REVIEW: Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy Is Not Entirely What It’s Cracked Up To Be

Panel 1: A young woman lays on the floor amongst trash. She says, "I've hit rock bottom, Gudetama. So much as gone wrong in the last year." Panel 2: A wider shot shows the room is a mess. She continues, "It feels like I ruin everything I touch." Gudetama responds, "...Well, that isn't true." Panel 3: Gudetama continues, "The nice part is, there's only one place to go. And that's up."

If one thing is for certain, I personally would not trust life advice from a famously lazy, talking egg. Although Gudetama seems like it never says much, it has a few words to say in Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy. Gudetama has advice to give for all young adults struggling out there, from dealing with office work life to getting over the insecurities of why a friend has ghosted you. Helping Gudetama carry this heavy endeavor is Nisetama, a grown, humanoid man wearing a yolk bodysuit. Nisetama is a strange and mysterious figure and his existence is never quite explained. Nonetheless, he and the lazy egg are tag teaming to help those in need in the tough world of adulting.

Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy

Wook-jin Clark (artist), Jason Fischer (colorist), Sara Gaydos (editor)
Oni Press
August 11, 2020

An anthropomorphized egg yolk squishes its face under piles of paperwork. The title, "Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy", hovers above against a solid, bright yellow backdrop.

Inspired by the popular Sanrio character, Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy is another effort at further expanding the yolk’s brand to international audiences. Typically depicted laying within its own whites like a blanket, Gudetama is a raw, unfertilized egg yolk with small limbs, a melancholic expression, and an ever so iconic bum. Its name is a play on the ideaphone, gudegude (ぐでぐで) used to evoke an expression of low energy, combined with the Japanese word for “egg”, tamago (たまご).

In one chapter, Gudetama and Nisetama help a woman who is feeling low. They encourage her to take small steps to get her life back together, starting with cleaning her home to eventually overcoming her fear of going outside. In another chapter, the two help a young man figure out his priorities when it comes to reconciling with the dissatisfaction of his current job in order to figure out how to move towards what he truly wants to do in his life.

Rest assured, many of the tips coming out of Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy are sound, but they often seem to be a source of common sense coming from a very basic level. And although at times inspiring and motivational, Gudetama is not offering words of wisdom no different than one might find perusing through a health and wellness blog. Other times, the advice given is not that helpful at all and comes from a mean-spirited place. Some of the cases in Adulting for the Lazy are also just blatantly poking fun at millennial-esque stereotypes. For example, Gudetama tells a recent graduate to forget about college loans just so it is momentarily out of their mind. This regresses especially towards the comic’s end as Gudetama further gives in to its sarcasm and complete lethargy at the exhaustion of “helping” so many people. The solutions provided end up more temporal than impactful. It is through this that Gudetama ends up evoking its own characteristic attitudes on how difficult life can be, submitting to its own laziness.

Panel 1: Graduation caps are thrown in the air. Bubbles exclaiming "Wooo!" and "Freedom!" float among the caps. Panel 2: Gudetama asks, "What's wrong?", towards a cap-wearing student with a nervous expression. "This is the first day of the rest of your life", it continues. The student replies, "I should be happy right now, but all I can think about is is the massive student loan debt i have right now!" Silhouettes of skulls with dollar signs float in the background. Panel 3: Gudetama says, "...sure... But you don't have to start paying them back for six months." Panel 4: The students asks, "Wait ...what?" In the final sequence of panels, Nisetama says "Well, that is true, but it's still good to start thinking about them now before-", before he gets interrupted by the student yelling, "Stop talking! That's a problem for future Rhonda! For now, I'm unstoppable!" They aggressively through their graduation cap in the air.

So is the advice from Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy actually helpful? Debatable. But it is clear that Adulting for the Lazy prioritizes satire over self-care first. Wook-jin Clark’s art is remarkably faithful to Gudetama’s brand with his own flair through the original cast he has added in to support the comic. Jason Fischer’s highly saturated, eye-popping colors are also characteristic of the Sanrio portfolio that fit so carefully within Clark’s bold lineart. The comic’s own jaded perception of what adulting is, with a pretty faithful artstyle, evokes something very in-character and on brand of Gudetama through and through.

As with all Sanrio IPs, Gudetama’s sole purpose is to produce and sell all sorts of products, from high-end clothing to toys. It helps that its design is versatile, enabling it to appear in all sorts of foods that feature eggs, such as within a breakfast sandwich or in the form of a sunny side egg centered in a bowl of ramen. There is variety in what Gudetama can do and be translated as, whether as a pattern on a piece of stationary or literal, edible food.

Panel 1: A young man is writing aggressively in a room adjacent to a party going on in the background. He talks to himself, saying "If I move this here, maybe this makes sense? No! Stupid! I'm the worst. This will never be good enough." Panel 2-3: Gudetama, over the man's shoulder, asks, "Jamal, what's wrong? Why aren't you partying like everyone else?" The man responds, "I want to write the next great sci-fi novel, and I'm trying to make all the pieces fit." Panel 3: A wider shot showing the man in the background to the party's foreground. The man continues, "I'm questioning my writing, and more so, myself. I just feel like a phony a lot of the time. Honestly, I'm worried I'm always going to read others' works on the shelf and never my own..."

On the other hand, Gudetama’s written personality as an incredibly lazy and listless being goes against the themes of much of Sanrio’s kawaii (かわいい)-laden portfolio. As the company that has produced the world-renowned Hello Kitty, a majority of Sanrio’s cute characters evoke high feelings of optimism and active, youthful spirit—while Gudetama does not. In fact, Gudetama would seem pretty misplaced as a response to the visible stoicism of Japanese work culture, but its off-beat nature is actually what makes it so popular, as examined in a First We Feast piece.

Gudetama’s creation marked an interesting pivot for Sanrio, starting to look towards more general, adult audiences from their more standard demographic of children and young women. The conception of Aggretsuko (アグレッシブ烈子, shortened from “Aggressive Retsuko”) was likely a byproduct from the aftershocks of Gudetama’s success a few years later, calling out to the stressed and over-burdened office worker in the form of a red panda who sings out her woes through death metal at a karaoke bar.

Kawaii culture remains inherently unique to East Asian consumers in that something cute or stereotypically effeminized has appeal in mass consumerism, due in part to a bigger, complex response that has transgressed over Japan’s recent modern history. Cartoons paired with adult themes in American culture, however, still continue to be lumped in with a very specific type of cynicism one typically sees in adult animation as portrayed in recent series like BoJack Horseman and Rick and Morty.

Gudetama: Adulting for the Lazy and its eponymous character attempts to present a face that can speak to adults on the everyday issues they endure in spite of its childlike design. Although Adulting for the Lazy certainly cannot speak for everyone and neither has much to tangibly offer, at the very least, it is perhaps cracking open some necessary conversations to new audiences through a talking egg.

Elvie Mae Parian

Elvie Mae Parian

Elvie somehow finds bliss in purposefully complicating the art of storytelling and undertaking the painful practice of animation. If you see her on Twitter at @lvmaeparian, she is doing neither of those things.