Sheesh, Sanrio, just @ me the next time y’all wanna point out how I’ve been handling life after graduating college.
If you weren’t familiar with Aggretsuko‘s one-minute episodes, chances were that you got swept up into the craze when Netflix began a full series last year. The mere concept of this adorable red panda taking out her daily frustrations via death metal karaoke was already hilarious. But it also surprised in an incredibly relatable slice-of-life in dealing with a quarter-life crisis between a menial office job, finding purpose, and being happy with your status in life. I definitely rewatched the first season and Christmas special a few times as I face some of the similar challenges the main character did. And season 2 delivers spectacularly in expanding on how deep a quarter-life crisis runs when you realize you’re not getting any younger and are pressured to make certain commitments.
Business is usual for Retsuko, and thankfully, work doesn’t make her feel like spontaneously quitting every single day. But life and existential dread still have their ways of creeping up on you when you least expect them. Her mother frequently tries to set her up on dates. A new young co-worker is far too high-strung to the point he looks like a psychopath. And once again, thoughts of marriage and the future come up as Retsuko considers what will make her happy in the long run when extreme opinions on commitment may convince her otherwise. She’ll have to dig deep down in that death metal karaoke heart of hers to find what she really wants.
The situational humor shines again with relatable moments most folks in their 20s experienced at some point. Being pressured to settle down and marry, dealing with new coworkers and forgetting you were in their shoes not too long ago, the awkwardness of dating, and turning small milestones like getting a driver’s license into a monumental victory– the last of which is made infinitely hilarious with Retsuko’s reactions. There’s a lot of great development in her workplace where everyone actually feels like a cohesive team, and some folks aren’t always what they seem. Ton is still a bit of a hard ass, but he’s also sweet in that he won’t bullshit you when you need to hear the truth. He actually flourishes into a great mentor for his team. Haida and Fenneko are always a fantastic duo of friends to Retsuko, especially the former still trying to not let his crush overtake his friendship. One of the biggest surprises in character development definitely goes to Kabai, the talkative hippo who’s always down for the latest and juiciest gossip. Not much lasting impression was left from the first season; she was just a quirky side character to deliver comedy when a scene called for it. But to everyone’s shock, she has such a grand capacity for motherly tenderness, patience and understanding which everyone can learn from, especially when dealing with difficult co-workers like Anai.
Anai’s arc is the most fascinating in overcoming initial character judgments as he tries to adjust to the workplace out of college, but goes into a panicky over-sensitivity on doing basic takes and taking constructive criticism to the point where he takes his insecurities out on his co-workers via horrifying passive aggressive emails. He makes Yuno Gasai look like a sweetheart by comparison in his overreactions; it legit creeped me the hell out. While over-the-top in some areas, his arc does well to highlight the complicated inner workings of recent graduates jumping straight into the workforce; in fact, I saw a lot of myself in some of Anai’s anxiety.
On one hand, you can’t let every little thing get to you and affect your work ethic and professional relationships, and you really just need to get over yourself. At the same time, young adults like Anai probably never had a chance to slow down and take care of themselves through college. While the tough love approach may work for others, some may misconstrue it as an insult to every little thing they do. Those like Anai are at a delicate stage of adjustment, and it helps to have some patience to catch up and learn. This is where Kabai’s motherly love shines as she sees Anai’s potential and is willing to dedicate the extra time to guide him through new tasks. These are genuinely sweet moments which just make my heart melt. And they do well to thematically segue into Retsuko’s interest to potentially be a loving mother and wife like Kabai some day.
I was a little worried at first for this season since the overall themes discuss relationships and marriage again and if they were going to repeat any plot points from the first season. But thankfully, I was 100 percent wrong. Now that Restuko mostly overcame work stressors, she’s in a clearer state of mind to consider what she actually needs in a romantic partner. Most viewers will likely relate to the generational gap between Retsuko and her mother on the right time to marry; between taking opportunities as they come, taking care of yourself, and possibly waiting for the right person to come along. Her mother is a typical overbearing parent, but over time she kinda gets over her traditional mindset to understand what Retsuko wants and if she even likes the guys she’s being set up with on dates. For as annoying as she gets, her mother still loves her deeply and cares about her happiness in her weird, overbearing way.
And through this season, Retsuko encounters multiple conflicting opinions on dating and marriage, and the show is very careful not to put down any of these thoughts. Some see marriage as a sham, but others believe in that love and commitment to make everything work out. Everyone has justifiable reasons for their opinions on marriage, and who the hell is anyone to judge? What matters is at the end of the day, you decide what marriage means to you of your own volition, and you’re not obligated to change that to suit your partner’s needs. As heartbreaking as it is, I love seeing Retsuko slowly realizes what level of commitment will make her happy in the long run as she gets into dating again, even if it means sacrificing a possible true love.
I have nothing but mad props to this show for promoting that your emotional needs and dreams must be as respected as your partner’s, because as a 20-something, I saw so many romantic relationships just fall to pieces because they never communicated on commitment or their future as a couple. I saw critiques which call this selfish, but for many folks, it is a make-or-break point for a relationship. Love doesn’t mean giving up all personal autonomy to make your partner happy; you either have to compromise to a future you both will commit to, or you may have to let go before shit gets ugly, because that will only lead to resentment.
The second season of Aggretsuko is just as funny and relatable as the first as new character dynamics flourish and millenial/Gen Z existentialism expands. And it shines the best in heartfelt honesty on romance, communication and commitment which is severely missing in many modern relationships. It definitely made me reflect how far I’ve come and how much I still have to learn, and it’s such a comfort that I’m not alone in handling the dread and anxiety of what the future may hold for careers, friendships and love. And I can’t watch to watch it all over again to appreciate the carefully crafted themes and soothe the anxieties of growing up whenever they arise.
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