REVIEW: Retsuko Takes on Mom, a Co-Worker, and Being Happy in ‘Aggretsuko’ Season 2

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Aggretsuko introduced Netflix viewers an anthropomorphized red panda that symbolizes all of the workplace and real-life anxieties plaguing twenty and thirty-somethings. As a fan of Sanrio, the company behind the show, I was drawn in immediately even before I realized how much the first season encapsulated an entire generation of problems.

In season one, the 25-year-old Retsuko (Erica Mendez) brought us through her work life in the accounting department at a Japanese company while she dealt with office romances, a sexist boss, a lack of friends, and finding herself. One of the most identifiable moments in the series and what helps the series resonate is watching Retsuko let out her emotions by going to a karaoke bar by singing death metal. 

After watching Retsuko’s life transform over the last season, the second season keeps the motion of her life going by introducing new dynamics. The big moments of Aggretsuko season two is broken down into three parts: A meddling mom and reluctant acceptance of romance, psychotic co-worker encounters, and finally Retsuko taking control of her own life.

The ebbs and flows of this season continue to hit on very real issues someone in their mid and late twenties face every day. We feel pushed and pulled by everything around us, taking on the wants that we think we should do to satisfy those around us. And like our lives, we see Retsuko learn how to find what she wants and push for herself.

Initially, her meddling mother decides that Retsuko needs marriage and begins setting up the slightly depressed Retsuko with a line of potential matches — which she photoshopped to look better of course. In these first few episodes, we get to see Retsuko go on dates, learn about why her mom is so worried, — albeit pushy — and ultimately realize that maybe she does want romance, even if it’s too late.

As her mom pushes and pushes dating on her, she has notions of what it looks like and refuses. We saw last season that it didn’t go well for our favorite anthropomorphic tanuki. But, when Retsuko finally decides to go on one of the dates she realizes that even though her mom set things up, that doesn’t mean that she can’t find herself in them too.

This doesn’t mean that her mom’s focus on Retsuko’s age and love life isn’t intrusive, but it does serve to show us how much sometimes we need to be do something outside of our comfort zone in order to learn about. We need to learn what we don’t like, what we don’t want, and conversely what we do want and need. But, this also comes with realizing that working on our time doesn’t mean the same opportunities will be there when we’re ready.

The part of the season that hit close to home was watching Retsuko deal with training her new co-worker, Anai. He seems normal, if not slightly incompetent at first until Retsuko makes the decision to tell him what he’s doing is wrong. What Retsuko saw as a good training is turned on its head when the insecure and over sensitive Anai begins sending her emails detailing every comment that she’s made and accusing her of undermining and attacking him.

Whether it is her correcting a mistake he’s made or her having to take on more work, Retsuko falls into herself. Not knowing how to deal with a co-worker who refuses to take ownership of his faults in a healthy way and instead projects their insecurities by making her feel like she is the cause, she just stops interacting.

This piece of Aggretsuko season two stands out for me. I’m not looking for love or pushing back against my mom who is worried about my marrying age, but I am dealing with and have dealt with coworkers who continually force me to burden their insecurities by sitting behind a shield of defensiveness that has painted me as attacking. It’s frustrating and much like Retsuko, the only answer that feels available is to stop talking. To put their fragility above your own mental health and happiness and shoulder their job.

At first, no one believes Retsuko. Her co-workers can’t believe that the mild-mannered Anai is using his time off to lodge claims of attacks against her but slowly, as is usually the case, other co-workers realize that Anai isn’t so mild-mannered via email.

The last piece of Aggretsuko season two that rounds out the storytelling is Retsuko finding what looks to be an S-tier boyfriend. But instead of just giving her a traditional happy ending, season two subverts it. In Aggretsuko, like in life, our 25-year old tanuki has to investigate what she wants, even when her life is starting to look picturesque. In the last third of the season, we see Retsuko come into her own, let loose, relax, and in the midst of being propelled by circumstances with a new love interest to decide what she really wants out of life.

Retsuko’s boyfriend isn’t bad by any means, but what Aggretsuko season two shows what happens when couples just don’t agree on things. Beyond that, it shows Retsuko taking control of her life and choosing uncertainty and happiness over a really good guy. Sometimes we have to make hard choices, and most of the times the situations we’re in don’t facilitate prioritizing ourselves in those decisions. But if there is anything season two of Aggretsuko shows it’s that sometimes we have to take those steps.

All of this being said, the episode count leaves some growth in the people in her to be desired. A larger order would help this and help flesh out the world that Retsuko lives in. While season two does this better than the first, it’s still an issue that leaves the world only feeling existent when Retsuko is in the picture.

A little tanuki with big metal singing lungs teaches us to embrace change, step up to a co-worker and defend yourself from their accusations, and even turning your back on everything you thought that you wanted. The exhaustion we see in Retsuko, the dejection, and reality of our millennial lives that is showcased in season one continues in season two, but instead of being a subject to it, she gets through it and grows and finally takes control.

People have fallen in love with this metal karaoke singing Sanrio character for many reasons. Retsuko shows us our lives in a work culture that wants to get out products while disregarding us. She shows us the troubles in love that happen from complacency. And in season two of Aggretsuko she shows us how to take control of our lives and move towards what we want.

Aggretsuko is available now, exclusively on Netflix.

Aggretsuko Season 2
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

People have fallen in love with this metal karaoke singing Sanrio character for many reasons. Retsuko shows us our lives in a work culture that wants to get out products while disregarding us. She shows us the troubles in love that happen from complacency. And in season two of Aggretsuko she shows us how to take control of our lives and move towards what we want.