Season three of Netflix’s Aggretsuko premiered last week and it is, by far, in my humble opinion, the best season yet.
Plot. Aggretsuko is a comedic slice of life anime. The story focuses on Retsuko, a 25-year old red panda who works in the accounting department of a typical Japanese company and sings death metal in a karaoke bar to escape the frustrations of her office life. What makes Aggretsuko particularly great is the anime focuses on the issues we all face as adults. Typically, anime plots are almost always centered on high school students, especially in the slice of life genre. We follow Retsuko as she navigates sexism, unrealistic work demands, annoying co-workers, marriage, unrequited love, and growing as a person.
SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ PAST THIS IF YOU DO NOT WANT ANY PORTION OF SEASON THREE DISCLOSED BEFORE VIEWING!
Season One Recap: Personally, I believe season one was the equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if it would stick. The idea of a Sanrio character turned into a modern-day anime was novel and I was hyped AF. If you don’t know, I am a HUGE Hello Kitty fan. When Sanrio announced the creation of Aggretsuko, I was in complete awe. When I read about her, I immediately felt a bond. It was Sanrio…for adults.
Season one introduces us to Retsuko, her co-workers, her boss, and the world through Retsuko’s eyes. We learn that she is a very hard-working and passive person that vents her frustrations at her favorite karaoke bar.
Season Two Recap: Season two focused heavily on a Retsuko’s relationship with Tadano, a cute donkey that Retsuko meets in driving school. Tadano has a very laid-back personality and gives off that very NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) vibe. We later find out that Tadano is actually quite a big deal in the tech world and is quite literally a celebrity among tech enthusiasts. In the end, Retsuko decides that even though their relationship was seemingly perfect, their views on marriage were too vastly different resulting in their breakup.
We continue the story in season three picking up the pieces of Retsuko’s heart and opening more doors as she learns to “adult”. While season one focused on introduction of characters and general work toxicity, and season two focused on a relationship where the two parties have incompatible views of marriage, season three focuses on repairing the damage of an unhealthy coping mechanism and how that journey can lead to redemption and growth.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms. Season three begins with Retsuko filling the void in her heart with a virtual boyfriend raking up a huge amount of debt. She slowly drains her life savings as way to cope with her breakup. Instead of dealing with her issues head on, she finds an unhealthy vice. I think many us can find that very relatable. Whether it is self medicating with alcohol or drugs, or finding a new hobby that quickly turns into an obsession, I think most people have experienced some level of using an unhealthy coping mechanism to move forward. And, just like real life, Retsuko finds herself watching the dominoes fall toward her as her unhealthy coping mechanism has left her near penniless. We find Retsuko eating free bread crusts, moping around work because she can’t join co-workers for an after-hours drink, and even going as far to take her mom to an onsen to partake in a few luxuries she couldn’t afford.
Side Hustles. Life has a way of kicking us while we’re down, and it is no different for Retsuko. Retsuko hits a parked car after her onsen trip with her mother. To avoid getting sued, Retsuko enters into a contract with Hyoda, manager of the underground idol group, OTMGirls, to work off her debt as their accountant. Instead, she becomes the idol group’s gopher and the late nights start affecting her main job. Retsuko has to make a very real-world decision. She can succumb to her debts, or she can put on her big-girl pants and work that side hustle. Retsuko decides that she is going to deal with her problem head-on and kicks things into second gear forcing the idol group and its manager to start treating her as their equal and not their doormat. She also starts “death voice” lessons online to make ad revenue. She thinks by wearing a mask in these videos that no one would discover her identity, but we all know that won’t last. In a very bizarre turn of events, Hyoda stumbles upon Retsuko screaming her death voice in the karaoke room, and entices Retsuko to become a member of the idol group. With great hesitation, Retsuko agrees and OTMGirl’s popularity starts to take off.
