She’s unhappy with her mundane daily life. Her office job sucks. No one thanks her for her hard work. Red Panda Retsuko needs to vent. Luckily for her, she knows the exact thing to do when life and work is getting her down: death metal karaoke. As she rages and vents inside karaoke rooms, she ponders on what to do for the future, whether she should just settle down and get married, join her old friend in a new business venture, or stick to the daily grind.
Aggretsuko is one of Sanrio’s newest mascots. The anime itself first saw light back in April 2016 when a show called Aggressive Retsuko appeared on the O-sama no Brunch Saturday morning programme on TBS in Japan. Consisting of 38 minute-long episodes, the new mascot caught the eye of another studio and director who wanted to expand the show. This new outing of Aggretsuko is produced by Fanworks and directed by Rarecho (Sushi and Beyond, Chi-Sui Maru). With 10 15-minute long episodes, the new character expands and we see her transform from frustrated office lady to a death metal-loving ball of anger. Sanrio have never really set themselves any real boundaries when it comes to what kind of mascots they bring out (if you can even call them boundaries).
Retsuko is a very likeable person; she’s sensible, reliable, dependable but a bit of a push-over. Her accounting position means she often has to do overtime, doing work for her bosses and supervisors who refuse to do it. Her colleagues admire her for putting up with the boss’s dated and chauvinist behaviour, and at the same time are well aware that, inside, she is frustrated with what she has gotten herself into by becoming an office lady.
Soon enough, she finds herself looking up to the senior female workers there who exude class and authority, along with the free-spirited childhood friend who plans to open an imported goods store of her own, and asks Retsuko if she wants to be a part of it (handling their accounts). This is something she really wants to do, of course; she would effectively be her own boss, plus she’d be doing something that makes her much happier. But Retsuko has the same woes of every other Japanese salaryman and office lady: their job ties them down like an anchor at sea, leaving them unable to quit and leaving them eternally frustrated and depressed.
People will be drawn to the death metal gimmick straightaway, especially those who aren’t really into anime and just are curious on what this is all about. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, as watching this usually shy and retiring red panda scream and yell is part of the charm of this show. Another thing that makes this show fun to watch is the animation. It’s simple and colourful style reflects Sanrio to the letter; I mean, there’s no way they could make Retsuko and co. look moe or realistic, is there? And it is this style of animation that will attract both the young and the more mature viewer.
Erica Mendez (of Ryuko Matoi, Nico Yazawa and Sailor Uranus fame) takes the role of Retsuko in the English dub, with Jamison Boaz filling in for when Retsuko vents to death metal. Having met her at Amecon 2016, I know that she is a very capable voice actor who can adapt to all sorts of roles, although I recall she did say in her Q&A there that she gets a little nervous when she has to play a more villainous role. I did notice a couple of things in the dub that didn’t sound quite right; for instance, when the director discovers Retsuko might hand in her notice, he gives her the name ‘short-timer’…in the English dub, this joke is shot down when ‘short-timer’ is replaced by something that’s…well…not really that funny. But truth be told, I am not as knowledgeable with English voice actors as I am Japanese, and thus most of the other names in the English dub cast I am sadly not that familiar with. However, that doesn’t detract the fact that the English dub is still quite good.
Here’s the Netflix trailer for Aggretsuko:
These are short episodes of a short show, but actually, it’s just right. I can’t speak about the 1-minute long episodes shown in Japan, but keeping episodes at 15 minutes and not over-extending the show to a whole cour of 12-13 25-minute episodes pays off, as padding out Retsuko’s story would make the show look pretty bad. I hope that more episodes like this come our way, whether it be another season of Aggretsuko, or some other show having only 15 minutes episodes. It is, in fact, short shows like these that make you appreciate anime some more. This is another good catch for Netflix, and I hope to see more short anime in the future.
By sticking to a very relatable topic, Retsuko’s woes at work speak to a lot of us. By also sticking to the kind of animation that you can only find with Sanrio, Aggretsuko can be a show that most audiences can watch without reading into it too deeply. This is a laugh-out-loud show, and despite its short length, it’ll keep you highly entertained and will be something you’ll want to return to again.