Working!! nearly wore out its welcome when it first aired. As the season wound down, the emphasis on Takanashi and Inami’s relationship began to consume all the screen time, reducing the fun and episodic slice of life series to a monotonously dysfunctional romance. So. Should we watch a second season when the first seemed to run out of steam? OF COURSE.
With the two “leads” at a sort of developmental detente, Working'!! explodes in a bunch of different directions caused by a significant increase to the size of the show’s cast. Each new character brings with them new subplots and relationships, which causes the show to adopt a more episodic feel despite the number of running storylines; on the whole, this new blood helps the show feel fresher week in and week out. To coincide with the less focused narrative, this season uses the easily-distracted Yamada as its lens instead of the first season's more focus protagonist,Takanashi. Her nosy nature and excess of enthusiasm allows her to insert herself into any developing action while still remaining the delightful butt of every third joke.
After all the new introductions and inside jokes, the show wraps up on an episode that recalls slightly the vaguely similar (and by “vaguely similar” I mean both shows involve food) Muteki Kanban Musume, where a silly mix-up offers an opportunity for the entire cast to riff on their character failings in tandem. Episodes like this one, while they become exhausting if they occur too much (I’m looking at you, Nichijou) can provide a perfect send off for a character-driven series and also provides a much better wrap-up than last-season's.
Working'!! showcases improved motion and character detail which actually improves the comedy overall. This time around, artists place a greater distance between the deformed iterations and the characters in their “normal” state, which enhances the effect of all punchlines that use that visual trick. While the restaurant remains as detailed and interesting as before, the outside environments suffer a little and betray a lack of concern on the part of the animators. But since stellar visuals have never been a hallmark of this series, those lapses shouldn’t bother anyone overmuch.
“Coolish Walk” is no “Someone Else” (have I managed to stick both songs in your head?), but it more than serves. It shares the same rhythmic cheeriness as the previous OP, but turns the manic energy down a click or two to fit with “familiar” feeling of the new season. The accompanying ED, “Itsumo no You ni Love & Peace”, keeps the mildly nostalgic vein of the the final ditty from season one. fills your head with funky disco beats and have you shaking your rear along with the closing credits in every episode.
The voice cast has it dialed and it shows. This time, however, it’s Ryou Hirohashi who carries the show via Aoi Yamada’s starring role. Ms. Hirohashi has managed to master--like Aki Toyosaki and her cast-mate Kana Asumi--the fine art of laying on the sugar without becoming shrill. Her role requires her to ham it up hard, changing emotions on a dime and maintaining her character’s irrational enthusiasm, and she rises to the challenge, setting the tone for the series much in the way that Jun Fukuyama did for the first season. Everyone else reprises their role with admirable skill, bringing the staff of Wagneria to life in the same enjoyable fashion as before.
Say what you want, but Yamada glues the series together. As mentioned above, it’s her viewpoint that defines the season and her quirks dictacte the comedic pacing here. While she’s not as universally loveable as some of the more modern boke-type characters (Hakase and Miyako remain the best versions of that archetype), her combination of selfishness and thickheaded blundering makes for a neverending font of one-off gags and b-plots. In addition, her earnest nature and loneliness make it possible to root for ever, even if her sense of entitlement makes you relish every inconvenience or humiliation she suffers.
But once again, it’s the seamless introduction of new blood that defines the series. While some of the additions are spoilerous, this season goes out of its way to introduce a pair of semi-reformed thugs from Kyouko’s bancho days and their interaction with existing cast members crackles with new sparks of humor. Each one display their own particular brand of crazy in addition to their defining antagonism, shedding some light on the kind of leadership the manager exhibited as a bancho. And their synergy with the Wagneria staff makes them all the better: Mitsuki stirs up more love-interest trouble in a show that needs more active participants on that front; and Yohei provides a perfect foil for the lusty and violent Kozue-neesan who really, really needs a man in her life.
Better. Better. BETTER. Working'!! took everything that made its first season so great, added a few new spices and reduced it over low flame into a delicious sauce before applying it a new cut of plot. The resulting dish should delight the palette of any slice-of-life fan who enjoyed the first season.
Life at Wagnaria continues as it ever has, with its oddball staff causing more mayhem than ever. While Poplar continues to be plagued by her height complex, Satou takes every opportunity to tease and trick the gullible young waitress. And with Inami continuing to run for cover whenever men frequent the restaurant, Kyouku munching her way through parfaits all day long, and Yamada’s clumsiness massacring the crockery, it’s a miracle that the customers are served at all…
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.