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.
It’s been quite a while since Wagnaria Family Restaurant last closed its doors to viewers (2011 to be exact) and I know there was quite a bit of excitement when season three of Working!! began about a month ago. As it’s been a while since I last viewed Working!! I decided now is as good a time as any to rewatch this slice-of-life/comedy and criticize it in a more balanced and mature way than my original review.
Working!! is a fantasy fulfillment anime at its core. While not explicitly a harem or a romance in any way, the fantasy comes mostly from the happy-go-lucky workplace environment that throws all proper protocol out the window and places the viewer in a restaurant full of low-wage part-timers, none of whom are anywhere close to usual part-time workers at a typical restaurant. Wagnaria is meant to represent a teenager’s ideal workplace and the cast the ideal people to work with. It’s pretty self-explanatory considering this is anime and the biggest selling point of the medium is wish fulfillment, but I figured I’d tell you outright that this is not like Hana Saku Iroha where there’s an undercurrent of seriousness. In my eyes, that seriousness made Iroha a much more magical and wonderful workplace anime; though Working!! still has a lot going for it.
The story begins with a seventeen year old teeny-tiny girl named Popura going out to recruit a new part-time worker for Wagnaria. When she runs into Souta, who has an obsession with small and cute things, she finds her man and brings him in to begin working. Souta is the eyes through which we see the vast majority of the action in the series and, by all accounts, not the worst lead though not a stand-out. He has his one little oddity that defines his character and that’s the extent of him really. As a romantic lead he’s dense and uninteresting, as a lead in any other regard he’s occasionally funny though tends to stand in the shadow of the more amusing secondary players.
While Working!! is a slice-of-life about the workplace it’s also about the development between Souta and a female character named Mahiru whose fear of men leads her to punch them if they get near. When I wrote my original review I pinpointed her as the main issue with the series and her androphobia as a terrible trait. I think a lot of that was prejudice as I had just come off of the terrible MM! and wasn’t enthused by the idea of androphobia after viewing that.
Looking at Mahiru now, I feel she may be the best character of the show. Much of the series is about trying to cure her of her problem and the love she feels toward Souta thanks to his help in curing her. From the beginning she’s a scaredy-cat moeblob but a cute one. She’s not interesting enough to get invested in, but watching the slow development of her being able to get closer and closer to Souta is enjoyable and leads to a lot of the cuter, more human comedy of the series. There’s not a satisfying conclusion to be found nor enough development to commend Working!! for using the “disease” as anything other than a way to add a little cohesion to an otherwise aimless narrative, but what is there works to the shows benefit.
Aside from this the rest of Working!! is a series of character jokes that are exploited to maximum benefit. Popura being short becomes her only major character trait and a running gag. Kyouko, the manager, is always eating and is a really shitty boss which is a running gag. And it’s sad too because she isn’t used to her full potential. Early on we’re shown that she used to be a badass delinquent and she isn’t afraid to call on people to beat money out of dine-n’-dashers. Aside from the very beginning of the series, we never see her do anything particularly violent again.
Yachiyo carries around a sword (much to everyone’s bewilderment) and is in love with the manager. Jun, the cook, is in love with Yachiyo though it’s all one-sided. Souma is a manipulative douchebag who is constantly being blackmailed himself. And eventually you meet Yamada, a…very strange girl to say the least.
It’s an eclectic and wonderful cast with great chemistry and humor between them but when you think about it, it feels like it’s a small portion of a bigger group. If Jun is a part-time cook, where are the others? Where are the other waitresses (there’s one that has no lines through the whole series until the very end when we’re suddenly supposed to care about her)?
There are a couple other characters I neglected to mention (Souma’s sisters for example) because after a while you’ll begin to realize that none of these people are actually three-dimensional characters. For the most part, they’re bipedal jokes. And your enjoyment of the show depends solely on how you feel about those jokes. Do you laugh at the one sided love of Jun? At Souma’s love of all things tiny? If so, then Working!! will keep you entertained from beginning to end.
And while I enjoyed Working!! and found myself loving the majority of the characters, I still don’t know if this is, in essence, an anime I can recommend because of how basic it is. It’s a very, very good basic with a plethora of humorous moments but the series as a whole doesn’t stand out enough to be memorable, nor does it attempt to be anything more than average. If not for the fact the show is deeply entertaining, it’d be hard to say it’s worth watching.
For me, I think the idealized work environment where everyone loves their job, the employees get along, and a lot of fun stuff happens all the time is what draws me in. When Souma was at home or even during the final date episode I wasn’t as entertained as I was when the show focused on working. The unique environment of the family restaurant as a setting combined with the characters penultimately led to my final enjoyment and why I kept coming back for more.
The final draw is the charming animation and music. While the show doesn’t look like anything special, the character designs are cute, the colors are light, and everything has a very whimsical air to it that is usually elevated by the music choice.
Working!! isn’t going to blow you away or make you feel any sort of emotions. It’s a simplistic, fun romp with all the right ingredients to be entertaining to the right person. If you work a minimum wage job and want escapist fantasy, this show will appeal to you. But if you’re looking for a serious slice-of-life that tackles working life, you’ll have to check around elsewhere.
7. Sota is a 16-year old student who gets recruited to work at Wagnaria, a family restaurant. All of the people who work there seem to have their own strange habits or problems. Sota himself only likes small and cute things, there’s also a girl that has androphobia - she’s scared of men - and a girl that likes to wear a Japanese samurai sword while serving people. All the episodes in Working are about the this family restaurant and its odd workers.
