How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

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Anime is the fountain of all knowledge. In recent times it has taught me how to survive on a desert island and how to perform magic tricks. How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift teaches viewers how to work out. The show’s combination of fitness advice and eye candy motivated me to do exercise, back in the summer when the show was airing. It didn’t last though. After a while I developed tennis elbow. The strain was just the excuse I needed to revert back to a slothful existence of sitting on the couch playing video games.

OVERVIEW

Based on a manga, set in the Kengan Ashura universe, this twelve episode anime follows a high school girl named Hibiki Sakura. Due to constant snacking, Hibiki has recently put on some weight. This won’t do, so she decides to join the local Silverman Gym; hoping that exercising on the machines will help her slim down. Soon she makes a training buddy in the form of student council president Akemi Soryuin. At first glance Akemi looks like a model student, but don’t let initial impressions fool you. Her main reason for frequenting the gym is to gawk at bodybuilders.

The pair are coached by fitness trainer Naruzo Machio, who reminds me a little of the Incredible Hulk. His default form is that of a slim man. Whenever Machio flexes though, his muscles grow to the point that his tracksuit shreds apart. Although his body bulks up his head doesn’t and looks comically small in comparison. Never mind the warning of not skipping leg day when bodybuilding. This is what happens when one skips head day.

As the series progresses more gym goers are introduced. My favourite is Hibiki’s teacher Satomi Tachibana, who unbeknownst to her students is a cosplayer that likes to pose in revealing attire. Other characters include Hibiki’s best friend Ayaka Uehara, whose family own a boxing gym. Working out at said establishment has blessed Ayaka with incredible abs. Last but not least is Gina Boyd, who hails from Russia. She travelled to Japan in order to compete in an arm wrestling tournament. After the final she decides to remain in the country. Wow, immigration to Japan is more lax than I thought. Gina has no trouble transferring to a foreign school or finding a place to stay. Even language is of no concern to her. Gina is apparently fluent in Japanese because she grew up watching Jackie Chan movies??!???

VERDICT

My rating for How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift is four stars. It’s a series that is both funny and informative. The characters make you laugh, show you how to perform sets properly and highlight how easy it is to exceed a recommended daily calorie count. Overall, I preferred the earlier episodes, which focused more on training, over the latter ones. Towards the end of its run the series cut down on fitness content in favour of silly storylines. Speaking of fitness, I didn’t always agree with the advice that was given. One episode in particular seemed to suggest that intermittent fasting will turn you into a fatty sumo wrestler. In my experience the opposite is true.

I won’t hold that against the show though, as everyone is different. What works for one person may not for someone else. That could well explain how people get the same results with different methods. Just look at vegans for example. They stay slim on a diet that is high in carbs. On the other end of the scale are the keto crowd, who proclaim that carbohydrates will make you fat and that it is healthier to consume foods rich in fat.

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift is an anime I can recommend to most people. Those with eating disorders may want to stay away though. A show that considers someone with the slim physique of Hibiki to be overweight is likely to push some people over the edge. All that said, I think it’s good to have entertainment that promotes fitness. Obesity rates are on the rise and not helped by plus size models who brainwash followers into believing that it’s possible to be both healthy and fat. People shouldn’t be ridiculed for their looks, but protecting someone’s feelings with falsehoods will cause even more harm in the long run.

For those of you who don’t care an iota about fitness I can still recommend this series. The comedy is worth the price of admission, as is the eye candy. I don’t think the fan service is a deal breaker for audiences, as it stays playful and never crosses the line that makes other ecchi shows creepy. The ladies are gorgeous and I am sure female viewers will also appreciate a barely clothed Machio showing off his saido chesto. Just be sure not to get carried away with pleasuring yourself off to animated beauties. Doing so may result in a sprained wrist… or tennis elbow.

One Punch Man (Season Two) Review

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Good things don’t always come to those who wait. After a three-year hiatus One Punch Man has returned to Japanese television and the reception I have seen online is mixed. Many viewers have been quick to condemn season two’s visual downgrade. The consensus is that, in terms of animation and artwork, J.C. Staff have failed to meet the high standards set by their predecessors Madhouse..

