Aggretsuko has easily become the Netflix Original series that captures the banality of adult life while wrapping it all up into an entertaining package, and now it’s time for Season 4. The Sanrio and Netflix collaborative animation has dealt with bad work-life balance, romance, overbearing moms, nasty co-workers, and the crushing weight of capitalism and debt.
Last season, the 25-year-old red panda Retsuko became an idol, dealt with a stalker, and tried her hardest not to become a pancake under a mountain of debt, and got a boyfriend who wasn’t an annoying tech bro scared of commitment. Aggretsuko Season 4 focuses on Retsuko’s relationships, primarily her budding relationship with her longtime friend Haida and her co-workers. But like the seasons before it, we explore these relationships through the lens of the Japanese work system. When a new boss makes his way to Retsuko’s company, he begins to force employees out. You see, in Japan, as the season maps out, you can’t lay people off easily, but you can make them so miserable that it’s “their choice” to leave.
At first, Aggretsuko Season 4 seems to allow Retsuko the agency to finally put annoying co-workers in their place, so to speak, but her words are revealed to be careless when they “choose to leave” their jobs. From that point on, the season becomes engrossed with having Retsuko make amends for voicing her dislike of characters who are pretty unlikable and humanizing them. Instead of being the misogynistic boss, Ton is a father who is ashamed that he quit his job. Instead of being the busy body whose gossip throws people under a very large bus, Kabae is a mom trying to balance her work life and her child. And sure, these characters now have depth, but with that depth comes a shame that Retsuko develops for enforcing a boundary with them and honestly speaking about how uncomfortable they make her.
The entirety of the season is about Retsuko righting her wrongs, and when it’s not about that, it’s about Haida. Sure, Aggretsuko Season 4 brings up issues of Haida’s insecurity with Retsuko pushing back on him, but this is undercut by how much we see of their relationship from Haida’s perspective. Now, I love Haida, and I have since Season 1. That said, Haida’s insecurities and work-life become the focus of the season to the point that Retsuko becomes a side character in her own show.
Aggretsuko has done a great job of building relationships and exploring banal but crushing elements of adult life in an entertaining way. However, Retsuko has been at the center of it all, and it’s been her story about her growth. Here though, it may as well be the Haida show. There is a balance to exploring side characters that this season just can’t strike, sacrificing Retsuko’s growth and even agency to build empathy with the people around her.
Sure there is still a commentary on how the companies treat employees and how a romantic relationship’s success relies on communication and trust between partners. But Aggretsuko Season 4 misses the mark by forgetting the journey Retsuko has been on across the past three seasons and pushing her to the periphery in favor of making insufferable characters more relatable. There’s nothing aggressive about Retsuko this season; she commodifies her talent and cathartic release to make up for finally voicing how terrible her boss is to her. I don’t know if there is a Season 5 in the cards for Aggretsuko, but if there is, I hope it recenters itself on Retsuko and her agency instead of making her everyone else’s savior.
Aggretsuko Season 4 is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Aggretsuko Season 4
- Rating - 5/105/10
Sure there is still a commentary on how the companies treat employees and how a romantic relationship’s success relies on communication and trust between partners. But Aggretsuko Season 4 misses the mark by forgetting the journey Retsuko has been on across the past three seasons and pushing her to the periphery in favor of making insufferable characters more relatable.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.