Thanks to Lucky Star and Azumanga Daioh, it seems at times that “slice-of-life” is synononamous with high school. However, titles that buck that trend like Doujin Work and Muteki Kanban Musume demonstrate that the world at large holds just as many laughs and it’s into this tradition that Working!! falls.
This series follows Souta Takanashi as he takes a part time job as a waiter in the Wagneria family restaurant. While his days consist mainly of serving customers and clearing tables, as comes with the territory, the staff full of eccentrics livens up his working environment considerably. Working!! mainly plays out as a standard 4-koma adaptation where each episode consists of a series of skits with easily-identified punchlines. But in this case, the series benefits from it's "workplace" setting which--as it differs strongly from the more common high school settings--helps its character interactions break the mold of many similar shows. Here, the gang does not act like family or best friends. Each character's indifference towards the non-work lives of his coworkers frees the show to inject real personal conflict without requiring a saccharine resolution at the end of every episode. And, from this tension springs some of the best humor. Kyouko, for example, might be selfish and violent, but since she makes the schedule for the restaurant, the staff knows better than to test her patience.
In addition, every character gets a chance to play boke and tsukkomi in turn and the quirky situations that evolve from this flexibility keep things fresh--for the most part. Sadly, Working!! begins to focus increasingly on Inami and her androphobia as the episodes pile on and the show suffers for it. Without any meaningful character development and only one possible punchline (well, two, if you include cross-dressing) she seems like a horrible choice to become the series’ other central character. Luckily, the cast's solid alchemy and fairly unique setting keeps laughs coming--albeit in smaller quantities--from different directions despite their decreasing time in the spotlight.
The only gripe that I have with the DVD version is the fact that the show skips straight to the episodes instead of starting you at the menu. This choice works fine when firing up the series for the first time, but if you put it back in the box between viewings it requires you have the patience to click back to the menu before selecting where to resume.
Though none of the character designs should knock anyone’s socks off, Working!!’s animation more than adequately serves each of the show’s gags. The combination of lovingly detailed environments and easily-deformed character designs give the show the feel of a low-budget K-On!, which works in its favor. By portraying its cast (for the most part) in a realistic manner, additional extras and new cast members slide in and out of Wagneria without seeming like jarring additions or mere comedic props (in direct contrast with, say, Lucky Star). Moreover, the attention to detail in the restaurant's portrayal helps ground the intervening moments between punchlines and adds extra impact to their delivery by reinforcing that all this absurdity happens in the course of a normal work day.
The official NIS version's animation matches the best quality rips available at the time the show was aired and the translation work matches the Crunchyroll sub. As a complement to the show's artwork the NIS premium edition features both attractive box art in the NIS tall-box style and an artbook which contains additional pictures of Wangeria and the cast (a welcome addition considering the detail of the location).
Go ahead and try to get the OP out of your head. I DARE you. “Someone Else” is one of those brutally catchy earworms that will end up on loop in your brain all day at the barest mention of its title. If you’ve not heard it, maybe it’s best to skip it every time it comes up lest you spend the rest of your life singing it (“Somewan wan wan!”). While not as memorable as the intro, the closing theme, "Go to Heart Edge", makes excellent referential use of classic rock guitar and tight harmony to conjure the memory of the 1950’s, which fits with Wagneria’s diner-ish atmosphere perfectly.
If Jun Fukuyama has a specialty, it would be playing unhinged characters who believe they are the only sane person in the cast. Well, that and being very good with English names. The experienced seiyuu gives Takanashi the gravitas and comedic timing required for the deranged “mini-con” to claim that he is perfectly normal with a straight face while also holding many of the gags together by sheer force of personality. Of course, the rest of the big names in the lineup elevate their performances to his level. Poplar Taneshima offers familiar territory for Kana Asumi who applies a near-trademark bubbling moe that should instantly endear the girl to any viewer with a soft-spot for all things cute. In contrast, Eri Kitamura breaks her usual tough-girl mold to conjure up a pitch-perfect faux-jousama interpretation of Yachiyo that makes the katana she carries seem particularly out of joint with the floor chief’s personality. Like any good slice of life effort, the good voice acting sells the show and much of Working!!'s humor stands on the shoulders of these three actors.
Of course dub fans are out-of-luck again, as the official release contains only the Japanese audio. But, given the star-studded voice cast I would have recommended they watch it subtitled anyway (seriously! Jun Fukuyama!).