Judging a piece of entertainment solely on aesthetics is a bit shallow though. Take video games for example. How many big budget releases have come out recently that boast stellar graphics, but lack the enjoyment of a more modest looking indie game? The second season of One Punch Man may look rougher, but I can get over that. I watch this series more for the comedy than the spectacle, and in that regard it succeeds. Depending on your sense of humour there’s even a case to be made that season two is funnier than series one.

I would also have to say that season two has a better antagonist. The big bad of this instalment is a martial artist named Garo. He uses his fighting techniques to challenge any heroes who cross his path. Apart from wanting to test his strength against worthy opponents, Garo’s motivation for beating up heroes comes from the belief that he identifies himself as a monster. That mindset originates from his youth. Back then Garo’s classmates would always force him to roleplay a monster, whenever the group played superheroes. Maybe they should have played Cowboys and Indians instead? Had the kids picked Garo to play a Native American, all the time, the worst thing that could happen is that he would learn archery and how to do a funky rain dance.

Garo also admires villains, as in fiction they often hold their own against multiple do-gooders. If you think about it, he has a point. What’s so heroic about a team ganging up on one bad guy? He’s the type of person who left the cinema with nothing but respect for Thanos, after witnessing how well the mad titan fared versus the entire Avengers roster.

One thing that surprised me about season two was Saitama’s lack of screen time. He spends a big chunk of the series competing in a DBZ style fighting tournament. That keeps him away from the main storyline, which in retrospect is a good idea. Twelve episodes of Saitama knocking out foes in one hit would get stale. One Punch Man has a great supporting cast of quirky characters, so I didn’t mind seeing them get a moment in the spotlight. I was especially impressed by the action scenes featuring Metal Bat who, as his name implies, kicks ass using a piece of baseball equipment.

Another minor character who is worth mentioning is King. He is finally revealed this season and turns out to be the complete opposite of Saitama. King is a weakling who through serendipity has managed to earn the reputation of being the strongest man on Earth. That is in contrast to mighty Saitama whose feats of strength never get acknowledged by the public. Early on in the season the pair become friends. Despite being a joke character, King occasionally utters lines so inspirational that they even manage to motivate apathetic Saitama. King is also the only person able to defeat Saitama in combat… granted that is only in video games!

My rating for this season of One Punch Man is three and a half stars. I am giving the series a slightly lower grade than season one, but not due to the lower production values most people have crucified it for. In terms of gags and characters this season matches the series that came before it. My beef with season two is with its finale. The fate of Garo is left up in the air, as is the plot about a monster organization recruiting superhumans into its fold. Unresolved plot threads really irk me in anime. I understand that the manga is still ongoing, so this sort of thing is inevitable, but it must be said that season one concluded better. The first series holds up as a standalone piece, whilst season two doesn’t. Fingers crossed that we get a third season to see what happens next. One Punch Man is popular enough to get a follow up, but then again so was Haruhi Suzumiya. We all saw how that property vanished without a trace, after the sequel we waited years for didn’t quite meet expectations.

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Anime Review)

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One thing that anime is guilty of is recycling ideas. Case in point – The Rising of the Shield Hero. This twenty-five episode series features a young adult who is transported to a fantasy world. Once there he transitions from being a complete nobody into a mighty hero, who all the girls fancy. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?

OVERVIEW

Naofumi Iwatani is the protagonist of this Isekai show, which is based off Aneko Yusagi’s light novels. A neko? I had no idea that cats wrote books. Anyway, when Naofumi arrives in the kingdom of Melromarc he discovers that he is one of four youngsters who have been plucked from Japan and tasked with protecting the land from waves of hostile monsters. Each of the spirited away chaps is given a legendary weapon to help them with their mission.

As you may have determined, from the show’s title, Naofumi misses out on winning ownership of a cool sword, bow or spear. Instead he has to make do with a magical shield. The artifact protects him from harm, which is handy, but carries the massive con of barring him from wielding offensive weapons. That sucks. I can now see why no one ever wants to play a tank in RPGs. Naofumi’s lack of attack power wouldn’t be so bad, if he could recruit some party members to aid him in combat. Alas, that is not possible due to the events that occur in episode one.

