Aggretsuko represents a refreshing new direction for Sanrio, a company known for producing cute characters like Hello Kitty and Chococat. The kawaii aesthetic is still present, but their new project injects sharp wit and captures Millenial rage.
Aggretsuko is a web series that follows Retsuko, a 25-year-old female red panda who lives a frustrating life as an accountant at a Japanese company. She’s belittled by a literal chauvinistic pig of a boss, taken advantage of by lazy co-workers, and lacks the self-esteem to improve herself. Retsuko finds brief happiness in drinking and singing death-metal songs.
It’s a refreshing gamble from Sanrio, who specializes in blank-slate kawaii characters. Retsuko and the earlier Gudetama are the company’s latest successful attempts to connect with Millenial audiences. Retsuko fights against the same struggles many 20-somethings face: a dead-end job, being belittled by older co-workers, lacking in romance, and filling their voids with vices.
The series is also a huge step forward in the world of anime in that examines sexism in the workplace. Retsuko wants a professional life, but the constant harassment has eaten away at her self-esteem and social norms demand that she bottles her rage. A co-worker even warns Retsuko that the paperwork to file a complaint is “more trouble than its worth” since nothing will happen to their boss.
Aggretsuko brings different views on the topic. Retsuko fantasizes about marriage, while Washimi and Gori, two older women with senior positions, warn against that. Instead, they suggest hiding her own mental weakness and to put up with the harassment to earn promotions. Another co-worker, Tsunoda, flirts with their boss to stroke his ego and to win favors.
Aggretsuko does a great job navigating real-world issues and injecting them with relatable humor. Not only are Retsuko’s death-metal songs humorous, but the supporting cast offers great one-liners. Fenneko’s sarcasm and Haida’s sincerity are all especially endearing.
Aggretsuko is one of spring’s best series and it has flown under the radar. Fans of relatable humor, Sanrio’s cute designs, and witty dialogue will find a lot to love in this anime. You can stream the series on Netflix.