Unrequited Love. Oh, Haida-kun. For two seasons, we have watched Haida-kun struggle with his feelings for Retsuko. For the majority of season three, we get a closer look at Haida’s unrequited love. To mix things up, we are introduced to a new potential love interest for Haida. Inui works in a different department for the company and slowly starts her pursuit of Haida. They appear to be very compatible. Slowly, Haida begins to realize that he really knows nothing about Retsuko. He discovers her secret idol life, and we see that certainty about his feelings start to fade. Despite being previously turned down by Retsuko, his heart can’t seem to move on. Everyone he turns to for advice gives him the same advice. If you want to be happy, choose Inui. And, to his credit, Haida-kun tries. He invites Inui to his home and it ends with Inui finding one of Retsuko’s handkerchiefs in his bathroom. She abruptly ends their “date” and handles it very maturely. Inui confesses to him that she likes him and basically tells him that she’ll accept that the timing is off, but he needs to figure out what he wants. She is obviously hurt, but I have to give her props for being mature about it.
The Stalker. One of OTMGirls’ fans is not happy about the change of musical direction and the addition of Retsuko and her death voice. In a promotion, he buys a ton of their CDs to get all the “handshake tickets” so that he can have five minutes with her where he verbally abuses her. She tries to brush it off as part of the gig, but she is very shaken by it. Her OTMGirl crew takes it seriously and vows to do their best to protect her. As she is leaving work, he attempts to attack her with a box cutter. Just as he is about to stab her, Haida comes out of nowhere and tackles him. We see blood, but we don’t know where it was coming from. Some bystanders hold the perpetrator down while Haida rushes to Retsuko, and we see the pure fear and worry fill his eyes. He starts to cradle Retsuko and pleading her name. Inui shows up and calms him down pointing out that the blood was his own. She ties up his wound and acknowledges his choice. He looks up at her and tells her that if he thought about it, he would choose her over Retsuko. Inui calls the ambulance and they part ways.
Redemption. Understandably, Retsuko goes into hiding at her Mom’s house. Her friends have all tried to convince her to come back, but she refuses. In a conversation with the group, Haida admits that he has chosen Retsuko over Inui. Gori, in an effort to knock some sense into Haida, tries to find him a match in her app. Low and behold, he is a 100% match with Retsuko. This gives him the kick in the junk to man up and show Retsuko that he wants to keep her safe. He barges into her mom’s house and takes her to the karaoke bar. They have a metal voice death match in which both scream out their frustrations with each other ending with Haida reaching out to Retsuko and telling her, “Then let’s punch back.”
Retsuko completes her last performance with OTMGirls, completes her debt contract with Hyoda, and returns back to the office. In the final scenes, we get a flashback of her struggles and those of Hyoda and OTM to reach their dreams. We are left with Haida-kun greeting Retsuko and asking if she ate lunch yet and she simply replied, “No. But I am about to.”
The anime leaves us wondering: Is this the start of Haida and Retsuko’s relationship?
Unpopular Opinion: I don’t think Haida made a mistake in choosing Retsuko over Inui.
I was kind of surprised at how angry some people are at the fact that Haida chose Retsuko over Inui. Remember when I mentioned that most slice of life anime center around high school students? I think your average anime viewer is not viewing Aggretsuko through age-appropriate glasses. These are characters in their mid to late 20s. While you may not have everything figured out by this age, I would like to think that this is the age where you start to make decisions in a different way. Sure, it would have been very easy for Haida to choose Inui, but in the end, would he always wonder what could have been? There comes a point where your life experience is subtly affecting your choices. Everything and everyone was telling him to choose Inui, but he couldn’t. I think Aggretsuko does a great job of teaching us to trust ourselves more and rely less on the opinions of others.
Moving on before you are ready will often leave you with more regret than happiness. You can’t be someone else’s other half if you’re still split in two.
By far, I thought this was the most polished season yet. Aggretsuko somehow manages to take real-world problems and make them relatable in a very positive way. This season’s standout was Fenneko. Her character had me rolling in the first few episodes. It was great to see some character development of the side characters.
If you haven’t given Aggretsuko a try, and you like slice of life, I urge you to give it a try. I adore this anime, and I think you will, too!