Simple and crazy. That’s the path to victory in comedy slice of life, whether it be Azumanga Daioh, K-On!, or Doujin Work, and Working!! knows this. As Souta Takanashi points out, the entire staff is nuts, each with his or her own peculiarity played for maximum comedic effect. Souta’s utter sincerity towards his mini-con habits and his deadpan nature allow him to transition easily between the role of straight man and funny man given the right stimulus; in both cases, he's helped by Jun Fukuyama’s aforementioned brilliant realization. Poplar combines similar versatility with dangerously concentrated moe to act alternately as the voice of reason and a delicious, targeted missile of cute. In fact, most of the cast performs this kind of dual functionality, delivering what they believe to be grounding truths in blunt fashion based on their own bent interpretation of the world. This mix forms the basis of interactions that can pile joke upon joke as each Wagneria employee weighs in on a situation and helps form the core of the series’ best moments of comedy.
Of course, your mileage may vary on the cast’s true boke members. Inami quickly gets old when her development stalls out and her only line of humor comes from her desire to punch men. Had she spent more time breaking the restaurant with her super strength in a more casual manner, maybe she might have not overstayed her welcome. For different reasons, Aoi Yamada can also grate on people’s nerves. On the surface, her constant self-reference and sense of entitlement cast her as an annoying brat. But for viewers (like myself) who have an affection for truly delusional cast members, her complete lack of propriety and infectious enthusiasm make her an excellent vehicle for filler jokes to transition between scenes and ideas.
All that said, Working!! is well worth the watch for fans of the slice-of-life genre. Divorced from the weekly viewing schedule, Inami’s non-progression no longer drags down the series and you should find it easier to focus on the rest of the cast and their enjoyable antics. The excellent voice cast and the unique setting add a little spice to format that has seemed over-saturated of late.
Content Unrelated (Possibly) - This production was recommended to me by a guy friend whom I suppose just coincidentally also happens to have three elder sisters. Of course. Nothing Freudian about this at all. Nope.
Story - None whatsoever. That's why I couldn't give it a high score. But that was, in my opinion, an excellent creative decision by the studio.
Here's how I envision the creative process went.
Studio Boss: MINION!
Studio Minion: Yes Boss!
Studio Boss: Take this stock cast.
Studio Minion: Yes Boss!
Studio Boss: Take this setting my mistress came up with last night.
Studio Minion: Yes Boss!
Studio Boss: Come up with a series of random funny gags and we'll use it to fill up airtime next season.
Studio Minion: Yes Boss!
Studio Boss: Now crawl out of here on all fours.
Studio Minion: Yes Boss!
I can't say for everyone, but I'm sick of romance stories with their typical lengthy courtships and tsun-tsun and triangles and stuff. But this, an unabashed run of random gags with only vague relation to each other, I can take. Especially when the gags are actually pretty damn good. I wouldn't try to criticise this for being meaningless (it is); it'll be like holding a standup comedy to an inauguration speech and slamming the former for lack of content.
That's all that is to it actually, up till Episode 10 at least. Then it makes an ill-advised leap into shoujo-romance territory and becomes not-so-comedic any more. In fact, if you ask me, the only good thing to come out of the last three episodes was the introduction of the self-proclaimed 'normal' Maya. Pity they didn't bring her out sooner, she could had been an excellent foil personality.
Animation - Nothing to shout about, good or bad.
Sound - By far the worst thing about this series. Bland, boring, utterly forgettable. Also the weakest creative link in the whole production. On more than one occasion I find myself wishing that I could just turn off the soundtrack in the background and listen to just the dialogue.
Of course, this is coming from a Bee Train fan, and one can't be a true Bee Train fan without looking down the nose at everyone else's OSTs right?
Voice acting is satisfactory without being particularly excellent or anything. Salvaged some points here.
Characters - A varied and engaging cast, but a stock one all the same. Nothing fresh or new or groundbreaking or unique. It's like someone just tossed together a bunch of contemporary popular characters tropes and made it fit.
Not that it's a bad thing, really. Code Geass did the same after all, with the inclusion of a Magnificent Bastard or two (or a hundred or a million or Zero). Black Lagoon also.
And like Black Lagoon, Working!! doesn't break any new ground character-wise. What it did do however was play the characters in their roles excellently. How should I put it? Let's just say the studio basically redid old material with old ideas, but did it well. Very well. Although sometimes it does seem that the cast was being introduced solely for the purpose of facilitating the gags. I guess that's what comes of adapting from a four-panel comic.
