Aggretsuko (Season 3): Choke on My (Relatable) Rage – Netflix Review

The overworked, underpaid, death metal singing Red Panda returns.

SUMMARY

If you’re not familiar with the show, I’ve reviewed seasons 1 and 2 here and here. Watch it. Love it.

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.

Choke on her adorable rage.

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.

Their height difference is not the problem… or is it?

END SUMMARY

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.

Take it all, you sexy, sexy unicorn.

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.

A clip from “Screw You Capitalism” which is as unsubtle as it sounds.

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.

This guy is horrifying. And yeah, the mask is unrelated to Corona.

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. 

They did a good job drawing “nervously concentrating.”

Overall, solid season, but a bit intense at times compared to the previous ones. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Seven Deadly Sins/Nanatsu no Taizai (Seasons 1-4): A Little Formulaic at Times, but Still Fun – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

It’s always fun to watch bad guys be the best good guys.

SUMMARY

In the land of Brittania (not to be confused with any real place with similar name), the kingdom of Liones lived in relative peace until the king was overthrown by the Holy Knights, his elite armed forces. The Princess, Elizabeth Liones (Sora Amamiya/Erika Harlacher), set out to find the exiled warriors who previously betrayed the Holy Knights, the Seven Deadly Sins. She actually manages to find Meliodas (Yūki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook), the captain of the Sins, and the pair embark on a quest to find the others. They succeed in locating four more of the group: Ban the immortal (Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Ben Diskin), Diane the giant (Aoi Yūki/Erica Mendez), King the Elf (Jun Fukuyama/Max Mittelman), and Gowther the doll (Yuhei Takagi/Erik Scott Kimerer). The five, later joined by Merlin the sorceress (Maaya Sakamoto/Lauren Landa), manage to liberate the kingdom from the Holy Knights, only to discover that the entire takeover was engineered to release an even greater threat: The demonic Ten Commandments. Together with the seventh Sin, Escanor (Tomokazu Sugita/Kyle Hebert), the group must stop the Demon Clan from taking over Brittania.

But only King wears a hoodie.

END SUMMARY

I will admit that when I first checked out this series, I had already read some of the manga, so I think I might have expected too much of it. The anime is a pretty faithful adaptation, particularly compared to some others that I’ve seen, but it didn’t feel like it added enough for me. As a result, I kinda bailed after the second season. However, since the manga has wrapped up in the interim, I decided I wanted to see how the story ended. So, I checked it out again and I will say that they did get a little bit better at layering extra imagery onto the anime that wasn’t in the manga to keep it fresh. 

They did a good job on some of the possession movements, for example.

The main thing that I liked about the series at the beginning was that most of the main characters were, in fact, depicted as sinners. Meliodas was a pervert who constantly groped Elizabeth (which she apparently liked, but is still wrong) and was presumed to be concealing an impossible amount of rage beneath his joking facade. Ban was a thief, King was responsible for his species nearly being destroyed, Diane constantly tried to force Meliodas into a relationship with her, Gowther was literally amoral, Merlin was willing to experiment on people without their knowledge, and Escanor, as is true to his sin, was the embodiment of haughty pride. Having protagonists with such flaws almost always makes the story more interesting, but they tried to make a few of them a little more likable at the cost of removing that moral ambiguity. Still, the personalities and character traits are pretty solid for a show like this. 

Seriously, dude, not cool.

It also helps that the show references a diverse number of mythologies, either directly or via allusion, and that it builds on elements from them to quickly create a world that contains a huge number of species and cultures. The show has traditional fantasy races like elves and giants, but also celestial and demonic forces that are a blend of DnD and Abrahamic religions. Arthurian mythology is directly invoked, as is modern vampire mythology and even some Western pop literature. 

I mean, there’s an Arthur Pendragon who rules Camelot. That’s… blatant.

