Who thought a streaming series about a Sanrio mascot would use its last hurrah to stick it to Japan’s aging political party?
This series is streaming on Netflix
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Can you hear it, Nicky? The guttural yawp of a death metal voice screaming in the distance, inching ever closer? We both know that can only mean one thing:
Hell yeah! Our favorite screaming everyday office-working red panda returns for a fifth and FINAL season. We’ve come a long way with our angry little gal. We’ve seen her struggle with the day-in and day-out mundanity of life as a white-collar accounting drone, turn down a relationship with a tech genius, become an idol, and we even got to watch her find lasting love and comradery. She does everything possible to survive in this brutal and punishing world ruled by patriarchy and capitalism. Having overcome so much, it’s exciting to see what big challenges* our champion still has to face.
*note: not the crocodile named “Big Challenges,” also designed by Sanrio.
Big Challenges anime when? In the meantime, though, it turns out a pretty big one for Retsuko is “having a boyfriend.”
Since living as one person is hard enough, two of you means double the problems!
And dishes. A lot of dishes. Laundry too.
Haida also starts this season with a lot of baggage. You might recall he quit his job because he got swept up in the whole book-cooking thing, so now he’s unemployed. And even worse, he’s become a gamer.
Indeed, a terrible fate. Gaming. Nothing good comes of it when it comes to this series!
Your tolerance for Haida will also be a significant factor in how much you enjoy this season because he’s the main character for the first half.
Yeah, and that’s a camp I can’t speak for since I always loved Haida. Going in, I was worried we wouldn’t get an in-depth look at his and Retsuko’s ongoing relationship. Since they’ve become an item at the end of season 3, with everything else going on in season 4, we haven’t gotten a clear picture of how they function as a couple. He has a lot of faults, but it makes sense that he’s a primary focus as this he’s now a major part of Retsuko’s life.
I wouldn’t count myself in the anti-Haida faction either, and this season does many good things for his character. Namely, it puts him through the wringer, and he comes out the other side humbled and more self-aware. Like, he’s legit homeless for a spell, and it’s an experience that fundamentally challenges his worldview.
One of the best reveals about Haida’s character is that he’s a spoiled rich kid. His family owned his apartment building, so he never had to pay rent. It’s that kind of pampering that leads to arrogance, and sometimes arrogance comes in the form of spending waaaaay too much on gacha pulls until your dad finds out and decides to pull the plug.
Now, that may sound pretty negative, but the casual attitude Haida had towards his privilege until he didn’t have it anymore felt pretty natural and relatable, in the best way this show tends to be.
It turns out his gaming friend was a somewhat homeless skunk goth chic who refers to herself as Shikabane. At first, she acted as an enabler of Haida’s worst gaming tendencies. Her mentality is pretty detached. The others even mistake her as a temptress since Haida had never communicated that he needed help after putting himself on his girlfriend’s bad side.
Which is a subplot worth it for these screencaps alone.
That first one is actual nightmare fuel.
This arc depicts how exhausting and dire poverty is, but it’s still funny and warm, thanks to the cast. The miscommunication works well for drama and comedy. Everyone gives Haida shit, and many are even judgmental about his failure to get a job in the first place, but it’s definitely from a place of love.
, the series, has always been about society’s attitudes toward work culture. Using Haida to expand on the perspective of what happens when you become unemployed or rejected by that system of capitalism works for me. It’s a unique kind of trauma that sneaks up on you. Haida becomes grateful to the “refugees” of the café for supporting him through his rut when he felt too ashamed to be honest with anyone else. Which also led to this really great moment between Shikabane and Fenneko. So good.
Just two queens acknowledging each other. And Fenneko is all-around perfect this season, as always. Talk about images you can hear.
This season, my other favorite Fenneko moment was her paraphrasing Lupin III
‘s Goemon while Gaming™.
