Who knew red pandas could scream?
While searching “screaming red panda” on YouTube’s search engine will give you about 71,100 video results, there is one panda in particular that displays her voice not for zoo-goers, but for other animals at the karaoke bar.
Packed into one 10-episode season, the show details Retsuko’s daily tribulations working at a trading company in Japan, where she faces harsh treatment by her chauvinist boss, Director Ton.
Underneath Retsuko’s calm, often pleasant demeanor, however, lies a secret. In order to heal the psychological and emotional wounds left by Ton and her other advisors, Retsuko sates her rage by screaming along to death metal.
Alongside her are her coworkers Fenneko, a fennec fox who is Retsuko’s brutally honest and deadpan best friend, and Haida, a hyena who is in love with Retsuko but cannot bring himself to confess his feelings.
Despite its odd premise (and an obvious marketing ploy for the character), “Aggretsuko” places a comically cynical, but hopeful, view on adulthood, inserting moments and life lessons that may throw you for a loop.
Warning: some spoilers ahead!
Relatability at its finest
“Sure, I’m tired this morning, but I was tired all the way through college. It’s nothing I can’t handle ('Aggretsuko,' Ep. 1)."
This is one of the many phrases Retsuko says throughout the show that viewers, especially university or college graduates, can relate to.
According to the show, Retsuko is a single, 25-year-old female red panda who is entering her fifth year working at her office job. Much like those a few years younger and older than her, Retsuko is beginning to find the working life very monotonous.
Given that university students are working toward or have earned their bachelor’s degrees (and may or may not also be working to obtain a graduate degree), finding a job that pays and keeps one’s interest can be a challenge.
Watching as Retsuko struggles to find a reason to stay at her job echoes a similar problem many young adults may feel as they go through life: wondering if there will ever be something better for them.
The show depicts Retsuko’s desire for a better life throughout the series in a somewhat shallow manner, but the existential question still stands.
The anxiety and discontent felt by our red-furred friend are also felt by college-aged individuals, so viewers may find themselves cheering for (or jeering at) Retsuko as she finds herself and what lifestyle choices best suit her.
Bad bosses? Got them here, too.
Like Retsuko, some people may have one or a handful of boss horror stories.
With an aggressive (and often oppressive) boss like Director Ton and harsh superior Tsubone, a komodo dragon who serves as Retsuko’s immediate boss in the accounting department, Retsuko finds herself swallowing back her urges to tell her supervisors what she actually thinks.
While Retsuko screams her true thoughts at the karaoke bar (and during an “anonymous” street interview in episode three), she often keeps her mouth shut, knowing that fighting back will only result in more work. This reflects the work environment many may find themselves in.
Realistically, talking back to one’s superior, even when the superior is in the wrong, can place a worker's job in jeopardy depending on how the issue is approached. Due to her inability to deal with these situations directly and maturely, Retsuko continues to deal with her unfair treatment, retreating to the karaoke bar (and sometimes the office bathroom) to release her inner angst.
This said, however, Retsuko does stand up for herself during an altercation with Tsubone in episode three. The images below depict the incident.
Although I will not spoil how this interaction was resolved (there is not much to the imagination, really), people may (or may not) cheer for Retsuko’s show of bravery, finally seeing our furry friend stand up for herself.
If anything, her display can give hope to people struggling with unfair bosses (and hopefully encourages them to find the “best” way to vent their frustrations).
Is there a right or wrong way to love? Apparently so.
What is a show without some sort of romantic element? Some imagine rosy, heart-eyed individuals, fawning over their love interest as they go about their work day, or perhaps a friendship-based romance, like Jim and Pam from the U.S. version of “The Office.”
In “Aggretsuko,” however, the introduction to romance (at least for Retsuko) is not one of cliche. In fact, Retsuko’s desire for love is sparked because of her hatred for her job.
Retsuko sees marriage as a way to be free from her job. If she is able to get married, she can experience “matrimonial freedom,” replacing her office job with becoming a full-time housewife. This causes Retsuko to seek a companion and inadvertently makes her find the best in people who, in reality, are not able to satisfy her personal and emotional needs.
Retsuko's character goes through intense character development as a result of this mindset. As the series progresses, she learns the hard way that if love is to exist, it must be sincere and encourage growth. It should never be one-sided; that is, one partner should not be giving more than the other. Love is an equal partnership.
This lesson is often one people can forget, especially in adulthood, where responsibilities are placed before the self and one's immediate relationships.
Empowerment in the workforce
Throughout the series, there is a stark contrast between Retsuko, a female red panda who is constantly put down by both her male and female bosses, and Gori and Washimi, a gorilla and bird who have become prominent female figures in the company.
Retsuko immediately takes a liking to the two and strives to become as strong as they are, as she sees a confidence in them that she lacks herself.
Retsuko’s developing relationship with Gori and Washimi over the course of the series depicts how important empowerment is, regardless of one’s sex or gender. The ability to inspire and encourage growth in others is an aspect of “Aggretsuko” that is one to truly be admired.
Learning and growing are often things young adults are constantly put through. Seeing those around them becoming successful can go one of two ways: people can either become bitter and hopeless, or decide to work toward self betterment and fulfillment.
Thankfully for Retsuko’s case, she chooses the latter, though her methods in the beginning are questionable.
To scream or not to scream? Retsuko’s going to do it anyway
The only potential downside to this show is, of course, the screaming. If you are not one to enjoy death metal (or screamo, for that matter), then you may not like the series. Retsuko screams at least once per episode, and while the subject matter of her “Scream Binges” are often hilarious, many can be turned off by the sound.
This said, it should not be a major factor in deciding whether or not to watch the show. The character development and (sometimes painfully) relatable moments outshine the portions when Retsuko enters “Rage Mode.” Most of her “Scream Binges” are relatively short, ranging from around 15 to 40 seconds long, so you can definitely skip them if you cannot handle the harshness of her screaming.
An aggressive (not really) overview
Overall, “Aggretsuko” is an enjoyable show that many young adults can relate to. With its many moments of painful reliability and life lessons throw into the mix (as well as a dash of death metal), it is a true gem that deserves a change at landing a spot on your summer Netflix binge list.
“Aggretsuko” can be viewed on Netflix, and is available in English, Japanese, Cantonese, French and Spanish. Subtitles are also offered in traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. The English subtitles are translations of the Japanese audio, and do not reflect what is being said in the English audio.