If you had told me this time last year that everyone was going to be obsessing over a single Sanrio character, I would have laughed in your face. However, here we are – it’s 2018 and everyone is obsessing over a red panda.
If you’ve been living under a rock as of late, I’ll fill you in on the details. On the 20th of April, Netflix released Aggressive Retsuko (hereafter called Aggretsuko in order to differentiate from the 100 episode OVA) – a ten-episode short anime that tells the story of Retsuko, a 25 year-old red panda who, like many in her line of work, despises her job. And her shitty boss. Unlike many in the same boat, however, she takes her anger caused by her work and gets rid of it by taking part in death metal karaoke.
The show itself is quite simple in concept, however this is much more than just a simple comedy show. Quite prominent within the show are the issues with women in the workplace, particularly those in the Japanese work force. Personally, it’s because of this (and the comedy side of things, of couse) as to why Aggretsuko has become one of my favourite anime as of recent times.
Historically, interviews with Japanese women have concluded that the behavioural expectations of women followed patterns of modesty, tidiness, courtesy, compliance and self-reliance (Lebra, 1985). Because of this, many stereotypes of Japanese women present the demographic as housewives, despite statistics showing that the employment rate of women is 64.6% (OECD, 2015).
Income levels between men and women are far from being equal in Japan and most women are found to be working as part-timers or temps rather than working in managerial roles. A common role for women to take are those in offices, performing tasks such as serving tea or secretary work. Sounds familiar, right? This is exactly where Aggrestuko comes in.
For believing extremely-easy-to-find statistics, the show, therefore, does a superb job in representing the modern Japanese woman. It depicts Retsuko being discriminated against by Director Ton and the rest of those in charge of her department (another big issue in the workplace for Japanese women) – she’s forced to make tea for the managerial staff and she’s given a heck of a lot of work to do. Trust me, I haven’t even touched on the karoshi culture side of things.
This isn’t the only way Aggretsuko disproves stereotypes, however. There are various different personalities within the show – a stuck-up gorilla, a hard-working bird, a perceptive fox and a mild-mannered hyena feature if only to describe a few. But are these really what these characters are? Just like Retsuko, the supporting characters also have many different layers to them and we begin to understand their true personalities and the reasoning as to why they behave like they do as the series progresses.
Aggretsuko is arguably one of the most relatable anime out there for the young workforce of today. Sure, it focuses more so on the issues in the Japanese workforce, but you will find some similarities between you and Retsuko no matter where you’re from.
If you’re a fan of Sanrio or just have a spare fifteen minutes, I wholeheartedly recommend Aggretsuko for everyone. You will laugh at some of her motives and the reaction of her friends. You will sympathise somewhat when she has to deal with some more disheartening points in her worklife. You will shout at the screen when you disagree with someone. It’s certainly a little rollercoaster of emotions and one so important in the awareness of workplace stresses.
Lebra, T. S. (1985) Japanese Women, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] (2015) Japan Policy Brief: Employment [Available Online]