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This Week in Anime
Why Aggretsuko is the Voice of a Generation

by Michelle Liu & Jacob Chapman,

Sanrio's new workplace comedy, Aggretsuko, has screamed its way onto Netflix to summon a legion of new fans. This week, Micchy and Jacob explore what makes this millennial metalhead panda's quarter-life crisis so incredibly relatable.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.





Hey Micchy, I have a very important question to ask you.

What's up?

News to me!

Well I think most of us resemble THIS one, at least. Aggretsuko is easily the most #relatable anime comedy I have ever seen.

Retsuko: the tired millennial to represent all of us

I wouldn't expect hyper-cutesy and hyper-commercialist Sanrio to be the ones to give such resounding voice to a generation that's exhausted by the abyss of the corporate world but goddamn.

To be fair, Aggretsuko is far from the typical Sanrio character. She may be an adorable red panda, but at heart she's the screaming metalhead we all need in our lives.

Yeah, and on the flip side, Aggretsuko also feels like something Sanrio could have put out even sooner. I'm pretty sure the average Sanrio aficionado is a woman in their 20s-30s with expendable income, so in most cases they work a 9-5. But there are so many workplace comedy anime and J-dramas as it is. It's a safe and simple enough genre. They could have gone the easy route.

Instead we got The Brutally Honest Version.

You could have a cast full of cuddly mascot characters, or you could do what Aggretsuko does and make the shitty boss a literal chauvinist pig.

I can't get over how perfectly the choice of animals fits with these characters. This porker is the tyrannical section manager:

Then there's a galumphing hippo as the overenthusiastic gossipy office lady:

And my personal favorite, a Fennec Fox as
Basically Aubrey Plaza:

Look, any character who spends her time snarking on Twitter with a glass of wine has to be the best character.

We all know this resting bitchface elemental, and many of us have been her at some point, because let's face it, the adult world is too harsh not to get through the day on spite sometimes.

Fenneko doesn't take any of your shit, and I can respect that.

Pretty much! Aggretsuko's premise practically tells itself on sight, but for those unaware, this is essentially Zootopia if it was specifically for and about working millennial women.

One of the greatest things about Aggretsuko is how it shows off such a variety of female characters who all approach their shitty lives differently.

For example, Retsuko is a very nice, very normal red panda doing her best to embrace life and work her way up the corporate ladder. She dreams of simple fulfillment in life, just getting back what she puts in, being able to live up to everyone's expectations with a smile.

Unfortunately, she's a woman entering the workforce in
late-stage capitalism. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Doing her best can only get her so far, since there's so many little things bringing her down. Demanding supervisors, irritating coworkers, crowded public transit, and not nearly enough compensation for lousy working conditions. It gets rough.

So of course she vents by screaming extremely loud death metal, as one does.

She's become an expert at compartmentalizing so that she won't rock the boat, but it's taking a massive toll on her psyche and her ability to connect with others. Every woman feels like this, yet most women feel like they're all alone in these feelings. And like you said, everyone copes in different ways. TSUNODA the cute little doe just embraces the system completely, which helps her avoid stress for now, but it also means she's bound to grow into a paranoid old snake like Tsubone. Fenneko has the opposite problem, where she's decided not to care about pressure from others so hard that she relies on her own endless spite reserves to get her through the day, accidentally pushing even like-minded people away because they fear her judgment.

I mean, this is how she talks to people she likes.

It's hard out there for everybody, but everybody copes in different ways that isolate them by disguising the universality of the feelings they share.

Yeah! Pretty crucially, Aggretsuko is sympathetic to both these girls' methods. Fenneko is the no-bullshit skeptic to Retsuko's conflict-avoidant optimism most of the time, while TSUNODA does have moments where she lets down the ass-kisser facade to admit that she's totally playing into the system because it's easier on her to do so than to raise a fuss.

Wait, have we mentioned that this is primarily a comedy?

It's the BEST kind of comedy: the stuff that's so painfully relatable we can't help but laugh at our miserable selves reflected within.

It's HILARIOUS. Like one of the funniest anime I've ever seen, both in its great gags and consistently excellent comic timing.

No Fenneko, it's true, this show is just that good.

Fenneko, Retsuko, and TSUNODA are the millennial disasters we deserve, but the show doesn't stop there. It turns out that even the people who look like they have their shit together are hot messes too. They've just figured out how to make it all work somehow.

