Aggretsuko Season 5 is the final season of the Aggretsuko anime series, and it overall has more of an emphasis on Haida than on Retsuko herself. The fact that Haida was included in the opening in addition to Retsuko probably should have helped tip me off to this.
This season picks up where Season Four left off. Even though Retsuko and Haida have finally gotten together, Haida is now unemployed after quitting his job in the wake of being caught for cooking the books on orders from Himuro. Unfortunately, instead of using his time to find a job, he becomes addicted to an online game, where he spends a lot of money on in-app purchases. Haida has also become friends with another player in the game and this new friend keeps convincing him to play the game instead of looking for a job. Meanwhile, Retsuko decides to start using some “tough love” on Haida, saying she won’t see him until he gets a new job.
Meanwhile, we see that Haida has been living in an apartment owned by his family. His brother, Jiro, drops by and tells Haida that he needs to vacate the apartment by the end of the month because they have a tenant for it. Haida now finds himself without a job, without a place to live, not much money left due to his spending in the game, and Retsuko isn’t seeing him.
Haida ends up staying at an internet café, but he doesn’t tell Retsuko anything about his situation. It turns out that the player Haida made friends with in the game is also at that café, and is a girl named Shikabane. Shikabane is rather aloof, especially when it comes to work and the expectations of society. After realizing that he can’t apply for jobs without a permanent address, Shikabane introduces Haida to someone at the internet café who helps him get odd jobs requiring manual labor.
After discovering that Haida no longer lives in his apartment, Fenneko goes undercover into the game to try to find out what Haida is up to. When Fenneko sets up a meet up with Haida and Shikabane, Retsuko and everyone who accompanies her get the wrong idea and believe that Haida is seeing Shikabane. After Retsuko and the others give Haida grief during a karaoke session, he finally admits to everything that’s happened to him. Retsuko forgives Haida, but tells him to let her know about problems in the future. In the meantime, she offers Haida a place to stay at her apartment as he looks for a new job. He eventually gets a part-time job at a supermarket.
Retsuko plans to keep the fact that Haida is living with her a secret from her family, but her mother shows up unexpectedly and discovers this fact for herself. Her mother sets a date for Retsuko to bring Haida over and properly introduce him to her parents. Retsuko hopes that Haida can find a job before that date, but all he keeps getting is “wishing you success in your job search” e-mails. Retsuko wants Haida to lie about his employment status, but he feels guilty and admits his employment status to Retsuko’s parents, as well as revealing that he’s studying to become an IT profressional. I have to applaud Haida for not wanting to lie to her parents. I also have to give kudos to Director Ton for telling Haida what he needed to hear in order to decide to pursue a different career path.
This is the first time we’ve ever seen Retsuko’s father in the series, and he is portrayed as being a mild mannered man. But when the time comes to take a picture of Retsuko, Retsuko’s mother, and Haida, Retsuko’s father frames the picture in a way that almost cuts Haida out of it completely. While he doesn’t say it out loud, this picture shows that Retsuko’s father isn’t not entirely happy with Haida at this point.
Haida then receives a summon from his father to visit the family. Retsuko insists on going along to meet them, and when they get to his parents’ home, Retusuko learns that Haida’s father is a politician in the Japan Diet. Retsuko gets to meet the family, and we see that while his mother seems to be a nice woman, his father is a toxic individual. It’s revealed that the parliament will be dissolved and that Haida’s father is not running for re-election due to his health. However, Jiro will be running in his stead, and dad wants to make sure that Haida doesn’t draw any attention to himself during the campaign in order to avoid any potentially embarrassing headlines.
Haida’s situation, as well as Haida and Retsuko meeting each other’s family, takes up six of the 10 episodes in this season. Overall, I thought the buildup here was well done. However, by the end of these six episodes, I felt as if Retsuko was more of a prop than anything else. Retsuko really didn’t take any initiative of her own here, and instead was simply reacting to what was happening around her. While I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Haida was the main focus here, Retsuko really should have been a more important character than she was in the storyline, since she’s supposed to be the title character.
Episode Seven starts the second section of the season, where the only member of the Rage party is trying to track down Retsuko because he wants to convince her to run for office. Retsuko really has no interest in politics and keeps saying no. However, Ikari (the Rage party member) recruits OLM (the idol group Retsuko had been part of back in Season Three) and their manager and ultimately manipulate Retsuko into agreeing to run as a candidate.
And this marks the beginning of Retsuko basically losing her agency in this season. We also get some other scenes of Retsuko basically being forced into doing things by people who supposedly care about her as well during these remaining episodes, which reinforces how much agency Retsuko has lost.
After Retsuko becomes a candidate, Ikari decides they will have her run in a particular district, which just happens to be the district that Jiro is campaigning in. This election storyline was already feeling kind of forced, and then adding in this layer just cemented the idea that this whole plot was forced. The final episode, which is a double-length episode, focuses on Retsuko and Jiro campaigning against each other and the election itself. The election result was believable, and I had no problem with that. However, this whole running for office storyline felt rather rushed, especially in comparison to the six episodes that preceded it.
There was an important plot point that happens in the final episode, but the audience is never rewarded with a resolution for this plot point. There was also a scene where Retsuko is supposed to be connecting with Shikabane at the karaoke place, but we never actually get to see what happens. From the ending, we know that this encounter changes Shikabane, but we didn’t get to see what it was that Retsuko said (or probably sang in this case) that caused Shikabane to decide to change. Not only did this add to the sense of feeling rushed, but it made the ending a little less satisfying as it could have been.
I was a little frustrated with Manaka during this section of the fifth season because in the fourth season, it seemed like Manaka had become a true friend to Retsuko. However, with this running for office storyline, it’s clear that Manaka and the other members, along with their manager, are only interested in Retsuko becoming a candidate because it would bring them personal gain by boosting the group’s profile. It almost felt like Manaka was stabbing Retsuko in the back.
After watching the fifth season of Aggretsuko, I thought there were some interesting ideas that went into it. However, the execution for this season weakened these ideas quite a bit. In a lot of ways, it almost felt like there was two seasons’ worth of material here that was being crammed into one season. I think this might have been a little stronger if it could have been told through two shorter seasons. The first six episodes would have worked pretty well for a short season, with the exception of Retsuko needing to take a more active role in the action. If the running for office storyline could have had at least two or three more episodes, it likely wouldn’t have felt as rushed.
Prior to this season, I had really enjoyed the Aggretsuko anime, so this season felt like a letdown. By the end of the series, Retsuko feels more like a shell of herself than anything else. It felt as if most of the progress she had made as a character leading up to this point had basically disappeared. It’s sad to see Aggretsuko end this way, but I still have an appreciation for the earlier seasons of the series.
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