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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: April 2, 2016 - March 31, 2018
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

Pushing papers isn't entertainment.

Work is a feckless, thankless grind of the same schtick, different doodad. A cold and calculated boss stacks on just a little bit more work than you can manage, while their degrading and crushing passive aggressive insults whittle you down. Sometimes you dream of something more but come to the realization you're stuck in that job until you drive up the courage to do something, or until you're fired because you spilled coffee on important paperwork. We've all been there.

Aggressive Retsuko is all about that. That draining work life story, like the tale of souls and swords, eternally retold. It is the ballad of the turbulent work life of Retsuko the red panda, and how her hopes and dreams crumble away. Well, if you can call heavy metal a ballad.

The show has been picked up by Netflix and dubbed with English voices. It is not the worst thing I've heard, certainly a page above the original Glitter Force dub, though that's not so difficult to do. They call the show by a less directly translated name — Aggretsuko — combining the two names to make a portmanteau. For the sake of convenience (and less typing), I'll be referring to it by that name from now on, and because I was watching the English dub.

This is based on a Sanrio license, the same folks who own famous characters such as Hello Kitty. The visuals and sound direction are classic Sanrio, and the animation is that highly-tweened modern vector-based style that wouldn't be out of place on Spewgrounds in the mid-2000s. That Weebl-esque bouncy squash and stretch stuff with basic looking backgrounds, you'd think Sanrio would put more effort into their work but then again, it's coherent and seamless so I think they did do a lot more work than it appears.

I've been quite generous referring to Aggretsuko's story as a story because while there are plot beats there isn't much of a narrative. Things happen, and by the end, nothing has changed. Retsuko starts off the show as a disgruntled, suffering workaholic and ends up as a disgruntled, suffering workaholic. About the only real changes are a deeper understanding of why all her workmates and bosses are chuckleschmucks, and some rock-hard yoga abs.


The selling point of the show is meant to be that Retsuko's secret coping mechanism is to blurt out bloodcurdling heavy metal guttural screaming into her microphone, whether it be in the work toilets when nobody's around, or at her favourite karaoke bar. If there's one thing I can really congratulate the dub for, it's getting someone who does that kind of screaming to voice Retsuko in these scenes. Even though it is jarring to go from a cutesy female voice to a hellish screaming male voice, these moments were the best, and that's why they're in the trailer.

In terms of characters, every workplace trope has been nailed. The social media scouring borderline stalker with a heart of gold (guilty!), the totty that kisses up to the boss so much you gotta wonder if that's chocolate around their mouth, or perhaps the meddlesome one that is always backing up the boss in arguments and gets the lightest workload in return.

Watching Aggretsuko is painful. It's too familiar and real to me. I was hoping for some secret message to help me get through rocky work days, and the show's message by the end seems to be "shut up and put up". Maybe I'm interpreting it incorrectly, but it ends as it begins. We see every one of Retsuko's dreams be born, shrivel up and then unceremoniously kick the bucket. Just like every one of my dreams.

Aggretsuko doesn't get a recommendation from me, nor would I call it required viewing. However, if the concept of a red panda screaming death metal is enough to make you smile, you could do a lot worse, really.

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