A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Aggretsuko is an animated series about a cartoon character who's fed up with her lot in life and channels her anger into singing aggressive metal songs. The series is in Japanese with English subtitles, and the themes are mature: Retsuko is mad at her boss, at her co-workers, at a society that tells her being cute and passive is more important than being happy or self-actualized, nuanced themes that may be difficult for young viewers to grasp. Retsuko is a strong and complex character, but her co-workers are depicted somewhat stereotypically: a rude male chauvinist pig (literally a pig), a wide-eyed deer who is flirtatious and conniving. A large-bodied character shakes floors and walls when he stomps around an office. Retsuko often drinks beer when she's angry; she never acts drunk but parents may wish to point out that this isn't a healthy coping mechanism. Language is mild: "Crap" is about as iffy as it gets (though she calls other characters things like a "waste of flesh"). It's worth noting that like other Sanrio characters, Retsuko is featured on a wide variety of products for sale at stores and online.
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What's the story?
By all appearances, Retsuko (Kaolip) is a typical demure young woman. She works at an office, she wears traditional clothes, she does what she's told no matter how much she wants to rebel inwardly. But in her private life, she transforms into AGGRETSUKO, who sings heavy metal songs, chugs beers, and does exactly what she wants to do -- not what other people expect her to do. Retsuko knows she's not happy. She's less sure how to transform her current reality. But she's determined to live a life that doesn't fill her with fury, and slowly, surely, she's finding a way to make her dreams come true.
Is it any good?
Everything you need to understand about this anime curiosity is in the show's titles, which start out kawaii pink and sweet, then morph into heavy metal riffs and flames. The subtext is clear, and hilarious: The adorable, dulcet-toned characters Sanrio made famous have a furious, rebellious side they've kept secret so far. But the secret's out: They want equality and respect, and they want it now. This tamped-down female fury is personified in Retsuko, whose sweet face and fuzz hide a sharp mind and an even sharper sense of being overlooked and mistreated, not just by the (literal) pig who's the head of her office, but also by a society that expects her to look cute, wear heels, serve men tea, and expect nothing for herself.
And so, Retsuko's habit of singing angry heavy metal songs alone in a rent-by-the-hour karaoke booth is at first just a blowing-off-steam hobby, but soon it becomes a battle cry. She's not the passive, pretty, obedient girl that she's been told to be. She's something more -- and now that she knows it, she's going to find a way to make her everyday life more closely resemble her dreams of agency and authority. Like most of us, Retsuko's not exactly sure how she's going to transform her current situation into one that makes her happy. But now that she's in touch both with her emotions and the unfairness of what's routinely asked of her, she's well on her way to making changes. Aggretsuko only looks like it's aimed at the young girls who squeal over wee Hello Kitty notepads, or My Melody squishy key chains -- its real audience is the growing cadre of girls and women who have had enough, and need a takes-no-prisoners hero to relate to.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about who Aggretsuko is designed to appeal to. Do you think the fact that it's animated gives it more "kid appeal" than a live-action version? Do you think people often assume that anything animated is OK for younger viewers?
Families can talk about how advertising works. Does watching this series make you want to own Retsuko merchandise? Is it necessarily bad to be influenced by what you see on TV? What role do things play in overall happiness?
Kids: Does watching this show and others like it make you want the toys that are featured? Do you think that's what this show's purpose is? Why do we like to have products with characters' faces on them?