Image Source: sanriojapan on YouTube
Sanrio, a company that has brought us cute and lovable characters like Hello Kitty and Gudetama, now has someone a little more… extreme on the team. That character is Aggressive Retsuko, also known as Aggretsuko outside of Japan. She may look cute, but she in fact is carrying a lot of stress… which she relieves by singing heavy metal.
Aggretsuko was introduced to audiences two years ago. She’s a a businesswoman (who just happens to be a lesser panda) working at a company in the city. She’s 25, in the prime of her life, absolutely adorable, and doesn’t have a boyfriend.
However, she does have coworkers that drive her up the wall. Every day of her life, she’s locked up in her Japanese company, forced to deal with everyone’s crap at the office. Some of the characters in her life include Tsubone-san, a lizard-like older lady at the office who takes out her jealousy of Retsuko’s youth on her by assigning her tasks that force her to work overtime; Kabae, the hippo lady who isn’t a bad person but is just so loud and cheerful that she actually has been banned from entering several outside companies; and director Yagyu, who has a tendency to throw work he doesn’t really want to do onto Retsuko.
Sure, these coworkers are annoying, but the worst of Retsuko’s coworkers has to be director Ton, a chauvinistic pig (literally). He is the perfect image of an old Japanese businessman stuck in his ways. For example, since decades ago, women have been expected to serve alcohol to the men at company parties. As sexist as this is, Retsuko does this for him. But what does have to say in return? He scowls at her and says, “You’re supposed to have the label facing up when pouring. This is why young’uns are so…”
And that’s when Retsuko snaps.
The Japanese character for “rage” appears on her head. She takes the alcohol bottle she was just pouring his drink out of and screams into it like a microphone with heavy metal guitars playing in the background. With tears dripping from her eyes, she pig squeals, “Label facing up? Excuse me? Label facing up? Excuse me? Excuse me? I can’t take this anymore! I can’t, can’t, can’t! Please let me go home!!”
Almost every episode of Aggressive Retsuko has the exact same pattern: Everything is normal in Retsuko’s life, then someone/something in her office does something to piss Retsuko off, and she takes her stress out not by fighting back against the person/thing getting in her way, but instead by singing heavy metal.
What’s so interesting about this anime is how accurately it portrays the life of a Japanese businesswoman without being too up-front about it. In the example above, the reason Retsuko was at the party despite wanting to leave was because at Japanese companies, employees are pressured to go drinking with superiors no matter their personal feelings. It’s Part A of the Japanese “group mentality” that mandates that workers not be independent, but instead play their part in the hierarchy.
Retsuko’s outbursts of metal singing is a representation of the restraint Japanese businesswoman have to have. They’re expected to be quiet and obedient, so any negative feelings they have are bottled up. If you watch Retsuko throughout the episode, you’ll notice that for a large majority of her outbursts, she’s either alone or singing only inside of her mind. When she does pig squeal in front of her coworkers, she usually tries to convince them that she wasn’t singing at all.
My mother once told me that “the working world is like going back to kindergarten.” As an adult, I understand that now, and Retsuko expresses my daily frustrations like fluffy and nice Hello Kitty never could.
Aggressive Retsuko is currently airing as one-minute anime shorts during during the O-sama no Brunch program on Japanese channel TBS. Although there was an English-subtitled promotional video posted for the anime, no episodes have been released in English.