As you may guess, I’ve been analyzing Aggretsuko lately. I just ran a marathon of the series for a different group of friends. This dark office comedy from Sanrio bears multiple viewings because it’s a well-crafted show. It just happens to look cute until you realize what’s going on.
Having seen it again with another group of people, many more insights came to mind. These provide good advice to writers, but also are an example of another point – good media is worthy of a repeat performance so you can learn from it.
As the rewatch progressed, several major traits of the show became apparent. Let’s discuss them first.
By the way SPOILERS.
Let’s talk the women of Aggretsuko.
- First, it’s about the rage and anger women feel – and often sit on. Though the main character is clearly filled with rage, other women in her sphere have dealt with problems as well. They all coped with it their own way – while admitting it’s awful.
- The show is also about strong and positive female friendships and mentorships. The women help each other out, and there’s little of the stereotypical catty infighting female characters are often saddled with. The relationships among everyone aren’t always healthy (indeed that’s true of the entire show), but there’s a lot of positive female-female interactions. It was delightful.
- Retsuko is a great and flawed main character. Totally understandable, obviously making mistakes, forging ahead. We’ve all known people like her and probably been her.
- Many ways to be female. Aggretsuko, in the character of Gori (one of my favorite characters), takes on common tropes about women. Gori is portrayed as a large and strong gorilla – in fact she tries to increase her strength. However, though there’s humor in how she shows off her muscles, she’s not portrayed as un-femminine but actually very feminine. Gori in fact seems to delight in being “girly,” fashionable, talking relationships and more – and of course perfecting her perfect walk so she and her friend Washimi appear utterly badass.
- Washimi, Gori’s partner in adventure, is a supportive mentor figure. She’s honest about the problems of the world, but is also supportive of her fellow women. Strong and capable, she’s also very caring – strength does not mean cruelty or ego to her. Washimi is another character we need more about.
- Finally, consummate butt-kisser Tsunoda turns out to know exactly what she’s doing, manipulating the ego of her manager. It may not be admirable, but she knows what she’s doing, she has the power, and she’s making people’s lives easier.
I can’t explain how much of the show is a delight because of these female characters. This weekend I and my co-author spoke on our book on Sailor Moon, Her Eternal Moonlight – and much like that series, it has a diverse cast of great female characters. There’s no “designated girl” – there’s just women.
Now let’s talk the male characters.
- Haida, the Internet’s New Boyfriend, is a great example of a nice guy who doesn’t become a Nice Guy. He’s a decent person, not perfect, but a reliable person. He screws up by not being able to express his feelings – and everyone pays for it, as often happens in real life.
- Retsuke, Retsuko’s love interest is fascinating. He honestly comes off as autistic or otherwise not neurotypical, and considering the work that went into the show, I assume this is intentional. He’s clearly kind but also terribly unaware of what he’s doing. I actually hope we get to understand him more – because as noted, I think his portrayal is more than “spacey” and a lot could be done here to understand people.
- The Yoga Instructor, a big stereotypical monosyllabic jock – actually cares about his charges and helps advance relationships. Sure he’s kind of a plot device but he’s a well-meaning one.
- Manumaru the big, feline bro-buddy to Retsuke is a great example of someone a mix of both good traits and toxic masculinity. He’s clearly fun to be with, boisterous, likeable, and cares about Retsuke. He’s also pushy, doesn’t help Retsuke understand emotional issues, and can ignore the feelings of others. He’s another one I’d like to see more of because such a character with good or bad traits could be fascinating to explore – and clearly hit it off with Fenneko.
- Mister Ton. The literal sexist pig of the series could have been a one-shot no personality villain; he’s a stew of toxic masculinity. As it goes on we find there are different sides to him – and while many of those sides are still “jerk” not all of them are. Most importantly he does seem to have some respect for Aggretsuko – he thinks SHE will be the boss one day, and its clear he remembers their musical battle when he councils her on her relationship. Most interesting to me is how he rallies his team to help with a deadline and becomes a different person – I’ve met people like this who’s best sides come out in a crisis and fade when the crisis is gone.
Aggretsuko shows us plenty of positive women, exploring character types and ideas we just don’t get enough of. On top of that, it even gives us some look at the different men in the character’s lives and their own flaws. Of course many of the flaws of the male characters make the lives of the women around them worse – and they don’t realize it – which is a good point to remember.
Once again on a second viewing, I found so much in this show. I’m sure one day I’ll find even more.