Aggretsuko Takes on a New Significance in These Extraordinary Times

Back in February, Oni Press’ Aggretsuko comic very presciently delved into a plot in which the world was ravaged by the “C-Virus.” It turned those exposed to it into zombie-like creatures, making it impossible for Retsuko and her colleagues to venture into their office safely. While the comic was a sendup of the Resident Evil franchise, both the comic and the latest season of the animated series have taken on a different significance these days.

Aggretsuko’s third season shifts into a weightier, more intense plot that introduces a different kind of energy to the series that, up to this point, had often felt like it was only willing to be but so frank about its main character’s put upon-ness. As Retsuko experiences a brush with proper, in-universe fame that makes her a known entity, she goes through a number of positive and negative twists and turns. It really makes you appreciate how the series has been able to grow past being just a straightforward critique of corporate workplace culture, but there’s also something extra at play.

In building out Retsuko’s existence outside of her office job, Aggretsuko’s third season unintentionally highlights so many aspects of regular life that have sort of gone extinct recently in the our world as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Retsuko becoming a member of an idol group that skyrockets to fame only happens because she’s able to be out and about — something many of us aren’t able to do right now. While out, she gets involved in a car accident that necessitates her bringing in some extra income. Even though her involvement with the idol group initially starts off with her working for them as an accountant, she’s gradually pushed to become an artist in her own right.

The red panda reasons that her best bet at being a successful artist is to learn how to play the guitar so she can accompany her own singing. Retsuko’s able to buff out her musical skills because Haida — of all people — makes an excellent teacher. While there really isn’t all that much that’s particularly special about their interactions, there’s a platonic intimacy to them that feel like something we aren’t going to be able to experience in our world for some time.

What’s eerie about this chapter of Aggretsuko is that it’s chiefly concerned with depicting a world that’s more or less normal in ways that used to very much be the case in the real world — the mundane. The timing of events makes Aggretsuko feel like a nostalgia-driven show that longs for a simpler, less viral time when doom spiraling in one’s office is the sort of thing a person could reasonably do. Assuming that the series continues, it’s going to be very interesting to see whether Sanrio turns Aggretsuko into a weird bit of office-centric escapism or if the brand will pivot to acknowledge the sobering reality that we’re living through.

The series is in a position to make all sorts of commentary about the nature of labour, workers’ rights, and the importance of maintaining a healthy work/life balance, something that’s particularly necessary to remember right now. Hopefully the show’s creators recognise the opportunity they’ve got and capitalise on it in a big way.