NETFLIX's Aggretsuko: Not Your Ordinary Sanrio Character to Help You Through and Adjust Adult-Life Reality

September 05, 2018

How many of us find problems in adjusting life---work life to be exact---after graduating? Entering the part of life we call as reality, as if our glorious childhood (if you luckily had one) and exhausting full drama school life was never real... real enough for us to consider as 'reality', no matter that today might have been in your past tense. Or soon.

Oh, and... as if all these years where we've been through complicated friendship, difficult teachers, shocking passing grade standard, feeling stuck in a wrong major were all just dreams. 

AS IF graduation is a (symbolic) wake-up call to start the real things ahead.

For those who haven't or just about to pass that phase, I will give you a picture. Oh wait, Retsuko will! She is Sanrio's latest female character of a red panda working as an accountant in a trading company. She's uber cute, and she will give you the PERFECT BIGGER picture of how it is going to be like. 

Such life phase might have been represented very well in her newly developed TV series called 'Aggretsuko' with its 10-episodes-long on Netflix for the first season. At least, that's as much as I see it. H
er stories makes me feel like it starts and follows us through, while her white-blank page character develops along the bitter reality it serves one by one to reach certain point in her career life. Bluntly and unmasked---but still Sanrio way.

Retsuko started off her career with nothing but passion for the so-called 'real world'. Turned out, being a responsible citizen by having a steady job and pay taxes wasn't the point of everything. Sometimes, it's about what you do that makes you a whole and whom you work with that shapes who you are. Well, in 'Aggretsuko' case, mostly it is. 

Her passion developed into focusing on fulfilling what society and others expect you to be, which won't answer anything, but to become burdens when those common barriers in office do exist. At this point, I feel like, 'oh finally somebody is speaking out what I'm thinking!' 

Learning from Retsuko, it's time for us to review all the points of what it takes to be a good employee, including what's also good for us despite our responsibility for the profession and the company we work for. The show tells us that we have to have the urge to speak up when somebody is pushing all the norms of becoming good employee while they don't do the same. Fair play, guys! It's important. It's time to ask ourselves, 'Have I been a team player? Have they been team players as well?' 

So yeah, you have the rights to review and re-think anything you're into. And you have to!

Knowing When Breaking the Limit Means Breaking Your Own Good
Aggretsuko portrayed a real depiction of reality we might have in our work life. Everyday, Retsuko faced what most of us would face in the office in general, such as rumor spreader coworkers, irresponsible supervisors, lack of leadership skill bosses, and arrogant seniors. Those result in unbalance workload, unfair treatment, questionable job assignment (regularly making your boss tea? tidying up his desk?) to daily insult and harassment. 

It has been the problem for Retsuko as she's junior, lack of experience and total plain person that has no idea to survive in the middle of competition with fake and ass-licking culture. All she knows later on that she's neglecting her own happiness in order to keep on going. 

On top of everything, what bothers her most is her work load. But let's put it this way: life is unfair. And if we follow it all to let that just happen, instead of making it better for our own good, you might learn a hard way to accept it. 

Some seniors might say to you, "I give you this much load so that you will grow and have more experience than anyone else." This might be beneficial to you, I can see it's a chance. But certain kind of seniors only use this as an excuse, because they simply don't like you (impatiently looking for your probable mistakes due to overwhelmed situation) or because you seem more reliable than your peers. It could be giving you more work means giving themselves less headache (as they will handle lesser mistakes from your less reliable teammates). Due to the latest trending work method, bosses have less time to grow their team, as well as to grow themselves into better leader.

It makes things more interesting that the show appears amidst plenty of media exposures of Japanese hardworking yet unhealthy career life (karoshi) which attract global attention these past years. It's more than rumors gangs, seniority, etc... but the wrong way of work.

So when suicides and dying from overwork stories hit Japan work life image, I was working in an agency where my life would start at 6AM from briefs and updates on Whatsapp Chats and landing in the office by 8AM, and my day would end at 10 or 11PM. Well, 9PM when I was lucky. That made almost more than 12 hours in a day for working, cut it out for 15 mins of lunch. FYI, many times I skipped dinner. But we're not going to my part now, I'm just about to tell you... sometimes we know when it got to stop.

