With how long certain anime can make us wait for new seasons (cough Attack on Titan cough) it’s always refreshing to see shows like Aggretsuko grace us with new episodes at an interval of only a year. After a reasonably short wait, fans of Sanrio’s newest hit had the privilege of seeing more of the world and characters they had quickly come to love. And more was exactly what was given, as we got more of Haida learning to deal with his unrequited affection, a better understanding of why Kabae is such a busybody and some new characters to shake the story up. But one part of Aggretsuko did not get shaken up in season 2, and ironically enough, it’s our semi-eponymous heroine Retsuko herself. Season 2 leaves her in a state strikingly similar to the first and offers us very little in terms of new information about her characterization along the way, leaving her feeling stagnant, and frankly a bit boring.
The Same Old Song
For context, season 1 of Aggretsuko saw the now-famous red panda struggle with someone who antagonizes her at work as she learns to use tact to resolve such problems all the while looking to leave her job by hooking up with a guy who can provide for her. This leads her to pursue a relationship with someone who fails to account for her feelings and to finish the season by learning to let go of it which she does through a session of heavy metal karaoke in the final episode. A lot more went on during these first 10 episodes, but that's the basic gist of Retsuko’s journey throughout.
Now, in season 2, Retsuko struggles with someone who antagonizes her at work as she learns to use tact to resolve such problems all the while looking to leave her job by hooking up with a guy who can provide for her. This leads her to pursue a relationship with someone who fails to account for her feelings and to finish the season by learning to let go of it which she does through a session of heavy metal karaoke in the final episode.
There are still some differences in how these events play out, the new office enemy Anai is a recent hire who isn't able to deal with the intense pressure of the expectations placed upon Japanese salarymen, in stark contrast to the jaded chauvinist Ton, who fills the role in season 1, for example. And this season's love interest Tadano is almost the exact opposite of his predecessor Resasuke in both qualities and faults, but neither these changes nor the events of season 2 shift Retsuko's thoughts or actions in a direction that's any different from her journey last season.
The More Things Change…
To be fair, we do see new sides of Retsuko throughout the second season, like her adorably giddy pride at learning to drive (something that’s much less common in Japan) and the relatable amalgamation of terror and admiration she feels for her overbearing mother, but these are small parts of the story and they never take her development in a new direction. The issue is not that the plot structures of both seasons are similar in and of itself, but rather that they both affect Retsuko the same way in the long run and make her feel stagnant as a result, her personal journey left spinning its wheels long after she leaves driving school.
Highlighting this issue is the fact that many of the characters surrounding Retsuko are given whole new layers of depth in season 2 that are never afforded to our protagonist. Her close friends Gori and Washimi are explored in entirely new ways through their fight that lasts most of the second half, just to name one example. And Retsuko being stuck in the middle of it all could have tested her mettle in a new form by having her arbitrate the feud and trying to make her friends patch things up, but the schism instead progresses with no direct involvement on her behalf and Gori and Washimi keep fighting until the final episode where they call a truce to help Retsuko dump her latest ex after. It informs the audience about how Gori and Washimi view Retsuko—valuing her enough to put their personal issues aside when she needs them—but because they come to that conclusion through no action on Retsuko’s part, they are the only ones developed by this shift in their dynamic. And that’s exactly what Retsuko is missing throughout season 2, she’s no longer a dynamic character. She rarely makes decisions like this that define her as a person and on the occasion that she does it’s only so that the show can retread events from season 1.
Aggretsuko's second season was a hit by almost all accounts, but by stagnating the growth of its main character it has left its central narrative as a personal journey that only drives in circles. We still had fun with the new season thanks to its appealing new characters and the endearing ways in which it updated older ones but missed an opportunity to go from good to great by giving Retsuko the same treatment. But if you disagree let us know your thoughts on season 2 of Aggretsuko in the comments and tell us what you would like to see in season 3.