The biggest problem, for me, was that the series had to do the Dragon Ball Z thing of having to constantly level up the powers of the characters in order to keep them as the underdogs. The series even gives you a “power level” reader just to make sure that you understand that these threats completely outclass our protagonists, such that when the Ten Commandments are first introduced, one of their number is stronger than all of the Sins combined. This seemed almost unnecessary because the Commandments also had innovative powers that could have made them a threat even if they were just even in power. Still, so many series have done this, I can hardly hold it against them. I just appreciate it more when series, like One Piece, for example, at least hint from the beginning that this kind of power exists in the world, so that it doesn’t just feel like the narrator saying “well, you beat Bob the Unbeatable, now you have to beat Tim the More Unbeatable who we didn’t mention before now.”

Screw you, Tim.

Overall, I do still think it’s a solid series. Plus, it has an apparent end point in the next season or two, so you don’t have to worry about sitting around 10 years from now waiting for the arc to finish. Lookin’ at you, One Piece.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

BNA (Brand New Animal): Beastmen can be the Most Human – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

I take a look at Netflix’s new story about discrimination. It’s solid.

SUMMARY

Humanity is not alone. Since ancient times, the beastkin, humans who can shift into humanoid animal forms, have lived on Earth, but have been hated for as long as anyone can remember. They have finally managed to find refuge in Japan in Anima City, a metropolis built just for them. The newest arrival is Michiru Kagemore (Sumire Morohoshi/Cherami Leigh), a tanuki beastman, who was formerly a normal human high school girl until a year prior. Having grown sick of hiding from humans who now want to harm her, she heads to the city to find a cure for her condition. She gets caught up in a bombing attempt by terrorists and is saved by Shirou Ogami (Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ben Diskin), a wolf beastman with incredible strength and regenerative ability. Soon, Michiru finds herself embroiled in a massive conspiracy involving a large pharmaceutical company, a religious cult, and a beastman mafia. 

Weirdly, Michiru thinks she’s a raccoon for a while. Tanukis are way cooler.

END SUMMARY

Unlike most anime shows (at least as far as I have watched), this series was apparently completely original. While there is now a manga and a light novel series in this universe, they both were created after the anime was already developed. I think that may be why the style of animation seems so different from most other modern anime, seemingly pulling more from the style of Scott Pilgrim or other modern Western comics, themselves a blend of techniques, for some of the shots. It’s extremely colorful, containing a lot of day-glo imagery. The fight animations are pretty awesome throughout, although they get a little overblown towards the end of the series with the neon colors. Bottom line, the style may be what draws you to it or it may repulse you. It’s gonna depend on what kind of “purist” you are. Personally, I thought it was fine. 

The promotional art is a little more stylized, I’ll grant you.

The overarching theme of this show is discrimination, something that most animal-themed media seem to want to talk about nowadays. However, while Beastars and Zootopia both had some issues due to the nature of their societies being based around carnivores and herbivores, this series eschews that complication entirely. Deer beastmen can eat meat, lions can be vegetarians, they’re just regular people who were also born with these abilities. As such, they can stand in for almost any group that faces discrimination based on their birth. Throughout BNA, we see a buildup of violence among the beastmen that causes them to lash out, but the show subtly indicates that it’s because too many of them live in too small a space. In other words, if they weren’t forced to live in a refuge city because of discrimination, they wouldn’t be violent, but their oppressors use the violence as justification to keep them suppressed. If you can’t find a metaphor there, then I recommend reading up on history between 1930 and 1965. Any country, really. 

And Beastmen can be totally normal looking when not in beast form.

The reason why the message works so well in BNA is because the main character goes through a massive amount of personal growth and discovery throughout the storyline. Michiru was a regular human until shortly before the story begins, meaning that while she might have been aware of the bias against beastmen, it was not “real” to her in the way that it is after she becomes one. She, like most people, seemed to perceive Anima City as a utopia for Beastmen, only realizing afterwards that it basically exists only at the mercy of the humans, who constantly threaten to remove financial funding or business or, really, just blow it the hell up. Then, at the end of the series, we find out that there is a very powerful group who just want to “cure” all of the beastmen and damned if that doesn’t have a number of historical nasty parallels as well. 

There’s a great baseball episode, too.

Overall, just a solid series. It’s pretty accessible to almost any age group and, like I said, it handles the metaphor better than most shows. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Aggretsuko: The Only Anime To Nail Modern Life (Spoiler-Free)

It’s a Red Panda singing Death Metal. If you aren’t intrigued, please call a doctor.

