Aggretsuko Review - Choke On My Rage
So…yeah, hi. Been a while.
I…deeply apologize for dropping off the radar last year. Seriously. It turns out being a first-year PhD student with a TA position and research responsibilites, shockingly enough, eats up a metric ton of your free time. There was not a week when I didn’t have anything on my plate, and I had just been run ragged over the past semester. Like, to the point where it’s not even funny. I’m not trying to make excuses for not posting anything to the site here for over a year, but…yeah, you can understand if I was just a little pinned down. Nevertheless, I feel like this site has been really vacant in my absence, seeing as how I’m the only one who writes and posts here, and the lack of content since my unwilling departure makes me kinda sad.
I’m legit sorry for not even posting an “I’m out doing other stuff” article over my hiatus. Every one of you reading this deserves better, and I promise to do better time management wise for the coming weeks.
And I intend to fix that right away with, what else, a review of a show from this year that I really friggin' liked. See, another reason I wasn’t writing for this site in between assignments, projects, work and research was the sheer amount of stress I was going through at the same time. I know I come off as kind of angry during a lot of my reviews, but that’s primarily for show. I’m a nice guy. But I was so stressed out for the majority of the past semester that I just couldn’t write anything without possibly inserting myself into the article and just completely venting at a bunch of people who didn’t deserve to hear me shouting at the top of my lungs about my personal problems. This was the year that drove me to therapy for just how much I couldn’t put up with myself.
It turns out, being an adult with a full time job is really friggin' hard. You’ll have work projects compound on top of each other with no hint of recourse and you’ll be expected to have everything in on time and to your professor’s and/or boss’s specifications. It gets very annoying and very frustrating very fast; I tell you this from experience.
Enter Aggretsuko, brought to you by Netflix and Sanrio, aka the Hello Kitty guys no really. This series came out spring of 2018, and of course I was too busy keeping my final projects in the air to actually sit down and give it a watch, but after my finals last semester I finally got an opportunity to just chill out for a bit and put it on.
Two and a half hours later, the show ended, and I found myself asking, “Where the hell was this series during my hard period?”
Yeah, remember all of that stuff I mentioned a little bit ago about responsibilites and how it feels like they can just collapse on top of one another relentlessly and you alone have to deal with it? Aggretsuko friggin' gets it. It’s a charming, funny, touching show that completely understands the position a lot of young adults are in coming out of college and facing demanding jobs with subpar superiors and coworkers. It’s a relatable, witty sendup of office satire and I loved every single minute of it.
And it is all headlined by our main character Retsuko (who is absolutely not voiced by the person MAL thinks voices her), a twenty-five year old red panda working in a trade company’s accounting office who has to put up with all of the BS I just mentioned. She blows off steam by hitting up a karaoke bar each night, where she blasts death metal at the top of her lungs. And…that’s really all there is to it on paper. Just plain and simple. The show itself plays out like a series of small stories that really drive home its working themes (ha…haha, I see what I did there) and clearly communicate the struggles and BS Retsuko has to put up with on a daily basis. Sure, there’s plenty of supporting characters - her social media obsessed deskmate Fenneko (Marina Inoue, Hero Aca, Attack on Titan, and the 2015 cult classic Punch Line), the resident “nice guy” of the office Haida (Shingo Katou, who did a small role in a short series last summer), her literal chauvanist pig of a boss Director Ton (who I can’t find any information on either, oh what a life), and the two higher-ups of the office Gori and Washime (who I almost keep calling Washizu by accident, guess what I’ve been rewatching lately) - but most of the focus on Retsuko’s struggles and gripes.
Specifically, the show recognizes that everybody struggles, and while we all want to persue some sort of lifestyle where we don’t have to deal with stress or crummy people doing crummy things, ultimately, that just doesn’t happen in nature. You’re going to be stressed to the point of breaking, you’re going to have days where you feel like absolute crap and you’re going to have to deal with everything Retsuko puts up with on a daily basis in all likelihood. Aggretsuko, while it doesn’t necessarily spell out how to deal with these issues, at the very least provides a story that the viewer can relate to, and frankly I find that more valuable than a manual titled Adulting for Dummies.
Of course, the main point of that entire premise is that everybody has their own struggles that they’re putting up with. While the show certainly focuses on Retsuko and the problems she faces on a routine basis between her demanding superiors, social obligations, love life, and who the hell knows what else, the show makes sure to check in on other characters and the hardships they’re also facing. I can’t say exactly what some of those are if I want to avoid spoilers, but the show does it because they offer some very needed perspective regarding Retsuko’s troubles. She is not alone, and the show taking time out to demonstrate that helps to drive that point home and make the audience think, “Huh, maybe I’m not the only one in this particular boat.”
Retsuko is in constant pursuit of happiness and an escape from her stressful day to day life, but of course she never gets there. Every single one of her plans to get away from the grind ends up backfiring, her ideal escape constantly shattering in her hands by the cold hard cliffs of reality. In fact, one of the more heartfelt scenes in the series for me came from an angle I can’t really relate with (and I’m going to stop there before I spoil something that I think is really best seen raw). I can talk about the first time this happens though, when Retsuko’s drifter friend comes into town and talks about opening an imported goods store.
See, Retsuko immediately goes off fantasizing about working at a small business under her own hours doing something fun with a friend, and sure, on paper that sounds quite nice. I personally have always wanted to make a full-time job out of playing Magic and streaming on Twitch (pluggo pluggo here’s my channel) as I think that’d be something I enjoy doing.
There’s a problem though, and that is you have to sacrifice your own security in order to start out. And as soon as Retsuko learns that she won’t be taking any profits in immediately, there won’t be a storefront out of the gate, they’ll be operating out of her friend’s apartment, and that she might have to move back in with her parents in order to make ends meet, she makes the hard decision to give up on her dreams of happiness for a more realistic but long-term beneficial position at her current post.
The show’s message isn’t that Retsuko doesn’t deserve to be happy; there are moments of levity in her life and the show does make sure we get to see them, don’t get me wrong. But it does say that life is inherently stressful. Instead of finding a way to escape said stress and metaphorically flip the table to go find something else to do, we should instead seek ways to temper that stress with things we like doing at times when we are not at work.
Aggretsuko is easily the best series Netflix has put out and I can’t recommend this thing hard enough. Despite its simple, cutesy aesthetic reminiscent of a kids cartoon that PBS would air on weekday mornings, it is a touching, relevant, funny, engrossing show that I have every intention of rewatching as soon as I’m done typing this review. It’s a perfect blend of witty dialogue, creative animation, heartfelt themes, and just pure understanding of everyday life.
The dub is absolutely fantastic, by the way, and in some cases is actually better than the Japanese VA. Think about how much you need to nail your dub in order for me to make that compliment.
THE VERDICT: A+ Next week: How about a list? People like those