How does one release the pent-up tension of not being paid enough, having no romantic life, and working for a literal pig for a boss? Singing death metal, obviously.
Aggretsuko is a short anime series with a plot deviating from what’s expected of a female anime character. The art style lures viewers in with its cute animals and bright colors reminiscent of Hello Kitty, Powerpuff Girls, and Pucca. Just when all seems happy-go-lucky, we see the day and the life of a red panda trying to navigate her need to please others. When it fails, her karaoke mic becomes her solace.
Our main character is Retsuko, an emerging adult stuck in the accounting department of the corporate world. She represents the rest of us starting a new job; she’s bright-eyed, full of hope and excitement, and feels on top of the world. That quickly comes crashing down for her the more time she spends in the office. Her boss, Ton, is a chauvinist pig (literally, he’s a pig and I heavily enjoy the joke) who never hesitates to belittle her or make her do ridiculous amounts of work. Her snake (lolz) coworker tests her patience by adding copious tasks that isn’t part of her job. Aside from her two best friends as her support system, Retsuko only has one outlet for her anger.
Rage. Rage into the karaoke machine screaming death mental until the unspoken words shake the room.
This is what makes the show beautiful; Retsuko is all of us when encountering disrespectful coworkers we can’t escape. She struggles to keep the smile on her face. She struggles to respond to people in a productive way after they’ve crossed her. Day by day Retsuko trudges through an environment no longer benefiting her and she tries to explore other options that simply don’t work out. Instead of episodes revolving around trial and error moments ending in death metal, it expands with vital character development intricately placed throughout the series.
Now the characters may portray typical archetypes of employment, but that’s what makes the show so real and relatable. The disrespectful boss, incompetent coworker, the gossiper, the tattle-tale/weasel, and the friends that suffer with you are all too common. However, characters, especially the women, flourish as they revolve around Retsuko’s story.
Warning: Mild Spoilers!
Gori and Washimi, appearing as powerful figures in the office, show there’s more to them than their entrance and exit power-walk; a nod to the woman who feel they need to always present themselves as confident and together. They are within the hierarchy of the company, but don’t reveal their true personalities until later. Gori is highly excitable and dramatic, while Washimi is level-headed and wise. When paired together, they take interest in Retsuko’s death metal releases as they advise her in rising from her shell.
Tsunoda sucks up to her superiors, but is a nod to the woman who do what they can to make their lives easier. She is highly aware of how she appears to others, but takes pride in not caring what they think. Tsunoda carefully observes the behavior of others and tailors her personality to fit when they want to see. This works especially well with their boss, Ton, as he only lashes out with Retsuko.
And Retsuko herself is a nod to the quiet girls who dream big and express themselves in surprising ways behind closed doors. Restuko is a nod to the girls who aren’t just cute and nice; they have an irrepressible rage in them just as everyone else. She begins with a one track mind of wanting to leave her job, but ends realizing her own person: Retsuko.
“Panda Rage” is the essence screaming internally. It’s all of us when slightly inconvenienced and grossly dissatisfied. It grants the ability to voice the emotions that don’t feel appropriate at the time. As Retsuko’s little secret, Panda Rage slowly brings her out of her shell. With the help of her friends Fenneko and Haida, Panda Rage allows her to be honest with herself and others.
In the end, this show is the perfect binge when feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The endless mishaps make you feel as if you aren’t alone in getting your life together; even the anime gods feel your pain. Now if you find yourself having Retsuko moments, go and have the Panda Rage you deserve.