Early on in the series Naofumi is falsely accused of rape by the kingdom’s princess Myne Sophia. Just like the target of a #MeToo accusation, Naofumi is vilified by the public. Ouch. Isn’t it scary how smears, which aren’t backed by any evidence, can ruin someone’s life? Due to his tarnished reputation, Naofumi is unable to hire allies via conventional means. Instead, he resorts to buying slaves. First up he purchases a sickly racoon girl named Raphtalia, who he trains in the ways of sword fighting. Later on he also snaps up a baby Filolial (pretty much this world’s version of a Chocobo) named Filo.

CONTROVERSY

It appears that Naofumi is a bit of a loli magnet. Filo may resemble a giant bird, but viewers soon learn that she is capable of transforming into a cute cherub. Raphtalia develops a crush on Naofumi, which could be creepy given that she is underage. Thankfully the series avoids going down the Bunny Drop manga route, by having Naofumi treat his sidekick like an adoptive daughter. If two lolis aren’t enough to satisfy your questionable taste in love interests, Naofumi later groups up with petite royal spellcaster Melty. He saves Melty from assassins in one episode, only to have the authorities accuse him of kidnapping her moments later.

Back when the series first started airing it was funny to see some sectors of the internet get outraged by the show’s content. Apparently having the lead be accused of sexual assault is outrageous. Some sensitive types refuse to accept that such claims could ever be false. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me. I don’t think the series writer was making a political statement. She just used the plot device of “hero gets betrayed by comrade” to inject drama into the story. Other viewers condemned Shield Hero of promoting slavery. Again, I just don’t see it. Naofumi isn’t whipping Raphtalia and forcing her to do manual labour. He rescues her from life in a cage, nurses her back to health and treats her with nothing but kindness.

VERDICT

My rating for The Rising of the Shield Hero is three and a half stars. It’s an enjoyable series that executes the overplayed Isekai troupes of the genre better than most other anime do. Akin to Goblin Slayer, the series starts off on a serious note and proceeds to get more light hearted (and harem like) as it goes along. The story isn’t deep, but is smart enough to throw in the occasional swerve to keep things interesting. Aside from vanquishing waves of monsters, Naofumi ends up in the middle of a clergy led uprising and later crosses swords with warriors from a parallel world.

Character wise Naofumi is more mature than other fantasy leads. He grows stronger by overcoming hardship, rather than being a prodigy from the offset. Unlike the other buffon-ish heroes Naofumi strives to protect the innocent, rather than fight for riches or glory. The fact that he aids people, rather than turn his back on them, after they branded him a villain shows what a good guy he is. Someone who is not good in the slightest is Myne. I found her to be despicable to a cartoonish degree. She is rather one dimensional, but like any good heel succeeds in the role of being someone you love to hate.

In terms of Shield Hero dislikes, I can’t say that I was a fan of the show’s CGI. The computer effects weren’t terrible, but some of the action scenes would have looked better without them. On a personal note, I also don’t get why MMO mechanics are inserted into a story that takes place in a genuine fantasy world. Why do the characters level up and learn skills from a menu? Can’t they just train hard and research magic from books? Raphtalia even evolves from a cute girl into a mighty lady, akin to a Pokemon, after earning enough experience. Now I am confused. We can’t lewd ancient characters who look like prepubescent girls. Is it okay to lewd a child who evolved into an adult? I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole. Sorry Raphtalia. I don’t want the FBI knocking at my door, so I am picking Queen Mirellia as best girl.

Top Five Anime I Watched in 2018

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Last year was a great time for anime. I could easily write up a top ten comprising of all the excellent shows I watched in 2018. That sounds like a lot of work though, so I’ll limit myself to listing off the five best anime I enjoyed during the aforementioned period.

5. Goblin Slayer: A fantasy series about an armour clad adventurer who has dedicated his life towards the extermination of green skinned vermin. Despite his bluntness and one track mind he is surprisingly popular with the ladies. The anime is infamous for its premier episode, which featured some disturbing scenes. Nothing explicit was shown, but that didn’t stop the internet from having a major meltdown, back when it aired. One can only imagine how said naysayers would react if they ever watched a hardcore hentai.