SUMMARY (Spoiler Free)

Retsuko (Kaolip and Rarecho (Japan)/Erica Mendez and Jamison Boaz (Eng.)) is a 25-year-old red panda who works in the accounting department of a large company with her friends Fenneko, a fennec fox (Rina Inoue/Katelyn Gault) and Haida, a hyena (Shingo Kato/Ben Diskin). She is constantly beaten down by the monotony of the work, the harassment of her boss, Mr. Ton (Souta Arai/Josh Petersdorf), and the treachery of her senior accountant Tsubone (Maki Tsuruta/Debra Cardona). To cope with all of the stress in her life, Retsuko lets out her frustrations by going to karaoke and busting out Death Metal songs about her life. Most of the series is just her dealing with things like dating, meeting new friends, trying to lose weight, and trying to find a way out of her job.

Aggretsuko - 1Cast.png
Such adorable characters in such soul-crushing existences.

END SUMMARY

First of all, Red Pandas are the greatest animal on Earth and my strongest case for my belief in a higher power, as nothing that cute can possibly have evolved naturally (Note: This is a joke, I get how natural selection works). As such, it made sense that Sanrio, the company famous for making Hello Kitty, would eventually use them as the basis for one of their characters. However, I could never have believed that they would have come up with this series, which, while the characters are mostly adorable, is about as bleak and unforgiving as… reality, I guess.

Aggretsuko - 2RedPanda.jpg
Behold, the greatest of all the Earth’s Creatures.

Retsuko’s public persona is unimpressive in almost every way. She makes a lot of mistakes at her job, she has social anxiety, she’s insecure, she isn’t good at dealing with her bosses or her co-workers, and that’s sort of what puts her in the situation we find her in at the beginning of the series. She’s become so unhappy that it actually starts to lead to her making bad decisions that end up getting her in even more trouble at work, but, like most people, she absolutely can’t afford to lose her job. I hope that this doesn’t resonate with any of you, dear readers, but this does seem to resemble many people I know… and am. She doesn’t really have any hope of promotion in the near future, particularly since the people being promoted aren’t necessarily the people who do the best work, but she doesn’t really have anything else she can do. Even if she looks for another job, it’s likely to be a similar position within another massive company that will have the same problems. The only people who seem to be avoiding it are people who have parents helping them up. Basically, she’s most people between the ages of 25 and 40.

Aggretsuko - 3Room.png
Including her living space. 

Retsuko’s only respite is that she secretly goes and sings Death Metal in an amazing voice and generally takes on the appearance of a demon while she does (becoming Aggressive Retsuko, or Aggretsuko). At first, she tries desperately to hide the fact that she does this, but as the series goes on, she becomes more open about it, particularly after she befriends Washimi (Komegumi Koiwasaki/Tara Platt) and Gori (Maki Tsuruta/G.K. Bowes), two high-powered women within the office. By the end of the series, she’s sung in front of almost everyone, although several people think they were just drunk and hallucinating Retsuko busting out super-loud metal. There are usually 1-2 songs per episode and they’re all pretty amazing, particularly the ones where Retsuko is complaining about her boss.

Aggretsuko - 4Rage.png
CHOKE ON HER RAGE!!!!!

I do have to give them credit for how they made the animals representative (for the most part) of the characters. For example, Mr. Ton is a pig (because he’s a chauvinist), Fenneko is a fennec because she overhears everything like a fennec fox, Washimi is a secretary bird (she’s the head of secretarial), and Gori is a gorilla (because she’s head of marketing… guerilla marketing). I still haven’t figured out what, if any, meaning there are to some of the other animals, but I’m betting there’s some pun in Japanese.

Aggretsuko - 5Hatred.png
Destroying her pig boss.

This show is good in both Japanese and English, so don’t let people pressure you to only do subtitles.

Overall, I like the show, mostly because it’s just representative of the bleak nature of adulthood in the modern era. We spend all of our time working and most of us don’t even talk to people about the things that we love to do for fun because it might not be “socially acceptable.” Give it a shot sometime.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.