Aggretsuko is basically designed for me – a sentiment I have seen repeated by many others but still feels true on a personal level. The name portmanteau’s Aggressive Retsuko.
The titular Retsuko is a red panda salarywoman who has the deep dark secret: when she gets mad about the irritations and injustices of her existence, she goes Hard at a karaoke bar, death metaling it up – the coolest kind of venting I can think of. Sometimes, you just want to scream. Well, she does it to blast beats and sick licks.
You do not have to like death metal to like Aggretsuko, and indeed the type of death metal that Retsuko karaokes is not my preferred sort of death metal – melodic death metal, but it’s fine in the short bursts, and the lyrics are all tied into those frustrations. Ultimately, it’s fun.
Plus, these death vocals are performed by Raracho, Aggretsuko’s pseudonymed creator, who writes and directs each episode. Which is great.
So, this show has a lot of things going for it for a person who likes the same things that I like and thus should be subscribed to this channel. It’s got metal; it’s got anime – which I have fallen off from since my younger days but still enjoy; and it’s got red pandas.
I love red pandas. They are favorite animal, which results in periods of me attaching photos of them to actual work emails that I send to people with whom I actually work in a real office setting.
My daily grind in an office is likely part of where Aggretsuko’s relatability comes in, because this is a show about a woman in her 20s who is trying to figure it all out. Each short episode focuses on one or several widely-felt frustrations: the struggle of keeping a major part of yourself secret, the difficulty of finding adult friends, the aforementioned daily grind, etc.
And it really gets at the heart of each of them. Despite the silly exterior, Aggretsuko genuinely understands why life is frustrating. They’re hardly new observations, but I’ve never seen them presented like this. With the visual language of a Japanese children’s cartoon, the underlying message has a way of sneaking up on you. You are laughing along and then suddenly you see yourself in a cute but unhappy red panda or one of her animal co-workers and you begin to second-guess every decision you’ve ever made and oh gosh what are you doing with your life, Alec, to quote metallica sometimes the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way and how far down this tunnel are you going to go before you realize that you…
While season 2 of Aggretsuko is set to release sometime in the next year, Netflix saw fit to grace us with another holiday special – a thing they seem to do a whole heckuva lot, but I’m not complaining. We Wish You a Metal Christmas is, indeed, Christmas themed, both released and taking place in the couple of days leading up to Christmas and then culminating on Christmas Eve, which is the day that this video is going up; so in sync. In this episode, Retsuko is being taught by her young doe colleague how to be an Instagram girl. How to frame that food and contort that face to make the best Content, the stuff that will get random people on the internet to SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON.
Her obsession with it, trying to understand the tricks with lighting and positioning, is something all of us think about when taking photos or videos. If you were to look through my Instagram feed, you wouldn’t see any people or foodstuffs, but every photo that is up there is one of at least a half dozen attempts – one of them the 40somethingth version of the same shot. Because if I am going to put something up – there, here, anywhere, I may as well do it properly, right? How else could I convince people to SMASH THAT SUBSCRIBE BUTTON.
But where it hits a bit close to home is in a conversation between two of Retsuko’s colleagues about the inevitable result of this pursuit of likes. It gets pretty dark, but what is deemed the start of the spiral is something that I think a lot of younger people would cop to: traveling to another place – in this case, a new prefecture – for the sole purpose of hitting up a trendy spot with some instagrammable eats. This is something I struggle with on a fundamental level, and I imagine I’m not alone there.
I talked a bit about it in my first video, but for a few years, I used an app called 1 Second Everyday, where at some point each day I would grab a second of video of a thing I was doing; at the end of the year, you have six minutes that are your life. And I felt compelled to do something every single day so that at the end of the year, people wouldn’t think my life was boring. And that meant doing new things or going to new places or meeting new people. My particular use of Tinder in 2016 was at least partially driven by this driving need for neweness
And I am glad I did it for the time that I did, because it helped me get out of my apartment and into the world. And because I made a concerted effort to do more than just get The One Second. I tried to enjoy the things that I was doing, despite the depressing motivation for having done them.
Because there is nothing wrong with going to a trendy café in a different city, even if you really just want to take a picture. The problem becomes when you do that without enjoying it. When you end up with your friends and refuse to eat noodle soup because it’s not photo-worthy enough for your holiday pic.
You can’t do that. You can’t let that impulse control your life and your happiness and your self-worth – even though it’s so easy to do. But you need to be okay with being in that moment, with getting the soup even if it isn’t photo worthy, because it’s delicious and you’re with your friends.
Aggretsuko gets it. It knows how complicated all of this stuff is to navigate. And it uses adorable animals and anime styling to give you another way to think about your own frustrations. In a way that you can laugh with and headbang with.
Eight Point Seven out of Ten