It’s season 5 of the Haida show, I mean, Aggretsuko. After last season‘s increased focus on Haida as the center of Retsuko’s growth, I was hoping that Aggretsuko Season 5 would pivot back into allowing its titular character to take the spotlight. Where we last left off the Netflix Original series, Retsuko and Haida were dating, Haida was unemployed, Retsuko had survived a stalker and given up idol life, and for some reason decided to go back to her soul-sucking office job.
Aggretsuko Season 5 picks up with Haida, like literally episode 1 opens up with Haida on the screen and it never leaves his side. In this season, after Haida quits his job, he is forced out of his apartment that is owned by his parents and begins living in an internet cafe. There, he meets Shikabane, who seems to have given up on everything. Retsuko decides to live with Haida to save him, and family drama ensues. Then, a suspicious man calling himself a Diet member comes to scout Retsuko for political office.
This is going to be a short review, mainly because I have nothing but negative things to say about Aggretsuko Season 5. Half of it is the intentional side-lining of Retsuko and the other half of the frustration is because this disregard for Retsuko as a character detached from Haida is not only the worst it ever has been, but it’s the final season for the series.
Aggretsuko struck viewers, myself included, because of how it approached the everyday world through the eyes of a mild-mannered red panda who let loose to death metal in a karaoke room instead of yelling at her co-workers and sticking up for herself. Over the course of the series, we’ve seen Retsuko tackle capitalism, sexism, horrible coworkers, enforcing familial and workplace boundaries, romance, and ultimately it all circled back into watching her grow into a character who may not know what she wants, but will speak up to ask for it.
That growth through banal moments of life is what made this little anthropomorphic animated comedy grounded, and in Season 4, it began moving away from its lead. Instead, we focused in on Haida, his crush on Retsuko, how he can win Retsuko over, how he can be the hero, etc. Even as the focus, Haida is still a child cosplaying as a grown man, and none of that changes by the series’ end. And while the rom-com of it all wasn’t something to completely throw the show away over, Aggretsuko Season 5 has lost all focus on what made it special.
For six episodes, Aggretsuko Season 5 focuses on Haida, his unemployment, his bad decisions, and his utter lack of awareness for others outside of himself. Then, when the season finally starts to give Restuko something to do, it weighs her pathway to political activism down with a Haida-sized cinderblock so that we only ever see our lead reacting to Haida’s political family. Aggressive Retsuko, the namesake of Aggretsuko, is more like passive-aggressive Retsuko looking to save face and be with Haida while some commentary on Japanese politics is thrown in.
While the series has deftly explored many issues impacting older millennials in Japan and elsewhere, this season’s attempt at exploring employment and the age gap between the citizens of the country and the age of the politicians feels surface-level at best. Instead of digging into the conversation, it’s couched in the romantic drama between Retsuko and Haida, whiffing the potential of using Retsuko’s rage for good.
Aggretsuko Season 5 is the end of a series, and it ultimately leaves its lead character a shell of who audiences first fell in love with. It’s the Haida show, and that’s a damn shame. The series was near perfect when it focused on Retsuko, her coworkers, her life, and how she saw the world. Now, there is close to no magic left.
Aggretsuko Season 5 is available now exclusively on Netflix.
Aggretsuko Season 3
- Rating - 3/103/10
Aggretsuko Season 5 is the end of a series, and it ultimately leaves its lead character a shell of who audiences first feel lin love with. It’s the Haida show, and that’s a damn shame.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.