Anime, Netflix, New Season, Show

Are we going to talk about the new season of Aggretsuko or have we all just accepted the darkness?

So, I’m sure this season of Aggretsuko was in development long before *gestures broadly* all this – but I still have to ask the creative team: Are you guys doing okay? Like seriously…what in the world made you decide to go in this direction for the third season? 

It’s not bad, per se, out of all the shows that decided to get progressively darker with each season, I never expected Aggretsuko would go down that route. Seriously. Did something happen to one of you? Do you need to talk to somebody?

I know the show is geared towards a more adult audience, but it has always been more of a light-hearted show about the trials and tribulations of being a young working woman in Japan.

But this season, went in a slightly more wish-fulfillment direction. Kind of like the last season when Retsuko was dating a billionaire

The beginning of Season 3 has her dealing with the emotional fallout from her relationship with Tadano, by playing a VR dating game and putting herself into debt via microtransactions. This only gets worse after she accidentally backs into another car.

How does she pay off her surmounting debt? By joining the car owner’s underground idol group, of course. While I could point out how ridiculous this scenario is – I won’t because we all already know that and because after sitting on it for a while, I realized it still really covers the overall themes of the series: regarding the pressures of femininity, coping with the stresses of life and the dangers of getting what you wish for.

Once the producer of the idol group hears Retsuko sing, he moves her from being the group’s accountant into the actual group, where she can sing metal to her heart’s content. This results nearly getting murdered by a stalker

The incident not downplayed, nor is it comedic. It is 100 percent fucking serious. Which means there’s some intriguing possibilities for plots in Season 4.

Between this and Infinity Train – I really need to find something more lighthearted for my next review. Seriously.

Critique of Idol Culture

The show doesn’t really critique the concept or idea of idol culture and since OTMGirls is still a relatively new group, the show doesn’t really focus on some of the inherent struggles usually associated with the genre – like the overwork, sexualization and how focused the industry is on maintaining a certain appearance of its performers for the audience.

Instead, the show explores how idol culture is an outlet for all sorts of people: for Manaka, the center, being an idol, is her dream, and she’s not going to let the fact that many people would believe she’s too old stop her. Retsuko loves being able to finally express herself in front of people doing what she loves and finally being able to be more of herself.

Even Komiya, Ton’s lackey, runs an idol blog in his spare time – and shows he has more personality and background to him. He’s not obsessive, he recognizes it’s an art and enjoys what all the different groups have to offer.

It’s mostly harmless. Performers like it because they get to express themselves and make people happy. The audience gets to know the idols, to a certain capacity, and the fandom is like a community. Everybody is happy.

And there’s no harm in that, right?

The show takes the perspective that -there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a singer or a performer – but it’s a lot of hard work and not everyone is cut out for it.

What the show does critique are the overzealous fans – not the nerdy, awkward ones who genuinely like the music and like the performers – but those focused on “the purity of the music,” who don’t like it when situations change, and who hates fakes fans who only like things after they become popular.

You know the type.

The Stalker, as I’ll be referring to him as, was a huge fan of the original girls and started DESPISING Retsuko when she joined and “ruined” their music with her metal singing. It’s never clear why he loved the original music so much and why it stood out to him – but that’s not really important.

He wants music. The other fans are there for the girls and the music. Now more people like it, so it’s no longer as special or intimate for the stalker.

 Even though, I would say it’s pretty ironic because while OTM Girl’s previous music wasn’t bad – in fact, it was catchy – it didn’t particularly stand out in my mind. Retsuko’s metal singing was unique and made the group stand out. And I think that was on purpose.

Some people just latch on to certain shows, movie stars, singers -regardless of actual quality. And become obsessive.

I am not familiar with Japanese idol culture, but I do know that there are many issues with it. I know that the fan experience is a big draw, but it’s emotionally taxing for the performers. There’s a lot of rules members of the group have to follow regarding appearance, and they’re often not allowed to date so fans can imagine themselves dating them.

I am not familiar with Japanese idol culture, but I do know that there are many issues with it. I know that the fan experience is a big draw, but it’s emotionally taxing for the performers. There’s a lot of rules members of the group have to follow regarding appearance, and they’re often not allowed to date so fans can imagine themselves dating them.

There’s many sexually –iffy ideas. And I do think there tends to be a lot more of the stalker, creepy fans because of this. Most times, a person is obsessed with a certain idol due to their imaginary relationship, and they stalk them because of that.

But I imagine stalking an idol because a fan feels they ruined the group isn’t unheard-of.

And the other characters recognize how serious of an issue having a stalker can be. They don’t have a procedure in place – but everyone realizes Retsuko is in danger. They don’t think it’s cute or harmless.

 It’s a surprisingly realistic look at the situation and honestly, if Haida hadn’t been there, Retsuko could have been injured or killed. And the experience leaves her mentally scarred.

What I think is scariest is how Retsuko doesn’t want to admit she has a problem to others, and how she doesn’t really think the stalking issue is as serious as it actually is. She doesn’t want others to worry, but it’s also apparent that she doesn’t think it’s going to be a major issue.

She doesn’t want people to worry about her – even when they rightfully should.

And I think a lot of this must do with the show’s and season’s feminist perspective and unique girl power ideology.

Girl Power

The one thing I’ve always loved about this show is how it presents all its female characters as having complex inner lives – and aren’t just defined by their relationships to and with men. And I’ve mentioned that a lot in the past.

