Monday, June 11, 2018

Sanrio's Office Comedy Anime 'Aggretsuko' Is Surprisingly Great

Sanrio is a Japanese company that is known for creating cute characters – the most popular of which is Hello Kitty – that aren’t essentially intended to be used in storytelling media, but to serve as marketing brands applicable for various kinds of merchandises.  Even when it ventures into creating anime content featuring its characters now and then, the purpose and the endgame have always been strengthening them as brands.

Thus, Aggretsuko a.k.a. Aggressive Retsuko, its recent anime web series that has been released through Netflix, has been surprisingly unique.  It doesn’t feel like a promotional ad masked as an anime series.  It feels like a legit anime.  Moreover, it’s not necessarily crafted to be attractive to kids, whom the company usually targets its products for.  Though kids may still find it adorable at a superficial level, its deeper appeal is mostly for adults to enjoy.
Aggretsuko centers on the Sanrio character Retsuko, a 25-year-old anthropomorphic red panda (I initially thought she was a cat) who works in the accounting department of a trading firm.  She serves as the doormat of her workplace, as superiors – especially Ton, the director of her department, a chauvinist pig who is an actual pig (a detail that amused me to no end) – are fond of putting her down, dumping all their work on her, and even making her perform degrading labors not covered by her job description such as making tea or opening jars.  On top of that, irritating co-workers and the fact that she’s single are constant frustrations of hers.  Due to all these, she maintains a secret hobby which serves as means of catharsis: going to her favorite karaoke bar every night to bellow death metal songs.

Tapping into the premise of having a horrible job to generate comedy, while critiquing the absurdities of workplace culture, is not a new concept.  It has been done countless of times before (one of my favorites is the comic strip Dilbert).  However, Aggretsuko actually manages to be more relatable, profound, and even tender than many such office comedies.  Add that to the fact that it’s being conveyed through the context of a quirky Sanrio-inspired world, and it succeeds in being enormously entertaining.
To sum it up, Aggretsuko is a clever, funny, and distinctive anime comedy show.  I’m not sure if there’s going to be another season, but so far, it has ten 15-minute episodes.  That’s basically equivalent to one movie, so it’s very easy to watch in one sitting.  Moreover, it’s so breezy that binging should come effortlessly.

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