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Season four of Aggretsuko ended up being one of the more disappointing elements of last year’s anime releases, so much so that I honestly forgot it only came out a year ago. The second half turned into a soap opera style drama that did not match the vibe of any of the previous episodes, essentially abandoning what made the show so unique in the first place. Now, it is possible that I would be a little a bit nicer to season four if I re-watched it now, but it still would not rate particularly highly.
However, Aggretsuko season five feels like a bit more of a return to form, albeit in a direction that still feels incredibly different than the original seasons. The newest storyline looks as a whole look at work-life culture primarily from the perspective of the now unemployed Haida, as well as his and Retsuko’s journey together through self-betterment and their romantic relationship.
Dejection and Apathy
The story of season five is also one that shows just how easy it is to go from well off and secure to utter disaster, even for those who might otherwise might be assumed to be well off or smart enough to “make it.” The opening few episodes, in particular, follow Haida’s brief bout with homelessness after his big wealthy father sends his brother Jiro to kick him out of his apartment. Having spent all his savings on Gacha pulls, he is forced to spend sleep in a net café
The show drives that point home even further with Shikabane, a 21-year-old who happens to be Haida’s video game buddy. Though the two get along well, Shikabane is very much his opposite in her philosophy on life, as she argues that aspiring towards “stability” simply means spending more time to make money for other people. Aggretsuko more or less makes this idea that tagline of the show during the opening episode, starting the season with “the prison of freedom.”
It is Shikabane’s story, along with the story of many like herself, that ultimately fuel the conflict towards the second half, in a way that feels more in line with the spirit of Aggretsuko than did the last season. After meeting Haida’s family and then later getting recruited by the party of rage, Retsuko is ultimately convinced to run against Jiro in a race for the house of representatives.
As confusing as that sounds, the show does tie the narrative together pretty well. Haida’s brother Jiro and his father represent conservative politics in Japan, with his dad’s money coming from right before the bubble of the 90s. Because of this, he tends to look down on poor people, arguing that they simply do not work hard enough. Haida and Retsuko, presumed to be on a much different end of the political spectrum, decide together it would be best to run against them.
The storyline surprised me a bit as well, at least at first. Of course, Aggretsuko always gets into an expected bit of wackiness, buffoonery even, but this still seemed a bit out of left field. However, with Haida no longer working at the same company, a pivot that takes them out of the workplace and into the “real world,” so to speak does feel appropriate. I mean, what else is Retsuko gonna do with all that rage?
At the end of the day, though, Aggretsuko has always had a pretty punk-rock outlook on life. Sure, Japan’s shitty work culture was the main focus, but part of what contributes to that is the lack of political willpower to change anything about it. Even Jiro recognizes this at the end when he says he’ll introduce a bill to force those who are 65 and older to retire. It is not exactly the most nuanced approach to the topic, but nonetheless feels fitting.
The Time for Jokes is Over
Part of what made season four, and to an extent season five as well, so disappointing was, at the end of the day, that it really was not that funny. One of the show’s biggest draws was its ability to weave in edgy and even sometimes incredibly dark humor alongside stories about the usual suspects dealing with their workplace.
Do not get me wrong, it is not as if the season was completely devoid of comedy. The scene where Retsuko and the others find Haida camped out in the net café with Shikabane is pretty funny. In fact, the opening episodes as a whole do a decent job of interweaving those comedic elements someone who has watched the show up until this point might come to expect. However, none of it really rises to the level of being “laugh out loud” hilarious.
If the internet is to be believed, this will be the final season of Aggretsuko, which leaves me with mixed feelings. Though the plotline of season five makes a lot more sense than the back half of season four, it ultimately still feels like a less than ideal departure from where the series was in its initial installments. Not to say it was ever perfect, but a lot of the comedic elements that made it so comedically potent are unfortunately missing.
How did you feel about Aggretsuko’s potential final season? Let me know in the comments.
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