‘Aggretsuko’: It’s like Hello Kitty, but with drinking, swearing, and death metal

Who would have thought that a mild mannered red panda with a hatred for her boss and a deep-rooted passion for death metal would make for such an entertaining show?


Chloe Cuyler, Staff Writer

As a kid, I was a cartoon junkie. I still am. Nothing instills the same level of euphoria in me as watching brightly colored, oddly shaped pieces of artwork move across my TV screen. 

While I possess virtually no desire to tune into most “young adult” programs, sometimes watching four teenage turtles fight crime, or a short, red-headed boy with an undistinguishable European accent and a lab coat can get old. Every now and then, it’s nice to see something I can slightly relate to, as a young adult living in this messed up, twisted world of ours.

That’s where Aggretsuko comes in. 

Aggretsuko – a portmanteau of “aggressive” and “Retsuko,” the titular character’s name – is a musical comedy series presently streaming on Netflix. The Japanese anime series originated from the eponymous character created by Sanrio, the mastermind behind Hello Kitty. 

Released in April of 2018, Aggretsuko currently has three seasons, with a fourth having been announced in December 2020. 

The web series follows the 25-year-old anthropomorphic red panda, Retsuko, as she navigates through life in Japan. An accounting clerk at a trading firm, Retsuko’s daily life is teeming with hellacious supervisors and coworkers whose annoyingness rivals nails on a chalkboard.

To ease the inevitable frustrations that stem from spending a day in an office full of nuisances, Retsuko finds an escape in the unexpected – death metal karaoke. Whether at the karaoke bar or in a bathroom stall (a last resort, emergency location) Retsuko roars out her woes to an intense, distorted beat. 

I know. This sounds like a really weird show. And it is. But it somehow works. 

Retsuko’s workplace troubles are nothing too out of the ordinary. Her demanding boss, Director Ton, is the epitome of a sexist pig, talking down to Retsuko, because she is a female. Preferring to practice his golf swing instead of doing what he’s being paid for – working – Director Ton constantly dumps more work on to Retsuko. If that weren’t bad enough, there’s also the resident bootlicker, Tsunoda (who needs to work when you can just stay on the boss’s good side?) and Kabae, the gossipping busybody who believes that everyone’s business is hers – whether they know it or not.

Things at work aren’t the total pits, though. Fenneko and Haida manage to breathe the smallest semblance of life into Retsuko’s workday. Fenneko is…strange, to say the least. She is insightful and perceptive to a fault. So much so that she is often able to point out others’ habits with the accuracy only a practiced stalker can achieve. She is more often than not the first one to know about something that happened to one of her coworkers – so long as it was posted on social media. Haida, conversely, is the level-headed, mild-mannered friend. There’s nothing too special about him. He’s just the average, unassuming guy. His one major fault  is the level of protectiveness he possesses towards Retsuko. Its intensity stems not from their friendship, but his ever-growing crush on her. Too bad she doesn’t feel the same way. 

Even though the series centers around a gang of anthropomorphic animals, Aggretsuko, never feels too childish. Maybe this can be attributed to the drinking and mentions of alcohol throughout the series. Or maybe it’s the result of the cute little animal characters casually dropping swear words. Maybe the show’s maturity stems from its relatability to us young adults. I imagine we can all relate to Retsuko’s ongoing struggle with daily life, in one way or another. Maybe we have an annoying boss or coworker. Perhaps a parent who, despite wanting the best for you, can sometimes be overbearing. (Sorry, Mom.) Aggretsuko provides the perfect amount of relatability, without feeling stale. 

The titular character is nothing special. In fact, she’s rather bland – a blank canvas, so to speak. She doesn’t know what to do with her life. She isn’t particularly talented or good at anything (singing death metal karaoke doesn’t count, since it is something very few know about.). She’s inadequate and rather forgettable. Now, I don’t find this to be a downfall for the show. It is quite the opposite. Retsuko’s flaws stem from her inexperience and youth. She’s still trying to figure things out and find her place under the sun. It’s safe to say that all of us college students can relate to this. Retsuko is perfectly imperfect, which is exactly why I feel a connection to her. 

Given that it’s created by the makers of the iconic, white, little cat, Hello Kitty, it’s only natural for Aggretsuko to employ a cast full of annoyingly cute and colorful animals. So what makes it any different from Hello Kitty or any of the other Sanrio shows and characters? 

Enter the drinking and swearing. 

Now, I wouldn’t say that anyone on Aggretsuko curses like a potty-mouthed sailor, but there is quite a bit of profanity sprinkled throughout the series. Retsuko even releases her frustrations by singing a song I will refer to as the “S***ty Boss” song. 

Drinking also plays a relatively large part in the show. Oftentimes at social gatherings, like many real-life adults, the characters are seen drinking alcohol – with the exception of Resasuke. He would much rather consume copious amounts of canned coffee. 

Sanrio’s Aggretsuko is a great show – whether you’re a cartoon junkie looking for something with a more adult flair, someone simply wanting a new series to binge watch, or anyone in between. A dynamic range of characters and a relatable plot make this show worth watching. My only complaint is that I’ve almost finished season two, and there are only three seasons available! If season four isn’t released soon, I may start drowning my sorrows in death metal.