The overworked, underpaid, death metal singing Red Panda returns.
Retsuko (Kaolip/Rarecho/Erica Mendez/Jamison Boaz) is trying to get over ending her relationship with Tadano (Chiharu Sasa/Griffin Burns) and gets addicted to VR games, with the microtransactions eating away at her savings. She then gets into a car accident which results in her owing a man named Hyodo (Sota Arai/SungWon Cho) ¥200,000 (~$1900). She takes a job working for him as the financial manager of his Idol Group O.T.M. However, she soon finds herself recruited into the band and followed by an angry stalker.
Meanwhile, Haida (Shingo Kato/Ben Diskin) finds the new girl, Inui (Rina Inoue/Abby Trott), is interested in him. Fenneko (Inoue/Katelyn Gault), Gori (Maki Tsuruta/G.K. Bowes), Washimi (Komegumi Koiwasaki/Tara Platt), and even Tadano encourage him to ask out Inui and abandon his unreciprocated crush on Retsuko.
So, I knew this season was going to be pretty good when one of the first lines in it is Retsuko looking at a VR boyfriend who asks her for money and she screams “Take it all, you sexy unicorn!” There is no work of art anywhere that includes those lines and is not good. If they had included that phrase somewhere in Gigli, it would have won three Oscars.
The key to this show has always been how well it meshes the cute Sanryo characters with the crushing reality of their lives. In this season, Retsuko gets caught up indulging herself in a new hobby, in this case a VR Boyfriend game, which puts her in financial jeopardy. She manages to cut back enough to keep afloat, but one accident later, she’s completely screwed. If you’ve ever had a sudden medical expense or a car problem that wasn’t covered by insurance, you understand this problem. When the full extent of her circumstances become apparent, she even busts out a song entitled “Screw you capitalism,” which I’m sure will be reblogged repeatedly by certain groups on the internet. I would draw attention, though, to the fact that, although Retsuko is a relatively low-wage worker by Japan’s standards, she is never really in danger of losing her apartment and she actually had several thousand dollars in savings before she spent it all on her game. I just find it interesting.
This is the first season where Retsuko’s singing has really become a plot point. She is forced to perform in front of an audience in order to help pay back her debt, but actually starts to become moderately successful. While it is fun to see her achieve a dream, the show quickly reminds people of the price of celebrity. She is pursued by a stalker in one of the creepiest depictions since the film Perfect Blue (which I’m reviewing next month, if you haven’t seen it). Despite the fact that she had nothing to do with what the stalker dislikes about the band, the experience is deeply traumatic.
I also like the way they handled Haida this season, because he is still portrayed as flawed and the show points out repeatedly that, despite his long standing crush, he actually doesn’t know that much about her. He just admires her from afar rather than talking to her. Inui actually makes an effort to talk to Haida, which finally gets him to recognize his failings.
Overall, solid season, but a bit intense at times compared to the previous ones.
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