Hi, I am the Luminous Mongoose, and today, let’s talk about how the complex issue of Japan’s toxic corporate work environment and rampant stress in the office is portrayed by a death-metal singing red panda.
Watch the entire first season on Netflix here.
Aggretsuko is the latest series by Sanrio. I was never a huge fan of Sanrio stuff, Hello Kitty and Pucca were fun, but not engaging enough to me to buy merch. However, Aggretsuko is a series that is tailor-made for adults, and it shows in the relatable problems that our main character, Retsuko, faces on a daily basis.
It’s a very funny show, but it’s also incredibly uncomfortable to watch sometimes. They do a good job of portraying the toxic people you can encounter in a blue-collar workplace. While I am fortunate enough to have a job wherein I don’t have to deal with that, my dad used to tell me stories about all the office politics at his old job as a desk jockey at a tax firm, which I remember clearly now that I’ve watched this. They manage to portray it realistically despite being shown through the lens of cute Sanrio design animals.
Relatable aside, it’s also really funny. While the main gag itself of Retsuko raging out is fine and all, I found the side characters way funnier, such as the mature and supportive Washimi and Gori, who are a bit eccentric on the side:
They are actually really fun and friendly people, despite their imposing auras and professional demeanor. It also makes for a nice contrast to drone-like Retsuko, as we see that despite the existence of sexism in the office, two women are still in high positions by being headstrong and elegant.
There is also their strange sagely yoga instructor who only speaks in protein-
And my best girl, deadpan snarker Fenneko, and her wonderful laugh:
-as well as a lot of other colorful characters who make up the office.
What I do appreciate about the show is how they subvert a few characters from just being one-trick personalities. A great one is the character of Tsunoda, who reminds me a bit of an Ami from Toradora who never bothered to be OOC.
I like that she was revealed that while others consider her a professional brownnose, I think she is actually being a sharp-minded flirt, who is simply nice to mean guys out of convenience. She also acknowledges the fact that people hate her for it, but that she genuinely doesn’t care. I kinda respect that!
Same goes for Director Ton. His actions are inexcusable, and he knows he’s a chauvinist dickhead, but after 20 years of being trodden on by the people above him, he lashes out against his employees during times of peace. However, he is smart enough to recognize when to maximize workers during end-of-quarter, and does make good on his claims that he was a hard worker in his day by being faster than his computer-using underlings.
And yeah, Haida’s cool too, but the only real difference we see in his character is when kinda see his outfit outside of work being reminiscent of a rocker:
Kinda setting up that ship with Death Metal Retsuko hard, huh?
The show does take its time to get serious, but when it does, it hits hard. Retsuko, being new to such a toxic work environment, is constantly overworked, and constantly underappreciated. A lot of characters do point out her tendency to be pushover, and even by the end, the lesson of the show amounts to “just grit your teeth and get through it, or it’s all pointless”, which is a cynical but ultimately fitting message for this show.
They also had an unexpected side story about love, which while annoying, actually made lot of sense once you get through all of it. It shows that deep down, Retsuko hasn’t really grown up from the naive, high school graduate she was, and is still learning new things everyday.
Overall, I enjoyed it a lot! It had fun characters, fun gags, and a cynical but well-meant message about getting through the crappiness of work with your head held high, and voice raw from karaoke.
I give Aggretsuko an 8/10!