4. Darling in the Franxx: Mecha series about teenage pilots who are recruited to protect humanity from an alien threat. Not the most original premise perhaps, but executed well enough. Features solid action, a conspiracy laden plot, love triangles and a top tier waifu named Zero Two. Just like in Pacific Rim, the show’s bots are controlled by a pair of pilots (in this case a boy and a girl). Akin to Game of Thrones, the series was liked at first, but towards the end of its run many viewers soured on it. I however loved it from start to finish.

3. Attack on Titan (Season 2): The wait for series two, of Attack on Titan, was a long one – but well worth it. Following on from the first season, Eren and pals continue their battle against a neverending swarm of man-eating giants, who have breached the city walls. Despite only running for twelve episodes, Wit Studio managed to squeeze a lot of story and action into the second chapter of AOT. Some secrets are revealed and the scouts contend with a deadly trio comprising of the Beast, Armoured and Colossal Titans.

2. The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Another anime from Wit Studio makes the list. This one is a more slow paced affair, revolving around a buffalo faced mage and his beautiful redheaded missus. Highlights include the beautiful artwork, emotional scenes and storylines that see the cast interact with members of the Fae race. Back in 2017 the folks at Crunchyroll awarded Ancient Magus’ Bride best drama of 2017. After watching all twenty-four episodes I can certainly see why.

1. Violet Evergarden: An exceptional KyoAni production about an orphan girl who rebuilds her life after losing her hands (and the man who raised her) during the war. Violet transitions from a child soldier into an Auto Memories Doll. The change in career allows her to touch the lives of others, through the art of crafting heartfelt letters. My anime backlog is huge, so I seldom rewatch shows. Violet Evergarden was so good however that I ended up watching it twice. Once in Japanese and once dubbed. If you have a Netflix subscription I highly recommend that you check out this animated series.

Thirty Day Anime Challenge: Days 13 to 17

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Earlier this month I was reading Matt Doyle’s excellent blog. He had just completed a Thirty Day Video Game Challenge. That reminded me that I had yet to finish the anime challenge I started way back in July. Oops! I better make some long overdue progress on that by answering a few more questions today. For those of you who only subscribe to this site for reviews, and therefore have no interest in this series, I recommend that you check out these reviews penned by other bloggers instead…

Anime: Sword Art Online (Season Two)
Manga: Black Butler
Movie: Aquaman
Video Game: Pokemon Red/Blue

DAY 13: CHARACTER I AM MOST SIMILAR TO

I pretty much resemble any anime character who is a stereotypical geek. Perhaps you could compare me to a male version of Moriko Morioka, as I stay indoors all day, am terrible with face to face interactions and often play characters of the opposite sex in video games. I once asked a friend what animated personality I remind them of. They said Master Roshi, as I am a bald headed pervert. Can’t argue with that logic!

DAY 14: ANIME THAT NEVER GETS OLD NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I REWATCH IT

These days I don’t have enough free time to re-watch shows. Just keeping up with the current season’s anime (and older stuff that I want to check out) is a big enough struggle. Many moons ago however, when I limited my anime viewing to DVDs, I wasn’t averse to watching a series multiple times. One particular box-set that got a lot of mileage was Full Metal Alchemist. No matter how many times I watch FMA it never gets old.

DAY 15: FAVORITE ANIMAL SIDEKICK, PET OR SUMMON

I had to rack my brain to come up with an answer for this one. Generally I am not a fan of mascot characters. You can blame eighties cartoons for that. Back when I was a kid, the cartoons I watched often featured comic relief mascots who were super annoying. Anime critters aren’t all bad though. I recently had fun traveling with Pikachu in Pokemon Let’s Go for example. After much thought I am going to pick Taromaru, the pup from School-Live. He’s very cute and played a big role in the show’s emotional finale.

DAY 16: ANIME WITH THE BEST ANIMATION

There were many contenders for this category. Garden of Words has some exceptional visuals, as does anything that has Studio Ghibli’s name attached to it. The last Madoka movie is also worth mentioning, due to a particularly impressive fight sequence. All those nominations however have the benefit of a motion picture budget backing them up. With that in mind my vote goes to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Who knew that a TV production could look so amazing? One could say that Ufotable’s artists brought their A-game to the (ufo)table in that series.

