March 25, 2021

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Quick Hit - Aggretsuko: Meet Her Friends

 


I’m a big fan of the anime Aggretsuko that’s about a red panda named Retsuko who works as an accountant at a large corporation in a Japanese city. She’s a young woman/red panda with dating problems, money problems, and a burning desire to quit her office job. Her boss is sexist and demeaning, and he delights in overworking all of his employees, especially Retsuko.  Partially out of social mores and partially out of anxiety, Retsuko takes pains not to stand out. She presents a mild-mannered persona to the world and uses death metal karaoke sessions to vent. The comic Aggretsuko: Meet Her Friends published by Oni Press is an anthology of three short stories about Retsuko, her coworkers, and her friends.

I’m going to focus this review on my favorite of the stories, the second story, “Fenneko’s Grand Plan” which was written by Arielle Jovellanos, and illustrated and colored by Diigii Daguna with lettering by Crank! Retsuko is being blackmailed by a coworker who’s threatening to send everyone in the company a video. In the video, Retsuko is ambushed on the street and asked what two plus two equals. Rattled, Retsuko replies, “twenty-two.” Because she’s an accountant, there is a chance that if her boss, Director Ton, sees it, she could be fired. That’s where Fenneko, the fennec fox, comes in. Fenneko reminds me a lot of Daria Morgendorffer from the MTV cartoon Daria (huh, I’m really dating myself here, aren’t I?). Like Daria, she is sardonic, intelligent, and judgmental. She is able to read people well and though she has no problem making fun of Retsuko, she actually cares a lot about her. Fenneko hatches an elaborate heist-like operation to neutralize the blackmailer. Like all good capers, multiple people are needed to use their various skills at different points. The dialogue feels true to the characters and the plan itself is really quite clever and fun to read.


The art and colors by Diigii Daguna use subtler, more muted colored pencil-like drawings than the other stories in the collection.  The linework is softer and less precise, which really works with characters who are (generally) very cute animals. The office is illustrated with darker, grimmer tones, sometimes directly opposite sunlit skies. I appreciated how the internal thoughts of the characters are drawn in a simplified manner as if they've been too beaten down by their office jobs to daydream in more than one color. Retsuko's heavy metal interludes, by contrast, are drawn with passion, attitude, and 80s awesomeness. I could see “Fenneko’s Grand Plan” being made into an episode of the anime, and since I quickly consumed the third season when it came out, I was glad to spend more time with Retsuko and her friends (and enemies).