I’ve just run a marathon of Aggretsuko for a bunch of friends. If you haven’t seen or heard of this Sanrio cute-dark office comedy, it’s worth checking out. It’s the story of a twenty-something office worker, her lousy job, her friends, and her attempts to do more in her life – and the tales of the people around her.
The obvious part of why you want to check it out is that it’s well-acted, surprisingly deep in its look at pathological office environments and people being supportive of each other, and more. The fact it’s all done cute makes dealing with the horrific parts of life more palatable – until you realize what you just saw is something that should have depressed you.
But what stood out for me was not just the content – it was the style. Aggretsuko has lots of brilliant stylistic choices, tricks, callbacks, and more. Such as:
- Using Avatar The Last Airbender like mystic visions (yes, in the middle of a dark office comedy).
- Callbacks to anime/martial arts – for death metal karoke (and how music is like comedy).
- Use of mask metaphors in animation for people’s interpretations of others.
- Very effective use of character body languages – with simple and cutsey characters, how you use body language is both limited and enhanced.
- Even the dub makes certain choices of translation to give context – it’s not word-for-word, but instead smartly thinks of the audience and makes appropriate pop culture callbacks.
Many of these stylistic choices, many derived from other media, work well in service of a story. Music can be combat. We do wear masks – but we put them on others. Aggretskuo is clearly made by people who understand other forms of media and learned from them.
All in the service of a cute animal dark office comedy.
The show thus becomes a lesson that my friend Serdar has often repeated; to be good at any form of media you need to learn from many forms of media. Each influence, no matter how unexpected, or odd, or not related to the media you make is a chance to grow, get insights, and get lessons to apply.
Aggretsuko could have just done cute animals and dark comedy. It may have been amusing or insightful, but it wouldn’t have had the impact it had. It used lessons from other media to tell its story to make it more impactful and more powerful – everyone I watched it with was relating to it and taken by it and we had fruitful discussions of what we took from it.
Always be sure to try and experience new media – and be open to learning from one form of media to use in another. A few examples for myself:
- Dave Barry, the comedic/commentary writer has influenced my fiction writing. His style dovetails well with my Pratchett/Aspirin influences, but also he has a gift for commenting on the human condition.
- I use comics as a way to visualize fiction, how things may appear or be described. It also helps me determine what I might be missing.
- Witty writing in a Dragon Quest game had some stylistic choices with alliteration I tried in my nonfiction.
You’ve probably learned more from other media than you realize – what more can you learn when you’re aware of it?