‘Aggretsuko’ gets a lot of things right about portraying corporate life

While I was watching Netflix’s new animated series Aggretsuko the other day, my little cousin looked over for a second and asked me what I was watching. She sounded curious, “Is it a kid’s show, ate?” I told her it wasn’t, that kids wouldn’t be able to understand it.  

She glared at me, a look of disbelief on her face. “Well, it looks like it’s for kids.”

And sure, with its Pet Society-esque graphics and cutesy voice talent reminiscent of your favorite anime (for both the Japanese and English-dubbed versions), Aggretsuko could pass for your run-of-the-mill children’s series. Except it’s not.

From the first episode, it’s already established that Aggretsuko is solidly a Generation Y show, thanks to all the relatable points of corporate life it brings up. The 20-minuters give us more insight on Retsuko, Sanrio’s 25-year-old metal-loving red panda, and the context behind all her pent-up rage.

If you let out a big fat SAME after reading about Aggretsuko last year, you’ll be doing it plenty more times as you encounter the other characters who hit the office stereotypes spot-on. There are Retsuko’s sorta-kinda-friends Haida, an awk-cute hyena who obviously has a crush on her, and Fenneko, a highly perceptive fennec fox who knows how to serve the tea.

Then there are the gross characters that everyone loves to hate on, like Ton, the pig-boss (geddit?) who constantly gives Retsuko a hard time, Kabae, a super annoying hippo who spreads all the office dirt, and Tsunoda, the deer and resident Instahoe/microinfluencer.

Finally, there’s Retsuko herself, the responsible worker who does all that she’s told to do without complaining, the type that Fenneko describes as someone who’s “desperate to live up to expectations.” Like many people from our generation, she’s put up with the burdens of her corporate job for the past five years — waking up at 7 a.m., riding a crowded train to the same big company she’s worked for for the past five years — all because that’s what she’s been conditioned to see as the ideal life.

We meet her just as she has her own awakening of sorts, at the beginning of her quarter-life crisis. That scene where she starts doing yoga to get fit? Same. The highlights would always have to be her secret bursts of death metal rage, either at her office’s bathroom cubicle or in the karaoke room (“Chooooke on my raaaaage!”).

Netflix’s Aggretsuko only proves that Retsuko is our spirit animal. | Screenshots via Netflix

If shows like The Last Airbender, We Bare Bears, and Adventure Time could appeal to audiences of all ages, then why can’t we say the same for Aggretsuko? As you go along, it’s less of a cute talking-animal story and more of a wake-up call, mostly because it may cause you start re-evaluating your own work situation and the conditions you live with on a daily basis.

This is the deep stuff, friends. Think: Bojack Horseman, except replace the depressed horse with a passive-aggressive red panda who channels all her rage into singing heavy metal.  

So yeah, Aggretsuko isn’t designed to be a kid’s show. That’s not to say that kids won’t enjoy it at all. Heck, they might even find Aggretsuko’s metal karaoke scenes funny. At its core, though, the show’s appeal comes from its relatability. Which is why it’s more of a shout-out to the corporate slaves and working beings out there who put up with all the shit from their bosses and the world without complaining.

 Retsuko is all of us, we are all Retsuko. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

You can stream Aggretsuko on Netflix.

Tags:
#career #self #tv

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