Gori, Washimi, and Retsuko in the karaoke room in "Aggretsuko"

Review: ‘Aggretsuko’ season 2 shows complexity of adulting

Netflix dropped the second season of Aggretsuko on Friday June 14 and much like its first season, it’s an absolute hit. Retsuko, a socially awkward red panda, continues her trials and struggles of work, romance and finding happiness.

Don’t worry, behind that cute face is still a powerful death metal singer. The series is now streaming on Netflix and is available in English and Japanese. If you’re curious about the first season, we have a review for that too!

Aggretsuko season 2 trailer

Beware: Spoilers ahead!

Summary

The New Guy In The Office

This season starts off with a new addition to Retsuko’s office. His name is Anai and he’s a recent graduate whose joining the accounting department. Retsuko is in charge of teaching him the ropes but soon finds that Anai is shockingly ill prepared for office life. She gently chastises him, trying to be helpful and that immediately backfires. Unfortunately, Anai is a force to be reckoned with and his bitter attitude soon affects the whole office.

Retsuko’s Meddling Mother

In the midst of all that, Retsuko’s mother worms her way into her personal affairs. She notes that Retsuko is in her twenties and should consider finding someone to marry. Retsuko doesn’t take to this very well and is even more upset when her mom suggest an arranged marriage. Despite obvious reluctance, Retsuko goes to an arranged marriage meeting and a matchmaking event.

Driving Lessons

In a last ditch effort to avoid her mother’s scheming, Retsuko signs up for driving lessons. While there she meets Tadano, a guy that seems to have nothing but time on his hands. The two talk every time they meet up and Retsuko finds that she likes Tadano a lot even with his apparent flaws. The rest of the season is her dealing with her own inner conflicts and how she sees herself in relation to others, especially her romantic interest. Even with Retsuko’s earlier refusal to consider marriage, she realizes that on some level, a fruitful marriage would bring her happiness.

Dating, Matchmaking, Marriage

This choice doesn’t come easy to her however. At the matchmaking event, a guy who seems too good to be true nearly scams her. Her earlier fling from season one ended disastrously. Plus, she finds out that one of her closest friends, Washimi, had a failed relationship. Washimi tells her that marriage isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t have to be something to strive for. Her other friend, Gori, is in the opposite camp and says that marriage should be a goal.

Kabae, one of Retsuko’s colleagues, tells her that she wasn’t ready for relationships much less marriage at first but is now with a person that she can be 100% herself with. Even her rude boss, Ton, says that his family is a source of comfort for him. Needless to say, Retsuko comes to the realization that marriage doesn’t guarantee a life of bliss and fulfillment. Nonetheless, it’s something she wants to experience for herself.

Commentary

Retsuko is relatable

Retsuko starts off the series as a woman that isn’t totally happy with her current life and ends the series in a similar fashion. Even though her problems aren’t magically fixed, this red panda goes through major changes and growth in her character. She’s still a complacent cog in the work machine and is still too scared to stand up to her literal pig of a boss. In between all of this mess, she struggles to find purpose in her life. She has no clear cut goals for her future and that worries her deeply. Retsuko list being obedient as one of the only things she’s good at. She’s just a struggling 25-year-old who just wants some direction in her life. Retsuko has anxieties about her love life, her job, her relationships and her future as a whole.

Retsuko does her best

Life is hard for her but she takes it in her own hands in what small ways that she can. For example, Retsuko goes out of her way to take driving lessons because she decides it a skill that could better her. It definitely started out as a way to escape her mom, but it’s an activity that she did by herself and is better for it. This may not seem like much but she lives in the city where the need to drive isn’t high. Plus learning how to drive is quite unusual for her person of age in the city, and other people judge her for the decision. Retsuko is pushing past her limits at a slow but realistic pace. She’s has her bouts of uncertainty but finds content in being with people she cares about and relieving stress through metal music.

Support is there

In this season, she also relies more on her friends and begins to grasp that it’s okay to do so. Retsuko tends to get starry-eyed pretty easily and sometimes enters relationships for the wrong reasons. When she’s hurt by the outcome, she tends to retreat into herself and not tell anyone what she’s going through. Slowly, her friends come to her, sharing their advice and experiences with her. The show of friendship and solidarity in this season is great. Characters like Haida, Washimi and Gori put aside their own biases to be there when Retsuko needs them – and it’s clear that Retsuko would do the same for them.

The core of Retsuko’s story

The core of her story is something that many people can look at and empathize with – especially today’s youth. Retsuko’s life is pretty standard. There’s no moment when she rises to the top or has a life altering existence. She just has tiny little moments when she learns more about herself and what it is that she wants out of the world. Her situation is one that I think anyone can see themselves in at some point in their lives. Her struggles are realistic and speak to the existence of many people. Most importantly, it gives the message that it’s okay to have hardships and be unsure about where life may take you. Retsuko is a regular person with a regular feelings and the portrayal of her mundane experiences is refreshing and real.

Anai’s anxiety

It’s not only Retsuko whose narrative is easy to relate to. Anai is an absolute nightmare and while watching at first, it can be hard to see how he could be relatable in anyway (unless you’re a bad person I guess?). However, we find out that he acts in such a strange way due to his anxieties and newness in the work environment. He recently graduated and he found himself in a career job under a boss who definitely wasn’t the best. His fears don’t manifest in a good way but those worries are easy to understand.

We see more to Kabae

Even Kabae, the extremely chatty hippo who annoys Retsuko endlessly, gets a moment. People reduce her to her outwardly cheerful attitude and brush her off without acknowledging how hard she works. She’s the mother of three kids and has a full time job where she still has to watch over her coworkers. Her life is one that can resonate with an older audience that have to struggle with a balance between home and work. People underestimating her abilities is also an aspect that can resonate with.

Conclusion

Realistic depiction of adulting

This season continues to give us a realistic depiction of the realities of adult life and how it feels to be trapped by expectations. The subject matter has a level of seriousness to it but there’s still a hopefulness to it. With all of Retsuko’s hardships, she still aims to decide what she wants out of her life and wants to make her own standards. All of the characters have moments where they shine and times where they’re shown in a less than flattering light. It makes the characters believable and gives them a lot of depth, especially for a series that has episodes that are all almost 15 minutes long.

Still humorous as ever

The show still keeps its humor from the first season as well. It’s super satisfying and funny to see Retsuko jam out in a karaoke room by herself. We feel frustration right along with her so seeing her let loose never gets old. There’s great use of comedic timing multiple times in the series as well. Seeing Retsuko’s curse words get cut off will truly never get old. It’s definitely more calm than the previous season but it still has charm.

All in all, the show succeeds in what it sets out to do — show the complexities of aging and what that means for different people. The cute look of Aggretsuko may make the show seem like its childish when in reality it’s something that someone can enjoy at any age. I look forward to see Retsuko’s rage in the next season.

Featured image credit: Netflix and Sanrio

2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Aggretsuko’ season 2 shows complexity of adulting

  1. Fantastic review! I loved reading your insights and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed this season too. I agree that it was nice to see each character have their shining moments along with their flaws. Sometimes characters come across as too perfect, especially in anime, but this show does such a great job of adding depth to Retsuko and co.

    1. Keana did a great job on this review and I also finished watching S2. I liked getting to see Kabae and Ton’s families, since they were so unlikable in S1. –ChinLin

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