DAY 17: FAVORITE SUPPORTING MALE CHARACTER

I had to think long and hard for this one. Nothing immediately came to mind. Most of my favourite male characters, from the world of anime, are protagonists. Although I suspect a better answer will come to me later, I’m going to go with Akio Furukawa from Clannad. His childish antics make me laugh, as do the scenes were he gives Tomoya a hard time. Akio isn’t a one note comedic character though. During tough times he acts as a second father to Tomoya and is selfless when it comes to his family. This is evidenced by the reveal that he abandoned a career in acting in order to support his daughter. Instead of the stage he now works as a baker. The family business depends on him because his wife hasn’t got a clue when it comes to recipes. Octopus tentacles and bread do not make for a tasty combo.

 

Review of She-Ra (Season One)

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For the honour of Grayskull! Time to review another cartoon that I have watched on Netflix. In spite of the unimpressive trailer, which has received much ire online, I recently decided to check out the thirteen episode She-Ra reboot. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the original show, I was curious to see how the series would turn out, due to its connection with Masters of the Universe. Back when I was a kid I dug watching the adventures of She-Ra’s brother He-Man, and I also owned several of the Mattel toys. He-Man was an awesome superhero who protected the fantasy world of Eternia. Just like Superman, I never understood how he managed to preserve his secret identity. When prince Adam transformed into He-Man the only things that would differentiate the two was a tan and fewer clothes.

OVERVIEW

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power follows the exploits of an orphan girl named Adora. The first episode establishes that she is a rookie soldier serving the Evil Horde empire. Adora is a model officer and has recently been promoted to the rank of force commander. Her allegiance to the Horde ends however when she witnesses first hand the atrocities they commit on Etheria’s peaceful populace. Who could have possibly predicted that the Evil Horde is evil? Adora defects to the Princess Alliance, a group made up of mostly female warriors who possess a range of elemental and magical powers. Not to be outdone Adora soon acquires a special ability of her own, courtesy of a magical sword she discovered in the nearby Whispering Woods. By lifting up the blade and yelling out her catchphrase, Adora is able to morph into the titular Valkyrie who is blessed with enhanced strength.

Most of the series follows Adora as she travels across the land with her new pals Glimmer (a teleporting royal) and Bow the archer. The trio are tasked with securing aid from neighbouring kingdoms, in the hopes they can all band together to repel the invading Horde. Instead of Sylvanas, this Horde’s leader is a scary chap named Hordak. He only makes fleeting appearances in season one though. Adora’s chief antagonists are characters from her past. The first of these is the person who raised her – a witch named Shadow Weaver. She-Ra’s other rival is childhood chum Catra, who feels hurt that Adora decided to abandon her in favour of joining the Princesses. Although too proud to admit it, Catra starts the series off wanting to bring Adora back to her side. Later however, when Catra’s achievements begin to gain recognition, the relationship sours. Catra begins to view Adora as someone who has always held her back.

VERDICT

My rating for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is three stars. I went into the series with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was. That said, I still prefer the reboots of Thundercats and He-Man over this Netflix production. I would say that those shows were more to my liking, as they had better action and were less goofy. On several occasions She-Ra’s dialogue and gags made me cringe (now I know what He-Man’s cat Cringer felt like). Although the individual storylines of each episode were nothing special, I dug Etheria’s lore. Hopefully next season will delve deeper into the sci-fi origins of She-Ra’s power. Rather than sorcery, it’s hinted that her sword is linked to an ancient race of interstellar travellers. Another thing I am looking forward to, from future episodes, is how the Adora/Catra dynamic develops. Can the pair patch things up or has the cat girl gone past the point of redemption? We will have to wait and see.