The Cool Executive Ladies are the best part of an already excellent show.

Over time, they become Retsuko's fairy godparents of sorts, but they're not above her situation at all. They just have the lived experience to help Retsuko survive without destroying herself.

Retsuko initially finds them intimidating, but once she discovers that they're in the same yoga class, she begins to realize that they've been through everything she has and can help guide her through life.

Like, Retsuko's all nervous about exposing her inner metalhead self to them at karaoke, but once the secret's out they're totally into it!

At that point, their karaoke intervention was downright necessary! Retsuko has many friends and kindhearted acquaintances at the office, but she's so depressed that she's afraid of bringing them down with her feelings. Someone had to make her feel like it was okay to vent.

Gori and Washimi are just removed enough from her work situation that Retsuko doesn't feel the need to keep up appearances just to avoid rocking the boat. Essentially, they become like older sister figures to her. They might not always lead Retsuko in the right direction, but their advice is always thoughtful.

And she can provide them with a shoulder to cry on sometimes too!

Or a face to firehose. Even Ms. Gori gets the blues.

Gori is really great because she looks so put together but is actually a mess inside. She's bad at making first impressions, she gets upset when people turn down her invitations, and most importantly, she loves them quiches. Turns out that even the strongest among us have no idea how to deal with the mess known as life!

The important thing, especially for women who face more unique abuses in the workplace, is that we open up about these problems to others. That gives us the strength to know we're not alone, so we can find the best path going forward together.

Even if, yanno, it's still gonna be shitty.

Yep. Boss pig is awful and he isn't about to stop being awful any time soon. The only thing that gets him to lay off is a threat from his superiors. But once he finds out who's behind the allegations, it's back to square one.

I loved how that whole scene was handled.
The reason nothing changes for so long may seem obvious:

Meanwhile I'm here like "did the cute animal cartoon seriously address why women are so hesitant to speak about up about harassment"? And just in time for #MeToo to hit Japan!

But the solution, posed by Washimi, is way less obvious but Extremely True. If you can't get people to care out of empathy, you have to MAKE them care by hitting them where they live. It's not the kind of solution anyone wants, but sometimes it's necessary if you want to help and protect people.

It's not the solution of choice because brute-forcing the problem won't solve it at the root.

But this battle is still rewarding to fight with others, and these little victories can still change things for the better over time.

For the record, nice Ton is absolutely fucking terrifying.

Don't shake the bacon. D:


God, I could talk about this show forever. Aggretsuko didn't have to be so incisive and powerful, but it is. We haven't even touched on Retsuko's experiences with romance, which I don't think I've ever seen explored in anime this way, but so many people has gone through what she does in a relationship, regardless of gender.

The short version is that Retsuko dates a potato.

This is probably the part of the show that will leave people most conflicted, because it enters the picture so late compared to the workplace stuff. But I think it was really important because it's essential to show that happiness alone won't solve Retsuko's dissatisfaction with a shitty system. It's not JUST that she's depressed. She's disadvantaged, and the high of first love just gives her an excuse to overextend herself further.

...for someone who doesn't appreciate it.

She's lonely, she's desperate, and she's willing to settle for the first person who's the slightest bit nice to her.

Girl, are you sure you're seein' straight here?

My Shitty Job Is Easier When My Shitty Brain is Pumped Full of Endō.rphins!

But like all highs, it's gotta come down eventually...

I won't spoil what happens after that, but it's the cherry on top of an experience so exceptional I thought it had peaked in episode 7.
This Fucking Show...

It's absolutely incredible! The best thing about Retsuko's unfortunate relationship experience is that the show doesn't immediately have her run into her longtime guy friend's arms. He also admits that his own crush on her has blinded him to however she really feels.

It's the perfect way to wrap up an arc about projecting fantasies onto someone you like, and I am so damn glad the show doesn't cop out by pairing them off.

Director Ton proves that more money won't make you happy. Resasuke proves that another person won't make you happy. The only way to make a bad situation better is to change what you can, accept what you can't, and just don't be afraid to Let It All Out when ya gotta.

And when that doesn't work, there's always

God, SPEAKING of perfectly fitting animal choices, have you SEEN kangaroos at "peak performance"?

I mean jesus...

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