Is there anything more disappointing in a TV show than a lackluster final season? Because — damn, did Season 5 of Aggretsuko just didn’t do it for me. It was better than Season 4, but that’s such a low bar to clear.
I honestly remember very little about what happened last season. None of it really matters in Season 5 anyway. But it also kind of sucks, because it feels like nothing really matters in the show. Except for Haida.
But fucking Haida.
After the events of last season, Haida is unemployed, broke, and homeless having spent all his money on online gaming causing his family to kick him out of his apartment. He takes refuge at an internet cafe.
He soon moves in with Retsuko and they both have to face each other’s families. Retsuko seemingly has a new stalker – but this one has a very interesting proposal, he wants her to run for the political party House of Rage in the upcoming House of Representatives election.
It’s a lot – and honestly, kind of disconnected from each other. One plotline or the other would have been fine.
The “will they/won’t they” debacle finally comes to an end. That’s a relief. However, there are some interesting parallels between Retsuko’s video game addiction from Season 3 and Haida’s addiction to loot boxes in this season. It helps cement that the two might actually be meant to be together, which hasn’t been there before.
Also, Retsuko and Haida moving in together was cute, though underdeveloped. I wished the show had devoted more time to looking at their squabbles and how they adjust to living with one another. There are definitely a few instances, but they don’t tell us much about the characters and we don’t see them finding solutions to these issues.
And we finally, finally, get to meet Retsuko’s dad. We don’t get a lot – but it’s clear he cares about his daughter, her happiness, and her future. We also get to see a sweeter side of Retsuko and her mother’s relationship. It’s been so fraught the past few seasons; she’s been extremely overbearing that it’s nice to see her in a more caring, calmer form.
And then we get to see Retsuko return to some of her favorite activities like karaoke and hanging with Washimi and Gori, which have been lacking quite a bit these past two seasons. Retsuko’s relationship with them gets expanded a little bit – we get to understand what drew them to Retsuko in the first place, which is a very sweet moment.
It’s also nice to see Retsuko return to her old karaoke stomping grounds. I bet the guy at the counter missed her, since she used to go so often. In some ways, parts of it harken back to Season 1, which was definitely one of the best seasons of Aggretsuko.
When the stakes were lower – like Retsuko wanting to find a boyfriend and survive her crummy office job, the show was distinctly relatable. And in order to maintain that relatability – the status quo wasn’t allowed to shift too much.
Things could get better but as the seasons progressed, it seemed like no matter what – Retsuko was doomed to stay in her crummy, unfulfilling office job even if she had been a hit on the underground idol scene.
She would always go back to the office. And that’s something, I still struggle to understand in a way. Yes, Retsuko says she wants a quiet life – but she always seemed so happy when performing and so miserable at work.
And the constant return back to the office feels like a depressing reminder of reality. She has options. She doesn’t have to stay in the environment – and yes, it has gotten better but Ton still calls her “Calendar” and it seems the only reason she stays is because it’s what’s expected of her.
The show doesn’t allow any of the progress Retsuko has made to stick and even though in some ways she’s happier than she was in Season 1, she’s still stuck in the same place, more or less.
The whole show is supposed to be about Retsuko raging against everything that bothers her about society, but in the end — she remains part of the culture that bothers her so much. Aggretsuko was groundbreaking in how it portrayed everyday feminine rage.
To have a character like that remain in her situation again and again feels like poor storytelling.
And that’s a problem. Every situation Retsuko has found herself in, particularly post-Season-2 has been because she does what others around her want. She didn’t originally want to be an idol singer but got pressured into it to pay back her debt.
She didn’t want to run for the House of Representatives. And she wasn’t allowed to say no. And while I do feel horrible for her being pressured into these situations – I can’t help but feel like, these are things she might actually want deep down inside.
She would have continued being an idol if it weren’t for the stalker. And had the political race been her own idea – she would have been much more into it. Throughout the show – Retsuko keeps getting pressured by people, whether it’s her family or societal expectations. And the fact, that she falls into the normal life afterwards – makes it feel like that she’s giving into that pressure.
Also if the show could actually take her PTSD from nearly being murdered seriously, that would be great. The OTM Girls letting that politician stalk her is kind of funny on its own but terrifying in context.
Throughout its run, Aggretsuko has really had an issue with pacing; the first two-thirds of the seasons will focus on an issue and then the last few episodes will focus on something related – but also totally different. Like Season 3’s stalker. It can be a bit of a wishlap – and while sometimes it can be good, like in Season 3…Sometimes, it’s a detriment because neither story feels like it gets properly finished.
Just pick one storyline for the season and stick with that. You have 10 episodes and like 3 different plots going on. Just—just pick one main plot and one side plot and focus on those…Personally I found the political plot the most intriguing, so the fact that it wasn’t a huge focus was disappointing.
I would have loved to see Retsuko want to make a change and actually care a bit about politics – rather than just running because everyone else wants her too.
Everyone Kind of Sucks
Tadano buys an internet cafe because he likes the idea of working in a cube. Not such a huge problem until you find out he bought it for his own private use – kind of ruining the purpose of having less space and putting out a whole group of people who we’ve gotten to know throughout the season without a safe home base.
And while the cafe becomes the campaign headquarters, the fact that…Tadano pulled a massive dick move isn’t commented on – even though a whole aspect of the season is being a voice for those upset with the status quo.
Get your themes and storyline straight!!!
Disappointing and underwhelming. It feels like the characters aren’t really much better off than they were in the first season. And not for narrative reasons, but because the show is so obsessed with maintaining a status quo — even when it no longer makes sense.
Aggretsuko isn’t really an episodic show like Spongebob where one episode’s plot doesn’t effect the next. There’s a storyline and it weaves throughout the seasons so having the status quo, go more or less back to normal after every season doesn’t work. It just feels like a waste of time.’
It feels like Retsuko got less and less subversive as the show went on. She spent so long trying to leave her shitty job and she had so many opportunities to do so – that it makes no sense for her to still be there and still letting out her rage at a cheap karaoke place.
She feels so much like the passive, people-pleaser Season 1 Retsuko that I don’t understand what the show is trying to say.
In the end, it still felt more like the Haida show than anything else.
And that’s the scoop.
P.S. Apparently, Haida is the character’s surname…but Retsuko still calls him that throughout their relationship. Like what the fuck? Everyone else seems to be called by their first name – and since Haida is on bad terms with his family, why would he go by his very identifiable last name?
ear of release: 2023
Length: 10 episodes; 17 -33 minutes
Producers: Kelly Luegenbiehl, Kaata Sakamoto, Taro Goto, Yoichiro Shimomura, Miyuki Okumura, Akira Takayama, Yasue Mochizuk