One thing that will put off many potential viewers, from giving She-Ra a chance, is the hideous artwork. It’s hard to believe that DreamWorks were behind the creation of this series. They used to produce films that were on Pixar’s level. I would blame the TV sized budget, for the lacklustre visuals, but the studio’s work on Voltron proves they are capable of much better. Another stylistic choice that won’t go down well with old school She-Ra fans are the character redesigns. Virtually all of the cast have had their race or skin colour altered. Depending on where you stand this may be a triumph for diversity or an example of SJWs trying to indoctrinate young kids via children’s programming. Apart from those changes, some characters have had their body sizes tweaked too. Glimmer has gone from being a super model, in the eighties series, to a plus size teen. I blame her powers for that. Maybe if she walked more, instead of teleporting everywhere, she would lose a few pounds.

Review of Aggretsuko

Aggretsuko

Sanrio is a company that specializes in cute merchandise. Even if you haven’t heard of them, I am sure that you at least recognize one of their creations – Hello Kitty. Unlike the South Park character Butters, who enjoys playing Hello Kitty Online, I can’t say that I am a fan of said feline. It’s just too girlie and wholesome for a degenerate such as myself. From the Sanrio stable of characters Aggretsuko is much more to my liking. This ten-episode anime series has the adorable visuals of Hello Kitty, but is more geared towards an adult audience. It follows the misadventures of a twenty-five year old red panda, named Retsuko, who struggles to survive the drudgery of office life. When the stress of it all gets too much, she vents out her frustrations by rocking out to death metal tunes at the local karaoke parlor.

OVERVIEW

Retsuko is a character that I imagine most of my older readers can relate to. Every weekday, in order to pay the bills, she makes the rush hour pilgrimage to work. After escaping the packed subway she has to endure hours of tedium sitting behind a computer screen, number crunching balance sheets. Her boss is a literal sexist pig who does little at the office, other than practice his golf swings and pester Retsuko for cups of tea. I sympathize with her plight, although I can’t say that any of my co-workers ever bug me for a cuppa. When it comes to beverages the only thing I can muster is black coffee from the machine. Anyone foolish enough to ask me for a brew soon learns to never make such a request ever again. Evidently I am terrible at judging the precise amount of milk/sugar dehydrated members of staff want.

Perhaps life would be more pleasant for Retsuko if she had a backbone? Unfortunately for her she is too darn nice. She is the type of person who will visit a clothing store and buy a token pair of socks, rather than suffer the guilt of leaving the establishment empty handed. At work when things get hectic, rather than speak up for herself, she retreats to the restroom. There she counts up to ten, in order to regain her composure. Over the show’s ten instalments Retsuko makes passive attempts to flee the horrors of her company’s accountancy department. She tries to line up another job and also gets her buddies, from yoga class, to report Retsuko’s boss for harassment. When neither plan bears fruit she decides instead to find a man. Getting hitched will presumably unlock the shackles of full-time employment and reward her with a cushier housewife existence.

VERDICT

My rating for Aggretsuko is four stars. If you are on the fence, on whether to give this series a watch, I would suggest that you take the plunge. Aggretsuko isn’t a big time commitment, as its episodes clock out on the fifteen minute mark. The show’s sense of humour was right up my alley, as it is rather dry and sarcastic. I wasn’t expecting that from an anime whose visuals are so colourful. Viewers who work corporate jobs are likely to recognize characters who resemble folks that they know in real life. Examples include Tsunoda the gazelle, who is the stereotypical beauty that kisses up to the boss. There’s also Kabae – a hippo who spreads gossip and bores anyone, who will listen, with stories of her family. My favourite character is Fenneko the fox. She stalks co-workers on social media and has a delightful laugh, which she blurts out whenever her pals find themselves in compromising situations.

Despite loving the gags, art style and supporting cast I was a bit disappointed with Aggretsuko’s protagonist. Her meek personality makes Retsuko an easy person to pity, but I can’t say that I approve of someone who seeks romance just to secure an easy meal ticket. From a male perspective I had to cringe when she turns down nice guy Haida the hyena. He made the cardinal sin of mentioning that it would be nice to work with his hypothetical future missus, rather than become the couple’s sole bread winner. In the later episodes Retsuko instead opts to date an inconsiderate pretty boy who has zero charisma. Aggretsuko’s writers clearly know how the world works, be it office politics or the dating game. No wonder red pandas are an endangered species. When it comes to boyfriends they make terrible life decisions.