Saturday, March 16, 2019

REVIEW: Aggretsuko: Season 1 (anime TV series)

Aggretsuko is a Japanese comedy series. Each episode is fairly short, only about 15 minutes long. I mostly watched it in the morning, before heading off to work.

Retsuko is a 25-year-old red panda who started her accounting job with high hopes and stars in her eyes. Now that she's been there a while, however, those sparkly feelings are gone and all that's left is suppressed rage she only lets out in her solo end-of-the-day death metal karaoke sessions. No one knows about her love for death metal karaoke, not even her best friends at work.

As the series progresses, Retsuko finds occasional glimmers of hope that she might be able to leave her horrible job behind. She also finds things - friendship, romance - that make her current job a little more livable.

I watched this in Japanese with English subtitles turned on and, from what I've read, that might be the best way to go. This post goes into one of the most problematic aspects of the English dub, the decision to cast a black woman as Gori, a gorilla.

For the most part, this was fun to watch, although there were times when I wasn't entirely sure whether I really liked it. For example, the part where Retsuko thought she might be able to leave her current job and work for her friend's new small business was downright painful. Just about anyone could have told her that it was a bad idea to get her hopes up, but she was so desperate to get out of her current job that she couldn't see what should have been right in front of her nose. The episodes with Resasuke were frustrating in a similar way.

I was also a bit confused about what the series was getting at. By the end of the season it seemed to be aiming for an actual message of some sort, and I wasn't quite comfortable with what it seemed to be. No, I didn't think Retsuko should try to pretend to be someone she wasn't in order to end up with some guy she thought she should be with, not even if it gave her the possibility of quitting her job. That said, her horrible boss giving her a stern but loving pep talk made my skin crawl. This was the same guy who, for the bulk of the series, made Retsuko's life miserable, and I was suddenly supposed to believe that he'd give her a fatherly "don't give all of yourself to someone who doesn't give you anything back" talk? Yeah, no.

What I did really like, however, was the friendship that developed between Retsuko and the office's most awesome ladies, Washimi and Gori, who weren't quite as unapproachable as they first seemed. Retsuko's life tended to be depressing, but it was nice that it wasn't 100% bad. She took up yoga and made new friends who gave her advice on navigating office life as a woman. Heck, she even sought out advice from Tsunoda, her occasional enemy and one of the office's most shamelessly manipulative women (she'd act cute, stupid, and ultra-feminine to get male management to like her), and discovered that even she wasn't quite as awful as she appeared. Not that I'd trust her farther than I could throw her, and I can't throw very far.

The season ended with the possibility of romance between Retsuko and Haida, Retsuko's hyena coworker. I'm cautiously optimistic about it - although I wasn't wild about his reaction to the idea of Retsuko dating someone else (he gave himself a case of alcohol poisoning), he mostly didn't seem that bad and I could see him reacting well to Retsuko's death metal karaoke secret.

All in all, this was decent. I plan on watching the second season once it's released, as well as the Christmas special.

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