...working on weekends for weeks non-stop, too.... ok, I'll stop.

Sometimes, we forgot to think through wisely and further when we're drained by such situation. I know it's awesome to dedicate yourself for work, company and industry that brings up the economy. Thinking how huge contribution you give, but you got to know that... the world and yourself is much bigger than that. You just need to give yourself a chance to grow more instead of doing the same struggle. Because, maybe it's not you... it's them.

When it's too much for you to handle, time to review all this: Are you being groomed into someone more awesome or are you being tricked deeper into some miserable company culture?

Yes, there's a such thing called exploitation.

When it's too much, really too much to handle after you tried hard for so long and nothing happens for good, just remember, you need your sanity, physical health and time for more exciting things ahead. Don't spend it to cover some incapable leaders' faces which also benefit your temporarily.

It's ok when you've tried enough, nothing happens, and you're no longer ok with that.

What to Expect When You're Expecting the Awesome Beginning
So basically, what makes work unhealthy that we have to figure out how to deal with it?

Ok, you, first-jobbers... you might celebrate those finish line you've reached by partying hard, because I don't know whether you can still do that or not in... 'reality'. Why?

Lemme prepare you. As someone with burning passion after graduation like Retsuko, so ready to have real job experience, first thing first... never expect too high. What you do at first might not always be high-risk job that seems very interesting or cool from afar. Your superiors might let you do small stuffs and count on you for those things they are lazy to do... besides, they want to look cooler than you by having someone working on the dirty laundry for them. Get that well. It's okay. Remember: this too shall pass. Let's call this one as: first fact.

However, those small stuffs you did well or extra mile might give your credit for reliability level. Gain more trust from small stuffs. Shall you not underestimate it those small stuffs. Sometimes, you have to sweat them out for good.

Secondly, when worse things go worst, here's a useful note: I've learned that some leaders are actually lucky for the positions they have. Sorry. Just being truthful. So, they are basically unable to grow you into a better person and/or a better professionals. You might recount all impactful contributions you have delivered for the company, for yourself and for the profession you hold dear. If you haven't improved by 3 - 6 months, then you might suspect that things will be the same as it is in the next one, you know you have to choose to grow somewhere else instead of being in a comfort zone (read: a battlefield you're already familiar with, even though it's comfort at all).

In my experience, I met people who are proudly saying to me for having work in the same place for 5-7 years (some, for the same position). Turned out, their department didn't have Standard Operating Procedures (then I was the one who established the SOP design). When I deliver new fresh ideas, they seemed to be reluctant, too. Worse, as they said they knew the company in details for years they have spent there, I proved they knew nothing (like Jon Snow), about what they're doing and how their profession can be in bigger picture. Worst, they worked so slowly, no matter they said they were fluent in doing their day-to-day jobs. 

So, for years, they learned slowly and small. Seriously, don't be that kind of person. Always expect to be the game changer. If the company resists, well, you're too good to be there. In fact, I spent only a year and left. That was the best decision I've ever made, no matter how complicated I felt about leaving all the company's benefits and facilities. Note to myself: I should have left sooner than that.

I know some of my peers who are also tricked by flowery words of what's coming their ways after the hard work they deliver and how huge the game they're controlling to boost their pride about their jobs. As result, they work hard and harder. Sacrificing all the work-life balance. 

Those who trick them usually bombarded them with a certain kind of 'motivations', such as getting publicity, winning an award, invitations/offers to become speakers, and other appearances to be get acknowledged by mass layer of audiences, as sets of benchmark of success. I'm telling you, those glittery side of being well-known as expert (or anything) are not false, but they're not real. Once you grow up, you'll know adults can be a real Oscar-winning-level actors to gain such things.

I'm not saying for you to become cynical or pessimistic, but to become realistic and cautious. You need to stay alert.

Number one clue: 

First face

Second face

Anyway, what could become the daily problem? 

However, Tsubone is right, we need to build up the muscles, but it should not be too much about it. Anything too much is never good. At the beginning, build it up is cool... then maintaining is another story, another way. 

