‘Aggretsuko’ – Netflix

Hands up if you hate your job. Look around – you’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of workers worldwide admit to hating their jobs when surveyed anonymously, according to a Gallup poll released last summer. That’s an awful lot of people. But even people with what seems to be the perfect job get totally frazzled sometimes. I’m sure even Cadbury’s chocolate taster, Dublin’s chief kitten cuddler and Chris Pratt’s hot yoga instructor have bad days too. So despite Netflix’s new cartoon Aggretsuko being subtitled Japanese anime, this rage is entirely universal.

Retsuko is an adorable kawaii red panda from the people at Sanrio who most famously brought you Hello Kitty. I kid you not. This fluffy female is far more realistic than any mascot I’ve seen before. She’s really struggling. When she gets her first office job aged 20 she’s filled with joy and purpose, strutting her stuff in corporate Japan. Cut to five long years later and she’s stuck in a thankless job, a slave to the wage. She hates her stupid, lazy, gossipy colleagues, really hates her misogynistic boss Director Ton (literally and figuratively a pig) and I bet she hates herself too, for still being single, and not being the big success she always though she would be. This is the internalised hatred of working women who have been set impossibly high standards by society. Whoah – this shit is deep for a super-cute animated red panda.

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‘The Art of Japanese Life’

A long time ago, in a country far far away, I had a Japanese roommate. Manabu was lovely, a total gentleman, but not very chatty. I blame the language barrier, or maybe we just didn’t have that much in common. Eventually we bonded over injuries (his sporting, mine alcohol-related), microwave breakfast burritos (he loathed them, I loved them) and our two crazy little island homes. Comparing the UK and Japan is not as odd as it first sounds. Culturally and geographically we have a lot of shared aspects. We’re wilful independent island nations, who revere our daring histories of medieval knights and samurai warriors. Other countries are somewhat nervous around us as if you give us a flag and a gun we tend to get a little carried away and decide to go off and be a colonial invading force. Small countries, big ideas. Despite our macho military history, our national characters are reserved and polite, and we like to know our place in the social hierarchy. We’re the worlds best queuers!

Art historian Dr James Fox seems the similarities in our two nations, although sadly in this series on aesthetics and art in Japanese life, we are yet to hear his opinion on the breakfast burrito. This BAFTA nominated broadcaster has a day job in Cambridge University’s Art Department and first came to my attention presenting Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art? on BBC4 in September 2016.

He’s an engaging, enthusiastic, and quite cheeky presenter. His trademark seems to be a sharp black suit and tie, ever ready for a funeral or a cocktail party. He’s really good at breaking down complex ideas about art, religion and society. These big ideas are discussed in simple terms. His passion for the subject shines through. And, pleasingly, as you’d expect from a BBC4 art show, this whole episode is beautifully shot and framed.

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‘Broken’

Broken is the beautiful, heart wrenching new 6-part drama series from award-winning English screenwriter and producer Jimmy McGovern, the champion of working class heroes. We are in familiar territory here – kitchen sink dramas and the seemingly small but overpowering tragedies of everyday life.

The big draw for drama fans is Sean Bean in the central role as Catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan, a kind man, driven by his vocation to work hard for his community. Immediately we see that he’s haunted by an abusive past, rare in tv land where we frequently see priests as abusers, not victims. Bean played cross-dressing teacher Simon Gaskell in McGovern’s excellent drama, Accused an astounding role that he rightly won an International Emmy for. McGovern said in a Radio Times interview that he never considered anyone else for the lead role in Broken: “I always go back to Sean – I just think he’s world class,” he said. “People know he’s good, but I know he’s great.” Typically, Bean is stoic in the face of tragedy. He’s funny too – a bleak, black humour runs through this episode. On screen he is low-key with no histrionics. Appropriately, he doesn’t lose his head.

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