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.
Self-professed lover of all things small and cute, Souta Takanashi finds himself dragooned into working at the Wagnaria family restaurant by the diminutive and vivacious Poplar Taneshima. Though the pay is reasonable and the clientele polite, the high school student is often at his wits' end when dealing with the quirky staff. If the indifferent and street-tough manager, katana-carrying floor chief, and terminally weak Poplar weren't enough, Souta frequently fears for his life, as every encounter with the violently androphobic Inami ends in injury. How long can he survive before the combined stress and harm do him in?
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.