Those who have followed me on social media will have seen my woes in office life. Many of us who aspire to be young-ish professionals will have come to a point where we are wondering ‘What am I doing? Is this all there is to life? Who am I?’ You can then drink your thoughts away or be like a cute, little red panda and scream out some karaoke death metal. I’m talking about Aggretsuko of course.
I had heard about Aggretsuko before, but because it was stamped with the ‘Hello Kitty’-label I didn’t immediately felt drawn to it. I have nothing against the pink bowed feline, but it wasn’t really my thing. So hearing that this new character from the Sanrio stable was going to be a death metal lover, really took me by surprise.
So what is it? Aggretsuko is Netflix’s new series about Retsuko, a 25 year old red panda who is an accountant in a big trading corporation. The series starts off with the heroine being all happy and optimistic about her new part to play in society, then we fast forward to five years down the line and she now sees her job as a necessary evil so she can pay those pesky bills and be a responsible adult. Sound familiar?
Her office life is the one thing that felt eerily familiar to me. Retsuko often wants to quit her job due to her co-workers. Her supervisor, a pig called Ton, frequently puts her down and spouts misogyny while also practising his golf swing at the office, while stating how busy he is. ‘Incompetent women might be annoying, but they’re better than the competent ones, right?’ her boss would ask his lackey, a meerkat called Komiya. There’s the office gossip (a hippo) and a pretty girl who gets away with murder (a doe), the snarky office friend who can trace everyone’s whereabouts via social media and that one friend who just seems to breeze through life, is in a different country each month, without having an actual job with responsibilities.
Retsuko deals with all of this and puts up a convincing facade of cordiality and pleasantness at work, but she is in fact filled with a burning rage. She unleashes this rage in her secret solo karaoke sessions where she screams death metal anthems about her work and boss.
The thing that really appeals to me is how honest she is in that moment. Yes, our red panda is plagued by the mishaps that happen to her in work by her colleagues, but the reason for this being a problem is because we are all culturally discouraged from being honest about how we feel. The whole ‘just grin and bear it’ misery is much more preferred than being a blunt or confrontational person in society.
She’s not the only one in the office who is trying to deal with this dilemma, Retsuko soon befriends Washimi and Gori, two women working at the executive senior level within the same company and she admires them for their no-nonsense attitude and strength, but we soon find out that even they need to adhere to office politics: ‘We must not show any signs of weakness at the office,’ says Washimi. The three women vent their frustrations about work in death metal karaoke sessions.
I think this is what Sanrio did really well, it is incredibly relatable for those of us who are working (whether that’s in an office environment or not). Often my boyfriend would catch me exclaiming, ‘ That’ is so true!’ or ‘I feel exactly the same way!’, sad but true. We know that we have to deal with necessary evils in our jobs while still trying to juggle a healthy and happy work/life balance where we get enough fulfilment in both, it is what society tells us to strive towards. However, if I still can’t find that any time soon, than maybe it’s time for some karaoke and death metal.