The first attraction of the anime series Aggretsuko, directed and written by Rarecho, has at all times been its relatability. The show, based mostly on a personality created for the mascot company Sanrio, facilities on a 25-year-old pink panda named Retsuko. Through the day, she has an office job in a company’s accounting division. At night time, she vents her frustrations by performing death-metal karaoke. The gimmick is humorous, but the show is much less about loving death metallic, and more about capturing the extreme frustrations of the white-collar workforce. The first couple of seasons have tackled subjects like relationship, dealing with bad bosses, discovering knowledgeable mentor, and making friends as an grownup. The third, now streaming on Netflix, takes on more particular and trendy issues, but strays just a little too distant from the run-of-the-mill topics the place the show excels.
The season begins with Retsuko, newly single, obsessing over a virtual boyfriend in a VR game as a way of escaping her real-life funk. Regardless that it’s not a real relationship, she retains spending money on the game’s prompting, shopping for her virtual beau totally different outfits and beauty upgrades. Quickly, nonetheless, she’s having to deal with a unique type of one-sided relationship.
[Ed. note: Spoilers for the third season of Aggretsuko follow.]
Retsuko and her virtual boyfriend.
Aggretsuko’s third season doesn’t completely abandon the more common problems that originally made the show so great. The hyena Haida, who has lengthy harbored a crush on Retsuko, would possibly lastly have a shot at love with Inui, who clearly likes him, but he can’t let his emotions for Retsuko go. In the meantime, two of Retsuko’s coworkers are having various experiences with their respective side-hustles, and figuring out how to steadiness their private passions with their work obligations.
Retsuko’s story, nonetheless, takes her removed from the office — and consequently removed from territory that’s as relatable because the show’s first and second seasons. After getting right into a car accident, she’s compelled to work off the incurred debt by working as an accountant for an underground idol group, the OTMGirls. Nevertheless, when the group’s producer, the leopard Hyodo, discovers Retsuko’s expertise for death-metal singing, he turns her into the group’s new lead vocalist.
The twist gives a look into dynamics that aren’t current in an office setting, and the first few episodes following Retsuko’s debut as half of OTMGirls are promising. OTMGirls’ burgeoning fame means they need to deal with rabid fans and parasocial relationships, particularly as fans are in a position to purchase face-to-face time with the members of the group. The darkish side of fame rears its head when fans determine out Retsuko’s home tackle from footage posted online, and one fan makes use of the time he’s purchased with Retsuko particularly to insult and troll her. Although changing into an idol isn’t a common experience, fan tradition and social-media interactions are hard to avoid in trendy life, which does give even this unlikely plotline some metaphorical resonance.
Retsuko vents her emotions in a karaoke sales space.
Because the storyline escalates, nonetheless, the lifelike facets drop away. Rarecho addresses parasocial relationships thoughtfully, and the method is compelling — the subject isn’t common in mainstream media, though such dynamics are more and more prevalent in modern society, as podcast personalities, streamers, YouTubers, and so forth turn out to be more and more well-liked. But these sharp observations get misplaced in the shuffle, as Retsuko’s experience with being an idol is winnowed down to dealing with one rankled stalker.
Like Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, the third season of Aggretsuko makes use of Retsuko’s idol-hood as an inroad to addressing the pressures of fame and dealing with fans who resent change. Aggretsuko’s method, nonetheless, is much less cerebral and more straight thriller, complete with menacing pictures of a box-cutter as Retsuko’s stalker turns into more and more aggressive, and even makes an attempt to assault her. However the more out-of-control Retsuko’s story turns into, the much less compelling it is.
In Perfect Blue, former pop idol Mima Kirigoe begins to lose her grip on reality as she makes an attempt to pursue a critical appearing profession and change her good-girl public picture. When a violent stalker begins focusing on her, he claims to be working on the behest of the “real” Mima, referring to Mima’s prior persona. The movie is a heady psychological thriller, but Aggretsuko isn’t prepared for such critical territory — it hasn’t built a adequate foundation for this sort of drama. It’s established itself as a series about office life and the difficulties of being a young particular person in the workforce. Although it’s foolish sufficient that it could make a spontaneous singing idol profession really feel like it’s par for the workday course, Aggretsuko isn’t equipped to hold out a thriller’s dramatic weight.
Retsuko in a spiral.
The show’s attraction has every thing to do with how straightforward it is to attach with the pink panda. Her problems are often quotidian, made more dynamic by the characters’ exaggerated expressions, and there’s nothing more relatable than when she screams, “SCREW YOU, CAPITALISM!” right into a microphone as she laments how her paychecks immediately disappear in a mountain of payments. Her preliminary ascent as half of OTMGirls, whereas not a common experience, remains in the realm of relatability as a result of of Rarecho’s cautious addressing of fan tradition. The stalker just takes issues too far, each inside the show and in terms of the show’s direction.
Finally, Retsuko’s flip as an idol is about her figuring out what she needs, but the season’s finale, which sees her deciding to give up the idol life and return to her office job whereas telling herself she will do something she units her thoughts to, feels like too straightforward an ending, given how heavy the subject material turns into. In contrast, the first season of the show, which centered on Retsuko making an attempt to deal with an abusive boss and exploitative coworkers, ended with her merely deciding to attempt to do her best to not let her office job have an effect on her outside life and growth. Not like the finale of the third season, it isn’t an ideal ending the place all of her problems are miraculously solved.
That isn’t a neat ending, but it’s a sensible one, a powerful feat on condition that the show is about anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Even the second season, which sees Retsuko embark on a whirlwind romance, has some grounding in reality, as she realizes that what she needs out of the connection was totally different from what her companion needs. The string maintaining the new season tethered to reality is fragile. The story is enjoyable, but its digression into grim territory retains it from hitting as near home as its predecessors.
The third season of Aggretsuko is streaming on Netflix now.