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Aggretsuko, which stands for Aggressive Retsuko, is a character created by Yeti for Sanrio, the company who created Hello Kitty. For this we are not going to be talking about the 100 episode long show that aired from 2016 until 2018, but the Netflix original, both of which were directed by Rarecho. The Netflix series was released in April of 2018 consisting of ten, fifteen minute long episodes. A second season is slated to be released in 2019.
This show is about a 25-year-old red panda who works in the accounting department of a large corporation. It is simply about living life and getting through day by day as she endures her harsh working conditions, dealing with her self esteem, navigating her way through complex office politics, and letting out all of her frustrations at night in a karaoke bar screaming ballads of death metal for an hour.
The art style of this anime does not resemble a traditional anime at all. In fact the style is quite simple with a focus on trying to make everything seem cute. Comparatively, the designs are quite simple, which does not require the same amount of line mileage as the ordinary A1 pictures anime. However, what this allows for the animators to do is make the characters incredibly expressive in terms of their facial animation and movements as a result of not spending as much time on highly detailed characters models. In addition, the colour palate is incredibly vibrant, colourful, and pleasing to look at, without any dips in the animation quality, maintaining a high standard throughout.
The music used is masterful, not in its composition but in the areas where they are used. The original soundtrack varies from a gentle melody to a death metal track, and yet it all manages to fit into the show seamlessly. It is reflective of the mood Retsuko is in and the more intense the music, the more intensely her emotions are emphasized. It is not something we often talk about, but the editing of this show is stellar, which is one of the main reasons why the soundtrack works as well as it does.
Going beyond the aesthetics of the show, the main reasons why Aggretsuko works as well as it does is because of the fantastic character writing and the narrative of the show. What the show does is present the very human, down to earth problems the average person goes through in a very realistic lens in the form of an animated format that looks to have more in common with a Cartoon Network show from 15 years ago. As such the art style hides a deceptively real narrative that many of us have experienced in our own lives, represented by cutely drawn, cartoon, talking animals.
The characters are all unique with their own personality traits, and one of the joys of watching the show is seeing how all these characters interact with each other. Fenneko, Washimi, and Gori being particular highlights aside from Retsuko herself. Despite all being animals, their behaviour is far more human than some live action films and shows, highlighting the stress of constantly working under a boss that rails on his employees, how women are treated in the workplace, how people in the same working environment interact and form cliques, and the power dynamics within the work place. All of this creates a sense of existential horror as it reflects the life many people end up having.
Ultimately, Aggretsuko is a series that I highly recommend watching. It is an incredibly well written, humorous, and emotional story. Because it is currently (at the time of writing) ten episodes long, one can finish it within three hours or squeeze in fifteen minutes here and there. It is a deceptively good show.