It’s a disappointing Christmas with “Aggrestuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas.”
In the Netflix animated original’s holiday special, our titular, metal-loving red panda finds herself battling a winter storm of insecurity and social pressure. What was meant to be a light-hearted Christmas present for fans of the series ended up becoming a lump of disappointment. In fact, Haida, Retsuko’s co-worker and friend who has feelings for her, hits the nail on its head. At approximately 6 minutes and 57 seconds in, he states: “They are not gonna like this episode, huh?”
If a continuation of season one is what you wanted, you got it - but do not expect to feel satisfied.
“Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas” takes place a short time after season one ends, showing what happened after Haida’s love confession in the hospital. Retsuko rejects Haida, saying that she can “only be a friend right now.” Haida, though hurt, remains hopeful.
The episode continues with Retsuko, who is now enamored with Instagram. Receiving “social media” lessons from Sonoda, Retsuko’s popular socialite co-worker, Retsuko’s time is taken up by visiting cafes, taking “artsy” photos, and gaining validation through Instagram “likes.” Fenneko, Retsuko’s other good friend at work, is concerned about Retsuko’s well-being, worrying that social media will negatively alter Retsuko’s character. Haida, on the other hand, shrugs it off.
As Christmas Eve approaches, Retsuko becomes increasingly anxious; she does not have any plans for the holiday and therefore, has nothing to post on Instagram. After Sonoda chastises her for not having any plans, Retsuko inquires with Washimi and Gori, her two role models that work in the same building. Retsuko is devastated when she finds out that Washimi and Gori both have dates on Christmas Eve, and begins to believe that something is wrong with her for not having anyone to be with.
Retsuko is driven to the edge when Director Ton, her chauvinist boss, gives her a Christmas Eve deadline. Seeing all the photos on Instagram fuel Retsuko’s anger, causing her to leave the office and take a fake dinner photo to get likes. Fenneko and Haida, who are at the company Christmas party, notice Retsuko’s photo. Haida, who believes that Retsuko is on a date, is heartbroken at first, but at Fenneko’s prodding, realizes that the photo is, indeed, fake.
While Haida rushes back to their company building to find Retsuko, Retsuko is whisked away by Washimi and Gori, who both had lackluster experiences with their dates. While Washimi and Gori find solace in bowls of hot soba, Retsuko fusses over missed opportunities to take fancy photos, finally giving in when she gets hungry.
Retsuko ends up posting photos of her soba on Instagram and coincidentally runs into Haida, who is dejected after finding that Retsuko was not at their company building. When Washimi realizes that Haida likes Retsuko, she drags Gori away so that Retsuko and Haida can spend some time together. Retsuko and Haida make their way to the subway station, and the episode ends with Haida seeing Retsuko off.
Character development? What a joke.
For a supposed filler episode between seasons one and two (which is set for release sometime next year), “Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas” throws character development out the window. Even though fillers are supposed to be viewed without connections to the main plot, the timeline the episode established places it right after the end of season one; therefore, it is difficult to view this installment as a separate entity from the overall plot.
At the end of the first season, Retsuko realized the immature way she was approaching love and life. She acknowledged that her feelings for the “Space Cadet,” a fellow red panda who works in her building, were based on an idealized version of the lover Retsuko wanted. She also learned that no matter how awkward or hurtful a situation might be, you must keep moving forward.
These valuable lessons Retsuko learned are ignored in this episode. Rather than make peace with the current lack of romance in her life, Retsuko throws a fit knowing that Washimi and Gori (along with some other co-workers) have dates on Christmas Eve.
In this respect, even Washimi and Gori, who are arguably the “strongest” female characters in the series, fall prey to the false belief that everyone needs to be with someone on Christmas. Rather than build Retsuko up, they bring Retsuko’s esteem down by exclaiming things like “You don’t have plans for Christmas Eve! Are you insane?” and “A woman alone that night will freeze to death!”
Although this change of character can convey that even the most level-headed or mature figures have their “moments,” the fact that the stereotypical beliefs and misguided statements are coming from the same figures that Retsuko has learned the most from is regrettable.
The change that was most surprising is Retsuko’s sudden obsession with Instagram. The use of the social media platform is not one of the downfalls of this episode; rather, it is why she is using it: self-validation.
At the end of season one, Retsuko seemed to be comfortable in her skin and did not need praise to know that she is doing alright. Now, Retsuko has a complusive need to take “artsy” photos to post in order to receive validation. Seeing Retsuko going about the town trying to feel better about herself is pitiful, especially for a character that has grown so much in the previous season.
Retsuko’s need for validation could be a move by the producers of the show to shine light on reasons for social media use; however, this act of finding substitutes for self-confidence through media is a familiar concept. It does not present anything new or profound, nor does it offer healthier alternatives for people who turn to social media for validation.
Retsuko herself does not acknowledge her use of social media for validation when the episode ends. When Washimi and Gori drag Retsuko to have a Christmas dinner at a soba shop, Retsuko becomes miffed that she does not have a better photo opporutnity. As Washimi and Gori rant into their noodles, they say that Christmas doesn’t need to be special for one to enjoy it. Retsuko considers this, but ultimately joins their feasting because she is hungry, not because she agrees with Washimi and Gori’s points. Her posting on Instagram may seem like a change of heart, but the fact that Retsuko still uses Instagram as a validation medium is a display of a missed learning opportunity.
Here’s a lump of coal
“Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas” is a lackluster filler between season one and two of the show. The lack of attention to previously established development makes this a frustrating installment, and overall, can be a waste of time for “Aggretsuko” fans who love the show for Retsuko’s predicament and growth. This said, however, those who watch the episode light-heartedly, without making connections to the first season, may enjoy it.
Rating: 3 torches