Let’s Talk about Aggretsuko (2018)

Browsing through Netflix is a common occurrence for the bored in the 21st century. And that’s where I came across Aggretsuko. It’s colorful and simple art style and cute characters immediately caught my attention. After noticing that each episode is just 15 minutes long, and the season is 10 episodes – I decided I should give the show a try.

Aggretsuko is short for Aggressive Retsuko. It is one of Sanrio’s latest character creations (the company responsible for Hello Kitty, Keroppi, and Gudetama. The story follows Retsuko, 25 year old, female, red-panda working in the accounting division of a fictional Japanese company along with a colorful cast of pigs, foxes, hippos, and the like. The basic story arc follows Retsuko’s relatively normal corporate life (as they would be in Japan) as she learns to navigate various misgiving brought by her coworkers and life in general.

The quirk and charm of this character comes from her cute and unassuming looks during her normal mood, and relative easy-going if not pushover characteristics which suddenly turns to a death metal rage face and screaming that is always funny.

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Calm Retsuko (left), Rage Retsuko (right) – Copyright Sanrio

The team’s director, Director Ton (ton means pig in Japanese Kanji), is regularly seen goofing off during work, preferring to practice his golf swings and passing his workload onto his subordinates. The first episode begins with him barraging Retsuko for dust on his desk, lack of flower decoration, and mediocre tea.

Fenneko (fennec fox) and Haida (hyena) are Retsuko’s closest allies and lunch buddies offering support in their unique ways. Fenneko is a cynic who is generally assured and straight-laced. She provides comedic relief with her eerie ability to stalk people on social media and her monotonic laugh. Haida is more attentive, caring for Retsuko’s wellbeing in a stereotypical shy-crush way. American viewers may find his antics a bit immature for someone who is supposed to represent a man in his professional career – but I found that his portrayal to be a commentary on the modern Japanese man.

I imagine that many Japanese businessmen and women might relative to the dramas portrayed in this short series. Many American viewers would find entertainment as well and it may serve as a comedic introduction to many of the societal differences presented in the daily lives of Japanese people. For about the length of a movie, Aggretsuko is a great series for some lighthearted, Japanese-inspired humor.

Let’s Talk About Avengers: Infinity War

I have now watched the new Avengers movie twice now. And in between that time I have also rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. I mention this because the second viewing made it even more apparent what an achievement in film Avengers: Infinity War is. Typically, the Guardians movies have had a very bright color palette, to bring out the otherworldly-ness of outer space. The most recent Thor movie, Thor: Ragnorok also shifted its colors to be brighter as well as its tone to be more comedic (compared to Thor: The Dark World which was almost “DC” dark).

Now, before I head into some things (and mostly criticisms) I noticed in my second viewing of Infinity War, I want to make fully clear I really enjoyed this movie. In terms of pure spectacle – it is certainly up there with the first Avengers movie and Captain America: Civil War. Obviously, the ending brings a much more somber and serious tone to the movies which makes it a little harder to be superhero excited about – but it was a very bold direction for the franchise which I very much appreciate. Overall the pacing of the movie was great and I must give my full appreciation to the Russo brothers for melding the different film styles and tones of the previous 18 movies into this great culmination.

That being said, the second viewing highlighted several weaknesses that I had not noticed at first viewing. Skipping the obvious criticism of Peter Quill’s decision to completely ruin the plan on Titan, I want to focus on the performance of Zoe Saldana as Gamora in the movie. There are two scenes where I felt she had really missed an opportunity to connect with the audience.

The first was the scene where Thanos plays a recording from the captured Nebula where Gamora is revealed to have lied about not knowing the location of the Soul Stone. This follows about 30 seconds after she has told Thanos that “on my life I swear I do not know where the Soul Stone is”. As the recording is playing Gamora is largely seen just staring in the distance/floor – almost as if she’s spacing out. This really broke my immersion into the scene as there should be some indication of shock and panic, but it almost seems as if there was no recording for Saldana to react to when the scene was being filmed.

The second scene is arguably more important as Gamora and Thanos find themselves on a cliff of Vormir, confronted with the revelation that a sacrifice of a loved one is required to obtain the Soul Stone. I blame the screenwriters more than Saldana for what transpires, as I feel the gloating feels rather inappropriate on second viewing, however I do think that Saldana’s performance lightens the scene unnecessarily. Instead of a bitter “you lose” it came off more as a “haha you lose!”

Also, another plot point that had me thinking was – what was the point of the neutron star realignment not working out the first time? Thanos seems to face very little obstacles during his conquest to obtain the remaining 5 Infinity Stones, however the heroes are faced with an abundance of bad luck. I feel like precious screen time could have been saved if Thor did not have to restart the forge twice.

Speaking of unnecessary scenes, there’s a short scene of the magician/wizard villian (apparently the “Ebony Maw”) flying into space frozen Han Solo, Empires Strikes Back, style. It stood out as B-movie the most.

Overall, the heroes are just very bad at being vigilant in the movie. Vision gets stabbed in the back like he was some pawn and not an all-knowing artificial intelligent being with the Mind Stone as part of his brain. Scarlett Witch gets sucker punched constantly when she could single-handly take down probably all the Thanos’ Children. Gamora almost willingly gets captured by Thanos on Knowwhere. Doctor Strange gets captured very easily in New York early in the movie.

Perhaps I should remember that this is after all, a comic book superhero movie.