Aggrestuko or Aggressive Retsuko of its original name is a musical animation series produced by the TBS channel in 2016 and broadcast on Netflix at 2018, based on the eponymous character of the Sanrio brand.
Presentation of the anime and the social aspect …
So we follow Retsuko, a young 25 year old red panda, living in Tokyo and entering the Japanese working world.
The first season is a picture of the life of this young red panda, suffering of moral harassment from her superiors, not believing her capable of doing her job properly or even overloading her with work.
But also of her doubts about her current life and her “Metro, Work, Sleep” routine.
She is still supported by some of her colleagues, like Fenneko a fennec that has the typical profile of the aggravated stalker: nothing escapes her. She is the perfect opposite of Haida: she says everything that goes through her head even if it means wrinkling. The exchanges with these characters are super funny.
Haida is a fellow bass player, just as lost, but always there to try to understand her and to be devoted to her. He seems like a tasteless employee, cashing in the end without much adherence (we’ll say that his interest in Retsuko also alters his behavior). This gives an anxiety-provoking impression.
His best friend Puko, who comes and goes to Japan, trying her hand at various things. Not a recurring character.
The particularity of Restuko is to be very sweet and cute in front of everyone, showing no flaws. But as soon as she gets out of work, going to a karaoke to make her day. She becomes a singer of DEATH METAL!!!
However, throughout the episodes of the second season, we notice a certain pressure. Where does it comes from when we always laugh so much in front of the episodes? But with a certain hindsight, we understand: Japanese social pressure. During this season, we feel that our little red panda fetish is going around in circles. He is looking for a way to escape from its social chains by:
On these searches, among so many others more futile, failures come quickly enough for two of the four objectives.
The hope of a different job, conveyed by her friend Puko, is a failure. The laziness of her friend Puko’s cat more or less ruined the project that Puko had in mind. Knowing that Retsuko intended to keep her standard of living, promising her a bit of mountains and wonders, without any concrete result.
It is a revealing fact of the license’s passage. In order to escape a little from the pressure of the marriage that her mother tries to arrange for her. She chooses to fly on her own and decides to organize a trip with Gori and Washimi, two of her colleagues who have become close friends. Unfortunately, on one evening of this trip, an argument unexpectedly arises between them, and it’s another failure.
The research for the husband that would allow her to escape from her job also promises to be very ambiguous. She crushes on a boy named Tadano, completely lost at the license examination center, accumulating chess after chess. We learn that this one, answering of course to the feelings of our Retsuko, remains very reserved on the fact of committing himself and basing himself only on the present moment.
Here we are again, Retsuko left for a Death Metal counter-serenade.
The pressure to find a job is latent from the beginning, which is true for any modern society by the way. In fact, what really interests us in the first season is the social relations that we would think exaggerated. Nonetheless, we realize by watching other anime, dramas or other articles on the net that there are recurring points. Which is quite reassuring because if we ask people who watch this anime with us. We realize that we all have more or less the same opinion, which is not always the case.
Between the pressure of the result but the lack of efficiency in the distribution of work. The organization as well as the unnecessary pressure put on employees … There is really enough to make a good mayonnaise of problems.
Moreover the characters of the colleagues are quite significant or even worse… realistic. Between the nonchalances of Haida and the psychopathy of Fenneko, the basic cocktail takes.
Let’s talk about hierarchy: a not incompetent but rather lazy department manager and the character of a… pig. In fact, we feel he’s here for appearance: his employees take care of the rest. He adds the side of direct authority that is widely present in Japanese offices. Usually with a bad faith that is completely revealed. He has other hobbies and doesn’t even hide from them, and the consideration for his employees is barely measured. His assistant, Komiya, brings that annoying touch that was missing from the chief’s picture. He even feeds the narcissistic side of the direct boss.
Between the naive hypocrisy of Tsunoda, sometimes a deer too stupid, the incessant gossip of Kabae, a very sticky hippopotamus mother and the rivalry between the different departments as well as the points discussed… We have a damn caricatured picture.
…in the service of humor.
Let’s remember that Aggretsuko is hilarious. The dark side of the society as described in this anime is very relativized in front of the burlesque of the situations generated by the so opposite characters of the various protagonists:
Retsuko is often confronted between two points of view, to mention only Fenneko and Haida, or even in confrontation with herself directly and there is the main point of the anime: the fact that she bursts into Death Metal form, the first big contrast with the cute aspect of the character. The fact that she takes up residence in a karaoke is already in itself and a serious question of hiding to claim her frustration and a sketch.
When you know the condition of women in Japan, you quickly realize that this anime is a rather perfect representation of a smile on the face, a frustration that you keep for yourself, because you have to preserve the social standards in this country, a moral harassment due to the fact that being a young woman who would be unable to do the job properly, the fact that at 25 years old it would be time to start looking beyond work and think about starting a family with necessarily children and become a housewife.
Even characters who seem minor are important. Komiya, Ton’s assistant department head, is incredibly annoying, which immerses you completely in the series but also makes you laugh: the sycophant side becomes laughable knowing the narcissistic side of Ton. Tsunoda, the flattering daine, who doesn’t hesitate to play with her compliments and charms for her own ends, is so irritating that she becomes laughable. The same goes for the paranoiac side of Anai the new recruit embodying the theme of harassment which could be unbearable, but it is nothing like that as it is an over-reaction every time.
They serve for the humorous features, but also as an actor triggering the heat that makes the pressure cooker that is Retsuko blow up every time.
In conclusion, the animated Aggrestuko reflects in a caricatural way the current Japanese society. A society where pressure and pretenses or lack of freedom is still very present. This anime allows you to understand all these societal facts while keeping a dose of humor.