Title: Working’! aka Wagnaria’!
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 3 Sep 2011 – 24 Dec 2011
Synopsis: Takanashi Souta’s part-time work at the family restaurant, Wagnaria, continues, and he’s still enamoured by small, cute things like his coworker, Taneshima Poplar. Poplar, however, is becoming disgruntled that Takanashi treats her like a child despite her being older than him. Meanwhile, Inami Mahiru is getting better at dealing with her androphobia, but when Takanashi calls her “worse than a bug”, her attempts to restrain herself go out the window. All part of a day’s work at Wagnaria.
Voice acting: Just about perfect as an ensemble cast; it’s impossible to imagine these characters with different voices.
Comedy: The jokes are funny and well-timed, but the equilibrium grows tired towards the end.
Relationships: Still no progress anywhere, which begins to hinder the comedy.
Working! is an honest and witty sitcom which excels when its jokes are about character interactions. In a medium so obsessed with high school settings, putting an anime sitcom in a workplace with a group of characters across a slew of ages liberates it from the usual shackles of having an all-teenage cast. Most of the time Working! pulls the right stops and is definitely a funny show, but at the end of the second season, it’s looking over a precipice. Nearly every comedy has a limited lifespan, and this rule of thumb seems to apply even more to anime, since most anime comedies have gimmicky premises. Working! has reached the stage where it’s squeezed every drop from its current equilibrium. The only way for it to be viable as a comedy in future seasons is for something to change.
At least the first ten or so episodes are still very funny, though. The humour is generally charming, and the jokes are delivered with a good sense of comedic timing. Wacky things happen among this cast of quirky people, and, as strange as it is that so many weirdos have somehow assembled in the same restaurant and have somehow made it a functional workplace, Working’! rarely sees the need to escalate into the unnecessarily ridiculous or absurd. It gets the balance between zany and grounded just right, so that whenever a character does something unusual it stands out, because everything else around them is otherwise normal.
The problem is that nothing progresses in this series, which makes it frustrating to watch. Sure, Working’! is a sitcom first and foremost, and the relationships exist purely to create enough tension to feed the jokes, but there’s only so much that can be achieved in equilibrium. The show stops breaking new ground long before it’s over. Three new characters are introduced, but they add almost nothing. In fact, one of these new characters would merely need to see a certain other character for the equilibrium to be shaken out of place, but the increasingly ludicrous ways in which the two of them manage to avoid each other eventually become tiresome.
Working! is a fairly popular franchise, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a third season, but I’m rather apprehensive about its natural capacity for evolution, given that it’s displayed almost none to date. But another stagnant, go-nowhere season would be irrecoverable for the show, which creates an uncomfortable dilemma for its future. While the first season is more consistently funny, it’s still one of the better recent examples of an anime sitcom, and I would like to see more shows follow its lead (and less that think that endless references to other anime and/or cute girls doing nothing passes for comedy). It’s ironic that a show that broke so many shackles by choosing an unconventional setting (for an anime) has become so restricted by its relationship equilibrium. Working! can still be a compelling comedy if it progresses its relationships… in fact, I’d go so far as to argue that progressing its relationships is the only way it can remain a compelling comedy.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun