I have a favourite people-watching game, which, I’m sure is not exclusive to myself, and which includes identifying members of the public as members of the animal kingdom. This is not a cruel or jeering pastime, I assure you, but more in line with the fact that I sometimes think that an individual has a distinctly ‘zebra-personality,’ or even an ‘otter essence,’ perhaps, maybe, they may possess a feline feeling of aloof cool.
With this in mind, I first watched Aggretsuko in the same way I watch any content with anthropomorphic animals, with eager anticipation. The new Netflix show did not disappoint; painting a range of office archetypes as different animal species, a notion I can surely relate to, despite working from home (bar my two cats as colleagues). Specifically, Aggretsuko follows Retsuko, a yellow Red Panda, whom, after graduating university has lost her youthful enthusiasm, and gained a jaded disposition. Worn down by the day-to-day grind of her job, her literal chauvinist pig of a boss, hellish colleagues, and her tiny apartment, Retsuko seeks refuge in performing death metal, yes, death metal. The red panda performs said heavy metal both in musical bathroom breaks, and during her nightly trip to the local karaoke bar. But, for the record, watching Retsuko go berserk and rage scream in a therapeutic catharsis is a satisfying experience for the viewer. Routine death metal asides add a quirky element to an already quirky show, and I’m sure only serve to make the cutesy and chibi-styled character of Retsuko, all the more marketable. This marketability may be considered a cash-grab by the cynically-minded. Notably, Retsuko, is based on a character by Sanrio, a Japanese company that sells in ‘kawaii’ merchandise centred around animal anime characters, in the vein of Hello Kitty. In fact, Aggretsuko is an offshoot of a series of shorts that first aired as interstitials on the Tokyo Broadcasting System in 2016.
Netflix has been making a point of original anime series of late, with popular additions being Devilman Crybaby and Castlevania. Aggretsuko takes a different tone, opting for a cutesy aesthetic, with a relatable corporate setting and slice of life themes, rather than unabashed supernatural slaughter. However, Aggretsuko will probably appeal to a wider audience, is compelling in its visual style, is subversive yet endearing. In short, Aggretsuko is cute, funny, and highly relatable for anyone who has felt listless, both in their work, and in their life. The show is also highly self-referentially, building layer upon layer, and continuing themes and running gags that are present right from the offset. I’d wager that Aggretsuko is among the best original series that Netflix has to offer, animated or otherwise.
All ten 15-minute episodes of the original anime series are available to watch on Netflix UK now.