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AGGRETSUKO Office pandaring gets 7/10

Season one
Directed by Rareko
Starring Erica Mendez, Josh Petersdof

7/10

Sanrio, best known for merchandising Hello Kitty onto everything from toasters to vibrators has been increasingly reflecting societal anxieties through its recent additions of cutesy mascots. Current successes include Gudetama, a severely depressed egg who has no energy or desire to do anything beyond wait for its suffering to end through being eaten. Last month Sanrio’s newest creation Aggretsuko released their debut series on Netflix which follows the anger of Retsuko. Retsuko is still a loveable cute icon that fits right at home next to her famous feline sibling but Sanrio has tapped even deeper into millennial despair and daily frustrations and landed on a subversive feminist metal icon.

Retsuko (Erica Mendez) is a red panda that works in a soul-destroying office job she hates. She faces much grief from her sexist boss (Josh Petersdof), a literal pig who dumps his work on others as he practices his golf swings day in day out screaming “man, am I busy”. Her manager is a snake who keeps a difficult to open jar on hand purely so she can yell at Retsuko for her uselessness at being unable to open it. Like all of us, Retsuko struggles with navigating these situations where she is forced into submissive politeness at the sacrifice of her mental health to ensure she is able to pay her rent and the luxury of a few beers after overtime. The punch of Retsuko comes from her secret coping mechanism, where our beloved fluffy heroine breaks out into black nail polish and demonic eyes to reveal her love of death metal karaoke where she can exploit pig squeals to narrate her frustrations.

Retsuko struggles with being a pushover and the double-edged sword of being a good hard working girl. Her friends often joke she is the type of person who buys a three pack pair of socks because you feel guilty about entering a store and not buying anything. Retsuko often finds herself reflecting on the incredibly relatable breed of existential angst of what exactly am I doing with my life and why is it putting up with this as she screams, “You tell me I’m just a drone, plain vanilla till the moment I die, team players lose!”

This shouldn’t be dismissed as simply a funny gag relying on the contrast of a cute red panda howling to dark music. The show’s strength is seen through its commitment to humorously portraying the grim struggles of working life and staunchly criticising unbalanced power relations within the corporate world. It is amazingly refreshing to see her boss portrayed as not just mean but distinctly misogynistic. The show is careful to portray the hidden anxieties we all carry. Retsuko idolises the higher up businesswomen who are seen powerfully strutting around stating “wow, they sure seem to have it together,” whilst they complain about needing to see a chiropractor from wearing heels all day when out of sight. The message is especially powerful coming from this cutesy medium branded by Sanrio, something traditionally dismissed as shallow, overly pink and for girls, hopefully encouraging viewer reflection on how we engage with the struggles of femininity.

JAYDE BALDOCK

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