Plot and pace
6. There is a lack of plot in this Anime. The only thing that could be called a plot, is the part where Sato says he’ll cure Mahiru - the androphobic girl - from her sickness, but in the end you’ll still be disappointed by the lack of progress.
5. There are no cliffhangers whatsoever. The reason I still gave this a five, is because sometimes I did hope something would happen, so for the short moments of excitement, I still rated it a five -.-
5. Since it lacks plot and all that happens are conversations between the restaurant workers and their chief, you can’t really say there’s a satisfying ending. If they didn’t say ‘thanks for watching’ at the end of the final episode, I would’ve never expected the series to be over.
6. All episodes seemed the same to me, so I guess not.
9. One of the strongest parts of Working are the characters. They all seem to think they’re the only normal person in the restaurant, while in reality there’s not one totally sane person inside that place. You do get to sympathize with the characters, even with the one that’s hitting men all the time.
9. A big thumbs up for the funny conversations in Working! If it was played by real life actors, it could’ve been a funny comedy film, but without a plot that is. One of the workers always picks on Popura, a 17-year old girl that hates being small, and that was really amusing. Also the part where Sota said: Sigh I’m actually the only normal person inside this restaurant, and when he turns around he sees a doll that the kids get as a present with their menu and wants to keep them for himself, that really cracked me up xD
9. Lovely, the characters all look attractive and realistic. A job well done.
6. Episode one takes place in the restaurant for most of the time, episode 2: the restaurant, episode 3: … You get the point.
Music and sounds
7. Childish but catchy intro song, decent voice-acting.
So the story plot may be lacking, but it is heart warming and funny. You really can't go wrong with that.
*Originally posted on my website cosmosgaming.com and based on the US box release by NIS America, scores added after the fact as I don't use the format on the site*
While I have enjoyed just about every series that NIS America has picked up so far, I have been waiting for another show that grabbed me with its quirkiness and character interaction as much as Toradora. That moment seems to have finally arrived, as NIS recently picked up Wagnaria!! (known in Japan as Working!!) which is a comedy/slice of life anime themed around high school students working at a family style restaurant. If you’re like me, you were probably wondering how a series that was set in one general location would play out and as it turns out there is a lot that can be done. Thanks to the extremely quirky personalities of the characters and absurd situations they find themselves in, viewers will feel as though the 13 episode series flies by and will find themselves wanting even more.
Wagnaria!! seems relatively normal at the beginning, aside from the fact that lead character Sota Takanashi has an unusual fascination with children (which he swears is from a paternal perspective, and as the series continues it becomes clear that this may have stemmed from his own family relationship). In the first episode Takanashi runs into Popura Taneshima, a very small high school student who asks him to work at the family restaurant Wagnaria. Takanashi accepts and is soon thrust into a role as a server surrounded by a cast of strange characters. This is where the series really shines, as each major and minor character has their own quirks and bizarre tendencies and as a result when they interact crazy things happen. I’ll have to let you discover each of them for yourselves, but if you look at NIS’ website and look at all the character descriptions you’ll get a general idea of just how out there many of them are. The first couple of episodes center around the daily running of the restaurant and the interaction between all of the characters, but as it moves forward the focus is shifted to the relationship between Takanashi and Mahiru Inami. Inami suffers from androphobia (fear of men), and she punches any man on sight. Takanashi agrees to help her try and cure her phobia, and as the series moves forward the two begin to develop some feelings towards one another, although even in the end it is a bizarre and slightly dysfunctional relationship. You definitely find yourself rooting for the two, even if it often seems as though it will be impossible to work out. The thirteen episodes fly by as there is a lot to enjoy, but if you’re limited for time each episode has a self contained plot so you can spread out your viewing.
The animation throughout the series is consistently strong, and you can really tell that the creators put a lot of thought into each and every detail of not only the characters but the restaurant itself. Considering that much of the show takes place within this one location (although there are other places that the characters go), the fact that there are so many little nuances to take in keeps things interesting and gives viewers a lot to see. Wagnaria!! uses a lot of the traditional anime over-emphasis on emotion, but this is one of the cases where it actually suits the series perfectly. Each section of an episode is broken up by an image that relates to the earlier scene, and it breaks things up into nice little bite sized chunks. Additionally, the voice work is also very impressive as it feels as though each voice actor really became their characters and they give convincing performances. Plus the opening theme is one of those songs that will surely be stuck in your head for weeks after you first hear it, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you look at it.
There aren’t quite as many extras for Wagnaria!! when compared to previous series that NIS has put out, but I get the impression that this was because the studio that created it didn’t do quite as much promotional work in Japan when it came out compared to other shows. The Premium Edition does come in the standard hard case with artwork on both sides and another excellent artbook/character guide that is filled to the brim with artwork and sketches, but the extras on the disc are just clean ending/opening themes. As of the time of this review, NIS announced that Toradora and Wagnaria!! will be available in standard editions in the near future, so you may want to consider checking this series out in a standard version if the premium seems a bit too expensive since the only major extra is the artbook.
If you can’t already tell, I absolutely loved this show. Previous NIS shows I have watched in chunks or a little bit at a time, but once I started Wagnaria!! I marathoned it from start to finish (actually, I marathoned it twice over the span of two weeks). The show does just kind of end as things start to get going which is a bit disappointing, but it was announced in Japan recently that there will be a second season in the near future so hopefully NIS will not leave us hanging for too long. Slice of life/comedy anime seems to be a bit of an acquired taste among some people, but if you enjoy the genre and/or loved Toradora then Wagnaria!! is a must have as well because I guarantee you’ll watch it more than once.