Also, am I the only person to think that Satou is a dead-on dopplerganger for Sister from Arakawa Under The Bridge? Sans the scar and pistol of course. I can't help but keep imagining the signature blood spurt spouting out of Satou's face every time his crush gets up to her yuri antics in front of him.
Working!! is a slice of life comedy based on the manga in 4 panel style by Karino Takatsu, that takes place in a restaurant in Hokkaidō. Something I usually refer to as an anime sitcom. Takanashi is an average high school boy who is given the proposition of working at a restaurant by his senpai, Taneshima, who looks to be about 12 but is actually older than he is and refers to him as Katanashi (he only lets her call him this). He accepts the proposal based on his adoration of small cute things. He's not lolicon, he just likes small cute things... but the subject matter does get confused leading to some comedic moments. Upon starting his shift he meets the androphobic Inami who can hardly resist hitting men in fear of them; Kyōko Shirafuji, the bad ass manager with a heart of gold (kinda) and big appetite; Yachiyo, a sweetheart girl who idolizes Kyouko... oh and carries around a katana with her everywhere. Along with Satō the cook, (who reminds me of a certain pirate cook with similar hair), The easy going Sōma, the other cook, and General manager Otō, who lost his wife (no really, she went out shopping and got lost), you've got a full house... er restaurant of comedic fun.
I think what stands out is a small scope of location. 90% of the time we'll see our characters in the restaurant. This is what gives me that sitcom vibe and it's not a bad thing. There are flashbacks and other places but we get the sense of comfort and easy going comedy of a prime time show. Something to sit down, watch and laugh at after a hard days work. The ongoing plot would seem to be that each character has a past or something that you can learn about them. This kinda gives the viewer the same social perspective of actually working at a restaurant and getting to know your fellow employees. This gives way to very smooth and interesting character development. There isn't much romance, nor do I expect there to be. There are no issues that call for resolution for the most part. Peaceful, easy feeling. If you can watch it like a comedy with no expectations it won't become boring. Just don't expect someone to fall into a well and find a magic world or stumble upon a mecha... not even in a parodist manner. It's strictly sub-extraordinary Slice of Life and won't make you think too hard.
I find the art quite fitting for the seinen genre. The colors are mid shades. Just enough mute not to be dreary and not too bright or distracting. The characters look normal when they are normal and chibi when it's required. I do find the amount of non-animation (the amount of frames per second where frames are approximately the same) fairly low. Characters have a fair amount of background fidgeting when not really in the conversation and there is action going on when characters are idle so it's not full of shortcuts, just average.
The music is well placed and non distracting. It's not applied in lazy like fashion. In a restaurant you'll have ambient musak or something like that in reality and they do that well. When a scene calls for it there's usually some subject appropriate music playing. The OP and ED are up beat and J-Rock/J-Pop (not to familiar with the artists but they are good). Applicable little SFX that happen complement the actions and emotions of the characters in a befitting way. Everything about the audio fits into place nicely.
The characters, who I described to the best of my ability after seeing 3 episodes and reading a couple of manga chapters, are unique and pleasant to get to know. You learn about them, get in touch with their quirks, and laugh along the way. That said, these are probably the only things I can claim about them. They aren't very romantic but the possibility is there. No one is overly heroic nor are there dire situations, (except for maybe Kyōko, who used to be in a gang), so there's not a lot of need for action characters. There are light cute moments and slapstick between Inami and Takanashi frequently. Interactions like that and Yachiyo's fawning over Kyōko bond the characters together. The differences and quirks in each of the characters is what shines the most. They are fairly well developed and still have a lot of room to grow.
If you like easy to follow comedy, you should pick up on this one. If you only like thick parody and super sweetheart school romance comedy, you probably shouldn't. This one is probably not as food oriented as most restaurant anime I've seen so it's not part of it's genre so much as just the place for the story to happen. Working!! should describe it well and It's kinda like Waiting... only suitable for kids! Yeah, there's no goat or “The Brain” here. Clean humor and fun all around. I wouldn't recommend going to a restaurant like this one though... no one wears hairnets!
I've been struggling with this review for the longest time, trying accurately describe my conflicting emotions with regards to this series. In an attempt to ease the writing (typing) process, I've decided to disregard the usual categorical segmentation of Story, Animation, blah blah blah. This is due, in part at least, to my own past struggles with properly segmenting character and story summary, and being forced to hammer out a paragraph about the sometimes lackluster elements of animation and/or sound (certainly the case this time around).