Even after Haida moves in with Retsuko, the series nails the soul-crushing despair of the job search. Just the exhaustion of sending out hundreds of resumes, sitting through bone-dry interviews, and taking rejection letter after rejection letter. It sucks. But Haida’s lucky to have people in his corner, including Ton, who’s completed his arc from villainous boss to sagacious mentor. He does nothing but give people pep talks this season. It’s adorable.
He also still loves his teen daughters more than dear life itself. Super adorable.
After sorting things out, Haida freeloads at Retsuko’s place and re-centers to make a career shift from accounting to programming, but what’s a serious relationship without having to also deal with all their familial baggage, huh?
I knew there would be some big challenges, but I never expected one of them would be GETTING PRESSURED INTO RUNNING FOR OFFICE?
The outside support helps her get there, but it’s important that Retsuko eventually believes she can do it too. Because rage is a powerful emotion, and there aren’t many targets more deserving of it than an increasingly disconnected and geriatric political class.
At least, I know that’s where much of my rage has been directed lately!
For a series that started as a collection of minute-long comedic shorts, it’s fantastic to see it correctly label the “endpoint” of all that internalized frustration. Many young, working-age adults feel disconnected from politics as an entity, yet our whole lives are dictated by it. Watching the world go by every day just fighting to keep up in a system that doesn’t care about you is angering, yet that anger doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t have a real target. It might make you feel better to let it out, but it only translates into something changing if you give that voice a direction. Retsuko has learned well that our anger should be utilized effectively.
Oh yeah, we should also mention that Retsuko is campaigning against her boyfriend’s goddamn younger brother, Jiro.
Absolutely scathing stuff. The series’ gall to tell things like it has won me over since season 1, and yet somehow, it hits differently. It’s not just words; it’s feelings. Songs don’t work without a heart, and although the world, as we know it, is cold, the tone is still dictated by inner kindness and warmth.
Like, could you properly roast the shit out of people if you didn’t know them? Is it possible to be frustrated without caring first?
Shikabane comes back into play for this purpose. She gives a face to the widespread disaffection and poverty, and Retsuko gives her a chance to let her voice and rage be heard by someone who cares.
While she only comes back a few times, Shikabane is portrayed as the opposite end of the spectrum, near existential nihilism. She’s true to herself, but she’s empty. She’s content with her despair and place at the bottom because she has nowhere else to go. She was initially shady but turned out to be a kindred spirit.
She’s a really great character! I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of her, but the show was trying to cram in as much as possible toward the end. The finale, even at double-length, feels like it zips through a lot of stuff. Like, Retsuko and Haida get married…in the middle of a montage, lol.
I definitely would never say no to more Aggretsuko
, but I’m still thoroughly impressed with how much it says with what little time we’ve spent. Okay, five seasons over a few years isn’t “a little,” but it’s a little compared to how much life there is to portray for a story about that “daily life.” But also, man, if you don’t wanna shot-gun some wedding papers after he immediately gives you a hopeful speech after a near-death experience, idk what to tell you.
There were moments when I didn’t think the season would get there, but it managed to hit the sitcom, romantic, and thematic notes pretty darn well when all is said and done. Because at the core of it all, we have Retsuko. And I love Retsuko. She is me. She is all of us.
This final note shows that if you don’t think she’s got the GUTS, you’re wrong. She’s got plenty and more to go around. There are so many little things here that I can’t fit into our format. Just so many little punches here and there. They really hit me. I don’t know if there will ever be an animated series that hits quite like her. She’s truly special.
And I feel super blessed to have witnessed it. I was even super happy to see her relationship with Haida blossom into what resembles real adults supporting each other. Warts and all. They’re a rare breed!
It’s a series that punches above its weight class, that’s for sure. At least, I never expected to get so invested in the quotidian struggles of Sanrio mascots, but here I am, five years later, and I’m glad we got the opportunity to do so. While this is my farewell to Retsuko and her furry buddies, it’s a very fond farewell. Keep on raging!