There are a lot of things to love about Aggretsuko, the Netflix anime series about Retsuko, an adorable red panda who is deeply unhappy at her office accounting job. The show, written and directed by Rarecho, an animator who first came to mainstream attention with the Flash-animated series Yawaraka Tank, has mastered the contrast between its bubbly, hyper-cute tone — it’s based on a Sanrio property, after all — and its deeply depressing, prosaic content.
Much of the first season of Aggretsuko focuses on Retsuko’s situation as a young woman in the office, which opens her up to harassment on the part of her boss Director Ton, who is literally a pig. Aggretsuko explores Retsuko’s position in a lot of different ways, looking at her relationships with coworkers Haida and Fenneko, her failed attempt to quit her job and work with an old friend, and, of course, her use of death metal karaoke as a way to relieve stress and perform a soliloquy to the audience. The smartest way Aggretsuko examines how women are treated in the workplace, however, is by providing examples for what Retsuko aspires to: a pair of side characters who seem to have it all.
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My Neck, My Glass Ceiling Crack, This Bad Bitch Walk Is Murder On My Back
In the show’s first episode, Retsuko catches a brief glimpse of two older women in her office: Director Gori, a gorilla who is also the director of marketing, and Ms. Washimi, a secretary bird who is the secretary to the president of the company, and who actually holds most of the power at the firm. Gori and Washimi are introduced to the audience through a scene in which Retsuko and her friends Fenneko and Haida watch the two women power walk down the hallway.
In just this one brief, glimpse, Gori and Washimi look incredibly cool: they’re backed by booming, echoing guitars, holding folders full of presumably important business papers, and sparkles literally frame their bodies. In contrast to Retsuko’s wide, white eyes, Gori and Washimi appear to have their eyes confidently closed — or, at least, they’re narrow enough that we can’t make out what they’re feeling (too stoic for that). Fenneko and Retsuko blush, their mouths agape. Retsuko has a professional crush.
So it’s natural that, at first, it seems like Aggretsuko is depicting this walk from Retsuko’s point of view. Gori and Washimi are two cool older ladies in the office, powerful women who, as Fenneko puts it, ”really have their stuff together” and effortlessly walk in formation. It’s the ideal, what Retsuko aspires to in her career once she overcomes the constant harassment of Director Ton — a contrast that Haida hammers home when he describes Gori and Washimi as “the type of woman Director Ton hates.” They do what they want. They’re untouchable.
But the moment Retsuko and her friends are out of sight, Gori collapses: “To tell you the truth, walking this way hurts my back.” (In the English dub, she says “Not gonna lie, our baddest bitch in the room walk is murder on my back.”) But Washimi, who goes on to recommend a chiropractor to her friend, reminds Gori: “We must not show any signs of weakness at the office.” Retsuko, of course, is practically a walking orange “WEAKNESS” sign.
Women Should Not Have To Use Kaio-Ken x 1,000 In The Workplace
In addition to being hilarious and cool, the depiction of Gori and Washimi’s walk is a fantastic accomplishment in metaphorical animation — it demonstrates the way in which the two women are literally projecting an aura of power and coordination, which they’re capable of maintaining as long as they do a lot of work first. It’s essentially an anime superpower, a version of the Dragon Ball power augmentation technique kaio-ken that only works while you’re on the way to the elevator.
The walk is the embodiment of the way Gori and Washimi need to be seen by the rest of the employees. Like makeup, skincare, or fashion, it’s an element of self-presentation that takes a lot of work to pull off successfully — and often, when you’ve done it right, nobody thinks you’ve done any work at all.
But, like a weakened Goku at the end of a long, punishing fight, the amount of work required to maintain the walking technique takes its toll on the two women.
Over the course of Aggretsuko’s second season, Washimi and Gori begin to expose themselves. They’ve become friends with Retsuko, which opens them up to more intimate, vulnerable presentation from the show’s animation. In one episode, Gori admits in a private moment with Retsuko that there are times when she questions her decision to focus on her career at the expense of a romantic partnership. In this moment, she’s framed on a black background, under a spotlight, doing the same walk — toward an unclear professional future, and away from emotional fulfillment.
Eventually, Gori and Washimi’s friendship fractures after a fight about their respective life priorities — Gori does want to get married at some point, while Washimi has taken the lesson of an early failed marriage to heart and refuses any potential for a long-term romantic relationship. One of the last times we see the two of them together in the season, they both do the walk at each other, consciously bump shoulders in the hallway. It, too, is framed like a cool anime technique, but now it’s one that marks a sense of sadness. Any power that can be used for good can also be used for evil.