If you stay with the same obstacles, doing the same thing all over again, you might lose yourself while you don't learn anything new and more. Once you realize it, the world around you might have shifted too far that you don't recognize anymore. Yes, you will learn so much the very details in dealing with incapable peers and superiors within weak system. But, is it all about it? Of course not. You are more capable (and you should) than you think to deal with more challenges ahead which would mark a legacy. Change is a consistent nature, you need to balance yourself in adapting to its roll.

Release the Pain Gradually
Ok, you might want to wait a little bit more... with possibility that things might change. Here's a useful tip from Retsuko.

Unlike other dreamy and usual cutesy Sanrio characters, Aggretsuko (Aggresive Retsuko) has brought another representation of both sweet and feminine power. The story line also strongly shows how dominant masculine culture rules workplace and how it collides with person with different vibe. To keep up with daily anger she had, she secretly went to a karaoke place to let it out through heavy metal songs....  even for me, a Sanrio fans (with enormous anger still left inside), it's rather unexpected.

Hi, I'm still Sanrio's mascot, okay? Don't forget me just yet....

Ok, we all have our own way to release pain (and we have to release that pain). This 'Aggretsuko' show is a reminder that we shouldn't judge or be judged of our own power and how we deal with things, too (as long as we don't harm ourselves and others during the process, right?) 

However, this also reminds me when I was in college, in class we discussed a lot about Japanese workplace habits, such as punching bags prepared in a break room for employees to release their stress for treatments and pressures they got from their superiors. Well, I didn't see that in 'Aggretsuko' though, yet all I enjoyed was the after-work scenes where she went to karaoke place by herself.

Anyway... when things get heated up, sometimes being angry is a must. I mean, you have to speak up as many people are just too senseless to understand what you're into. Obsession of being reliable and responsible in reward of manipulation isn't an equal give and take.

If that doesn't work, you can always try Retsuko's way. Not exactly a heavy metal karaoke, you can always try something you like... and it must not always the same. Up to you! Your life, your control, you are welcome to change your habit anytime you feel like it.

The TV show might say a lot of Japanese culture, but it doesn't mean we can't relate to Retsuko's condition. From the whole bigger picture of company culture to her stages of personality. From being a passionate worker, responsible citizen to financially struggle young employee and desperation to get married in order to quitting work. 

Even so, marriage is undoubtedly becoming temptation. However, she's lucky to be warned by Washimi, the fierce eagle Yoga buddy, who can be the example for all career women. Retsuko's love story gave her a lesson: it shouldn't be distraction escape for your troublesome career life.

Another story often happens for female workers though. As leadership mostly dominated by men, there is certain unwritten expectation to female workers. Such as being easy, nice, smiley and always ready and receptive to be humiliated. I've mentioned earlier that Retsuko's alterego brings up the issue of what might seem to be two clashing personalities: being herself and being what people expect her to be. It's about time the two can't hide to collide.

... and it's okay.

Anyway, the point is... the show 'ruins' my so-so expectation as it has more entertaining bits with an unmasked intense bitterness of reality with comedy and it shocks me a little with the heavy metal thingy Retsuko is attached to as her secret power, which is for me it's a new trend way of release pain. Ha! Blunt twist, I like that.

What Sanrio is Up to?
The TV show is said to have Season 2 confirmed to develop. I hope everyone is happy as the TV show can make us feel we're not alone in a cute yet strong way. The show itself has been a worthy distraction and an absolute pain relief... where one can feel like telling all the hardships and difficulties at work without literally doing so.

As Japanese culture is injected in the foundation of the characters, set in Japan and lots of insights about living in Japan, I hope this show can be a wake-up call for individuals and trailblazers in various industries and levels to establish a new healthy work environment. 

I really hope the next season 2 will not just only make up a funny story to watch, but still a drama we can enjoy as we can share the feeling while enjoying it. 

Season 1 didn't forget to include the issue on ultimate tendencies to repeat unhealthy cycle of seniority and abuse. Generation gap between the superiors to juniors make abuse out of question with seniors definitely play about past treatments they received as excuse and boast it as good example of grooming juniors. Well, there shouldn't be an excuse.

But, once we got in that career life jungle, we would think of vacation and leave for awhile as a 'dream'. Because when we have to go back, we'd say, "go back to reality". Umm, it seems like 'reality' is another stop in life to visit. Now, your choice.

(all GIFs sourced from and photos from Netflix)

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