Being a woman is hard in Japan. There’s still a lot of sexism and many outdated beliefs regarding how women should behave. And Retsuko is the perfect example of the kind of 20-something-year-old woman in Japan these days.

She’s a decent worker – but she is quiet, doesn’t complain, and wants to be recognized as “a good girl,” like she was praised for being in school. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for interests and passions to come out around her colleagues. So she feels isolated – doing karaoke in secret and venting out her frustrations in the soundproof chamber of the karaoke bar.

This is precisely what causes her to downplay all her issues and is a direct reason why she was nearly murdered.

And the show also critiques this attitude and Retsuko’s worldview. It can be helpful for surviving society but wreaks havoc on her personal and working life. She always gets work piled on her – because she’s unable to say no, and she is exhausted afterward, with little energy to socialize.

In this season, she gets into her problem because she’s too afraid to ask for a loan when she’s deep into debt. And also has her doing things she’s uncomfortable with and is just stupid – like getting into a van with a strange man who won’t tell her where they’re going.

Haven’t you ever watched John Mulaney, Retsuko? Never go to a secondary location with a stranger.

She got lucky – but her compliant attitude and unwillingness to bother people don’t let her feel like she’s allowed to complain about her stalker or even reckon he’s an issue. She’s in denial. And the river is deep.

As an audience, we know the danger she could be in. This even lamp-shaded in-universe, when Gori and Haida follow Retsuko to the airport when they see her getting into her manager’s, Hyodo, van. They worry about her being part of a trafficking ring, where she’ll be sold off to the highest bidder.

Like we know she’s going to be okay – but still, you wonder how a person can make decisions like this and NOT tell anybody.

Manaka – the center of the idol group – is a great twist on the Queen Bee idol character – sure she’s a bit rude and demanding, but she’s also hard-working and determined. Despite being 26, which is considered a “Christmas cake” age in Japan and much too old to be an idol – she is pursuing it anyway because it’s her dream, and she’ll be damned if she lets people tell her what to do.

She also pulls out a baseball bat with nails in it when she finds out Retsuko has a stalker. That moment made me absolutely love her – and how she was willing to defend Retsuko. The other female character with a good amount of characterization is Gori.

She also pulls out a baseball bat with nails in it when she finds out Retsuko has a stalker. That moment made me absolutely love her – and how she was willing to defend Retsuko. The other female character with a good amount of characterization is Gori.

We learn she’s working her ass off to buy a condo – and she finds the idea of needing to pay it off, invigorating, and a motivating way, ensuring she actually completes her matchmaking app idea. And we also learn she is a bit emotional and over-expressive, and she hides that at work, but she’s still good at what she does.

I do wish we saw more of Fenneko – she doesn’t get a lot of growth this season and I do like her character. I also wish Inui, Haida’s love interest in the season and who is also into punk music – got more screentime because in spite of his pining for Retsuko, the two make a sweet couple.

Hilarity Ensues

Okay…let’s face it, the scene where it’s revealed Komiya of all people is the famed idol blogger is hilarious. Retsuko’s reaction…is perfect. It is absolutely hilarious and it came out of nowhere.

Honestly, I’d probably react similarly to her situation.

But it fits so perfectly with the series and with Komiya’s character. I also appreciate he doesn’t rat Retsuko out – but he is very bad at faking that he doesn’t realize something is up. It adds a charming little something to the character. And it throws you off, momentarily about the person running the fake social media.

But, I wish they explored this idea a bit more.

 And I hope they explore this more next season since he is legitimately impressed by Retsuko’s talent and is no doubt legitimately worried after she was attacked by a stalker.

The humor in this season is really great – I think has to do with most of the issues taking place outside the office, which allows the show to explore more and different dynamics and situations. We get hilarious things like Retsuko and Fenneko getting horny over a sexy VR unicorn, Haida apparently being such a lightweight he gets drunk after one beer, and Hyodo’s general incompetence managing an idol group.

And what I like – is we’re never laughing at the people but the situation, though the fanboys may be the exception. It’s kind of different humor than the previous seasons, but it’s still very entertaining regardless.

Also, there’s a lot more actual cursing and profanity this season – at least in the English dub. I had to laugh because Retsuko was called “a slutty cocktease” just really feels out of place with the rest of the show’s tone.

Y’know, except for the murder attempt.

Something I Can’t Explain

For whatever reason, this show has always resonated with me. I’ve always been able to relate to at least some of Retsuko’s situations – particularly being in a frustrating job and just genuinely struggling, as well as being unable to find the words to often stand up for myself.

I wish I was able to make YouTube videos alongside these reviews, but right now I’m unemployed and I can’t justify spending my parents’ money on equipment, not to mention I wouldn’t even know where to begin with such an endeavor.

I’m clueless. And I’m scared of failure, like Retsuko. I don’t think they’re ever going to take her out of the office, which is fine, but since so many of us are job hunting right now, it would be intriguing to see that — but I don’t need to see these characters dealing with COVID- or a pandemic, to be perfectly honest.

I’d much rather have the attempted murder, to be honest – it’s honestly better escapism. Though I still wonder -who hurt you, guys?

Are you okay?

….

Score: 7/10

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Year of release: 2020

Length: 10 episodes; 14-23 minutes

Director/Writer: Rarecho

Producers: Kelly Luegenbiehl, Kaata Sakamoto, Taro Goto, Yoichiro Shimomura, Miyuki Okumura, Akira Takayama, Yasue Mochizuki

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If you liked this review please read: “Beastars” isn’t just for furries and never was.

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