetama appeals because we’ve all had days when we wanted to take cover under a protective shell.

Source, images: YouTube/Vox