Also, I couldn't think of a way to convey this review without some spoilers, so... yeah. There's only 1 aspect that I feel might have a chance to diminish enjoyment while watching, but it is there.
Right, on to the review proper!
Yay! Terrible Font!
I've never had the misfortune of meeting a cock tease, being a pasty-skinned, bespectacled Chinese guy from Singapore, which was recently named "Geek Central" by CNNgo, who'd sooner fork over 20 bucks for a punch in the gut than be granted entrance to a club on a Saturday night, but I really couldn't find a more apt analogy for metaphorical blue balls the Working!! plot left me with. Coining the term 'plot tease' and uploading a definition to UrbanDictionary might seem a little hasty, but I sorely considered it.
If you didn't already read the synopsis on your way to clicking to this review, Working!! follows the day-to-day antics of a ragtag group of employees at a famires (family restaurant), and neatly falls into the Slice of Life Comedy genre, which is already plagued with titles like Minami-ke, Hidamari Sketch, and Ichigo Mashimaro, that collectively have less plot than your average Tweet. So why would I have a problem with Working!!'s shortcomings in the plot department? Well, the short answer would be because it half-succeeded in having one. Or rather it strung me along, then slammed the door in my face after inviting me in for some hot metaphorical coffee.
Shamelessly stolen from our forums...
The delicious caramel that holds this series firmy together is the quirky cast of characters. Arguably, many stereotypes are represented, and while they don't truly break the mould, they definitely help bore out and deepen it. The protagonist cum straight man of the series, Takanashi Souta, is at a glance your standard protagonist fare, with a side of lolicon meshed with a fondness for small & cute things, juxtaposed with an inherent distaste for older folk (anyone over 12).
Well, okay, maybe not really standard fare in the strictest sense.
Over the course of the series, it's revealed that this stems from 3 looming, less-than-ideal elder sisters, and being raised almost like a daughter by both them, and his father. In order to establish and substantiate his position as a male, he takes to raising his younger sister in his father's stead. But even she is maturing fast and becoming more independent by the day, sinking that little boat he's been keeping afloat in. This leads him to Inami Mahiru, his violently androphobic coworker, and his taking it upon himself to help her overcome her disorder.
All this, wrapped in the guise of a gag series. I know, right? (Excuse me, I need to choke myself for using that.. *gkkt*)
Our dear Main Protagonist: Top-right
The rest of the gang have a fair bit to read into, and most do a good job of pushing the boundries of their respective archtypes. Not only that, the chemistry among the cast is like the chemistry between Mentos & Coke - sweet, frothy, fun, and a bit of a mess. It's been a while since I last saw such a well-thought-out cast attain this level of interaction.
But alas, now that I've sung enough praises of the character design to have them canonized, it's time to get back to my sob story.
This screenshot needs context, doesn't it?
The only proper story arc that develops over the series that isn't exploited for the sole purpose of giggles is one that deals with the potential relationship between androphobic Inami and Takanashi. And while I'm well-aware that many a sitcom (and these days, even regular dramas) relish, and indeed hinge upon teasing viewers with actual story progress, only to yank the plot back via its leash, I felt especially disappointed this time around. With the curtains drawn and no sequel visible on the horizon, it seemed the conflicts and struggles endured by the characters towards their goals had been invalidated, leaving me feeling cheated and in no mood to do anything but sigh in disappointment at the closing scenes.
I'm being overly emotional. Ultimately, Working!! achieved what it was advertised and set out to do, and did so arguably better than any other series I've viewed recently. Plot progress was just a surprising gem to be found in such a series, which only served to disappoint when I realized it was made of plastic. And really, marking this series down because of it would be like penalizing a student for being a myopic, pasty-skinned asian kid with slanty eyes.
Some people can't help it, okay?!
One of the best things about the story of Working!! is that is has several small stories that work in harmony with each other throughout the series. There are several continuing stories that some may call running gags, but it all works together. Another strong thing is that the series is quite funny in several places, unlike some shows were there is only two or three laughable moments in the entire series, Working!! is a laughing riot. The comedy is great and I found myself laughing out loud during my viewing of it.
There are certainly better animated and artistic shows, but the style of Working!! really works with the comedic and upbeat tone of the series. It wasn't a masterpiece but it served its purpose and helped deliver the humor.
The characters are absolutely wonderful. They were for the most part relatable and very funny. Each character adds a piece to the series and each character makes it that much better. Also the personalities of each character work together and really make Working!! shine.
Working!! is a great series and is highly entertaining and funny. I recomend it.