Aggretsuko’s appeal lies in its death vocals, funny office shenanigans, and ever-changing situations for Retsuko to try to hide her screamo habits. Even in its third season, it continues to amuse people with its super cute animal characters with their ridiculous reactions and caricatures of annoying people we all recognize. But for a show about screaming your lungs out when overcome with rage at injustice, Aggretsuko sort of loses conviction in its own supposed message.
Once a Champion of All Our Inner Thoughts…
Despite us not all being female red pandas, Retsuko was a relatable character for many anime fans. Trying to balance a demanding job with the pressures of an over-baring family member while trying to find time for her own enjoyment is something, to an extent, that crosses barriers of age, gender, orientation, and income levels. Retsuko tries to be nice, fulfill her role at work, and manage her mother’s expectations at the suffering of her mental health. It’s pretty cathartic to hear her scream about her crappy boss when we can relate. Terrible coworkers are so awful and cartoony that we’re reminded of people at our jobs we don’t like but in a funny light.
Retsuko doesn’t do too much to protest directly to others and often, when she does, she’s unfairly punished. Her boss Ton loves to load her up with work and set her up for failure only to yell at her in front of everyone for simple mistakes. Her coworkers are nosy and sometimes aggressive and often act even worse when Retsuko tries to come to a solution. Sometimes it’s too frustrating to see someone in our regular positions acting way tougher or cooler than we know is realistic. These frustrating scenarios with funny twists make relating not so painful.
Betraying Tadano and Our Hopes
We wanted to see Retsuko at least blow up in an argument and win, or change careers, or at least get to a point where she finds something to make the daily grind WORTH everything. Holding onto that hope, we kept watching, not knowing where it would come from. Perhaps in reconnecting with this friend, or finding her soul mate, or starting a new career entirely after suffering all this. It’s clear she hates her job, how unfair things are, and laments that she doesn’t have any real goals or the energy to pursue them.
She meets Tadano and it’s like all her prayers are answered. Every problem she’s had is pretty much fixed save for her mother’s insistence on her getting married. Retsuko doesn’t have to slave away at her job and actually has the chance to focus on what she wants. Tadano has not only the money but the intelligence and the heart to change the world so that no one has to suffer in the way Retsuko has. He wants to change society so that people can live regardless of their societal output because he believes all lives have value.
This all seems perfect until Retsuko learns Tadano doesn’t want to get married or have children. He assures her he wants to live together forever and is committed to only her. This would have been the moment where she truly breaks free from societal pressures to have a marriage and birth children to qualify as a successful member of society as her desires could be filled in different ways ie a long-time companion and adoption or like, get a puppy. Instead, she breaks up with Tadano. She decides she wants a wedding because she wants it. She wants her job because she’s used to it. She can’t even visualize a marriage; she just wants to be married. She doesn’t even seem that interested in kids but decides she needs them to find happiness.
In Season 3, she goes back into the monotony of the system but with no new understanding or content. She simply repeats turning her silent complaints into screaming at karaoke. Retsuko spends her money on her virtual boyfriend feeling happy in the moment but later, she’s embarrassed and regretful. She’s not happy with her situation but instead of changing it, she tries to ignore it. Yet again, a sudden change in her life is brought about by a freak accident as she tries so minorly to find joy. She does the idol thing for a bit after being strong-armed into it and leaves it for her old company job.
How This All Reads Like a Black Mirror Episode
“Fifteen Million Merits”, is a very in-your-face commentary on idol-worship and slaving away for constant distraction. Most members of society ride electric bikes for hours as their work, earning them ‘merits’ that can be spent on anything. Very, very few people can break away from this system but when Bing hears Abi singing to herself, he decides to give her all his merits so she may appear on a talent show. She’s deemed not good enough to become a singer but is offered a job as a porn actress which she takes just so she doesn’t have to face her old life. Bing threatens to kill himself over this unjust system that traps people in boxes and is rewarded with his own show where he can scream against society all he wants.
Sure, Abi broke out into showbiz but in a way that more serves the rich and powerful rather than her dreams. Bing himself becomes a puppet as his loud outcries serve as an outlet for viewers so that public outcry doesn’t get to the point of actual change. That’s what Retsuko does. She gets way too deep into relationships or side jobs she doesn’t care for or gets scared of because they aren’t the known enemy that is her job. There’s a safety in that discomfort she’ll take over the discomfort of actual, meaningful changes or self-reflection. Like Bing with his talk show, as long as Retsuko can scream in a karaoke room at the end of the day, she’s content.
Retsuko doesn’t have any lessons learned or dreams accomplished. She doesn’t stand for anything and despite telling Tadano so adamantly she KNEW she wanted to get married and work at her draining company, in season three she tells Haida at the end she doesn’t know WHAT she wants. He suggests they ‘punch back’ at those who beat them down which sounds like maybe something will happen. Instead, we’re left with a pleasant scene of them walking together at their company. Perfect little workers slightly displeased but not causing trouble.