(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Aggretsuko
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, turns one of its mascot characters into the cutest symbol of female rage with a surprisingly insightful anime comedy series about a mild-mannered office drone who vents about her frustrations about her oppressive corporate life through death metal karaoke.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Netflix’s cutest ode to female rage, Aggretsuko is an unexpectedly insightful anime series about an adorable red panda who struggles with the most relatable problems: (literal) piggish bosses, nagging mothers, and brown-nosing coworkers. But over the three seasons (the most recent just hitting Netflix this week), it turns into more than a gimmick about a cute red panda who loves death metal, and becomes a complex portrayal of adulthood and how everyone is struggling to figure it out.
Aggretsuko, which is a portmanteau of “aggressive” and “Retsuko,” is a weirdly cathartic series about the pitfalls of office life. Retsuko deals with the nuisances that everyone who’s held down a tedious office job would be familiar with: the chauvinist boss (who is literally depicted as pig), the doe-eyed office flirt, the gossiping hippo, and all the brown-nosers and irritating superiors who force her to do menial tasks. But while death metal is simply an outlet at first for the mild-mannered Retsuko, the music — and her close network of friends — soon help her embrace her feminist rage.
Retsuko begins her first office job fresh out of university bright-eyed and bushy-tailed — only to twist her ankle on the way to work. Flash forward five years later, and Retsuko is a downbeat, cynical, and frustrated office drone who navigates her oppressive corporate lifestyle by venting out her frustrations every night through death metal karaoke. “Selling my soul/a corporate slave/wage laborer!” she screams in a demonically deep voice as her soft, round features contort into a mask of rage.
Like a mix of Office Space and Babymetal, Aggretsuko is not only an insightful portrait of work culture, but an ode to female empowerment. Retsuko’s sweet outward appearance is a nod to the feminine ideals that women in the workplace find themselves pressured to conform to, forcing down their anger and frustration at the daily sexism they face – particularly in Japan. But Aggretsuko takes a progressive stance, encouraging its title character — and to an extent, all women — to consolidate those two personas, and accept themselves for who they are. And maybe to rock out to death metal every now and then.
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