While commentary sites tend to lean towards the informative or negative, let’s take a moment today to just revel in something super awesome.
Let’s talk about Aggretsuko.
Aggretsuko is a Netflix show about a cute, reliable red panda who vents her rage by singing death metal karaoke. In a world of anthropomorphic animals working desk jobs, the show walks to the beat of its own drum. As does its main character, Retsuko, even though she hides it under sweetness and compliance.
With 15 minute episodes, the Japanese original series is short, to the point, yet oh so effective. And, somehow, depicts one of the realest expressions of being a twenty something, despite being a bizarre animation about office animals.
While there are cultural differences (for example, matchmaking is far less common in Western countries), the core of Retsuko’s frustrations are understandable and pure. She worries about dating, feeling undermined at work, her relationship with her mother, the pressures of career and marriage, and so much more.
But the true art of Aggretsuko isn’t just honestly portraying the struggles of young adults. A lot of shows do that. It’s portraying it with such sincerity and showing the long, complicated relationship that young adults have with identity and who they are in different spaces. It’s the experience of navigating all those communities and coming out on the other side, figuring out who you are.
More than ever, young adults want to be their most authentic self. After all, the world is interconnected with so many stories and people that it’s hard to feel like an individual that matters in a sea of so much. That means people have to look inward to really try to understand where they fit and belong in all of this, and what would really make them happy.
No wonder everyone has so many complex feelings about their lives lately.
Aggretsuko dares to tackle the stress and depression of young adulthood through a brighter lens. The writers acknowledge the struggles, but build a main character and world that both fight to stay true to themselves. And for all of Retsuko’s flaws, her journey towards finding herself is impactful and impressive.
She may struggle to speak up at work, but she finds an outlet so that she doesn’t hurt people she cares about or jeopardize a job she may be more invested in than she thinks. She may not always agree with everything her friends do, but she does her best to support them. She may fall into relationships that don’t suit her, but she always chooses herself over pretending to be someone she’s not.
For overwhelmed young adults, she’s a hero willing to be her lazy, complicated self but also admit when she’s wrong.
The show also does a great job of showing how complex people really can be. First season, her office co-worker Kabae is just an annoying gossip who never stops talking. As the second season progresses, Retsuko learns more about her life as a mother and how hard she works for her family. While that doesn’t stop her from being an annoying gossip, Retsuko and the viewers see her in a new light, one that adds layers to an initially obnoxious side-character. In an office there are a lot of cardboard personalities like that, ones that annoy, frustrate, and even repel other people. However, there’s always more to real people than just their work persona.
Similarly, her boss, Ton, can be a demanding, intimidating, and selfish man. There’s no arguing about that. However, there are times when he works with the office to solve problems, will give Retsuko sound life advice, or shows off how much he loves his family. These things don’t redeem him in the same way they redeem Kabae, but they do paint a more realistic and nuanced character than Retsuko and fans initially see him.
Retsuko and the people around her are complex characters navigating their lives the best they can. But learning more about yourself and the people around you is one of the most honest ways to describe young adulthood.
Just seriously go watch it. Aggretsuko is so worth it and both seasons (including the Christmas episode) can all be finished in a little over 5 hours. That’s impressive, when the first season of GoT takes almost 10.
Everyone can learn something about themselves and their world from the life of this one fantastic, karaoke-loving red panda. Who knew death metal could be so deep?