Title: Working! aka Wagnaria!
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 6 Mar 2010 – 27 Jun 2010
Synopsis: Taneshima Poplar, seventeen years old, is extremely short for her age, which means she’s constantly mistaken for an elementary school girl. She works at a humble family restaurant named Wagnaria, but when the busy season leaves them short of hands, the restaurant’s manager charges Poplar with the duty of finding a new part-timer. After a desperate search, she finally finds Takanashi Souta, who is a year younger and attends the same school. Takanashi agrees to help, partly out of his adoration of small, cute objects…
Comedy: Works extremely well once it hits its tone.
Characters: Quirky, but not depthless.
Interactions: Drive the comedy; hilariously frustrated.
Takanashi’s sisters: Hilarious; worthy of their own spin-off.
OP sequence: Channels Azumanga Daioh; set to a catchy J-ska tune.
Slice-of-life moe comedy is a booming genre. With Azumanga Daioh the genre’s catfather, and the well-received works of Kyoto Animation going far to popularize it (despite, in my opinion, KyoAni‘s work not coming close to showing what the genre is capable of), it goes without saying that any new entry has to do much to distinguish itself. Working! started out well within the shadows of another concurrently airing title, K-On! S2, but I have no question which show is better. It’s not a genre-breaker, but as a genre piece, it’s similar in many ways to the much underloved first season of Minami-ke.
There are a few important aspects that make it different from most titles in the genre. Male characters are prominent. Almost no action unfolds in a schoolyard setting. The traditional afterschool club setting found in similar shows is replaced with the backrooms of a family restaurant, where people work and only some of the characters are high-school age. The episodes are structured the same as most 4-koma adaptations, with a focus on quirky characters, well-timed gags, and a smidgen of relationship development to keep us invested, but what puts Working! in an upper tier is execution: plain, simple. Hiraike Yoshimasa, who worked on Sketchbook, directs with a good grasp of comic timing and an understanding of the importance of character interactions. The animation is smooth and consistent, and the art is filled with light, bright colours, and cute character designs. And the seiyuu are polished all ’round, with particularly impressive performances from Hirohashi Ryou, Kitamura Eri, Daisuke Ono, Fukuyama Jun and Kamiya Hiroshi (who’s been in everything recently).
The character interactions are the driving force of the comedy, and the chemistry works so well because the characters themselves are not only consistent, but also evolve with time. I wouldn’t call the character development in this show “momentous”, but Working! makes an extra effort that lesser shows disregard. The characters’ quirks are explained. We’re given reasons for Todoroki’s katana and admiration for Kyouko, Takanashi’s penchant for small, cute objects and Inami’s androphobia, which tie into their pasts and their upbringings. The show doesn’t make a great ado about their backgrounds, but there’s enough there to at least lend to the illusion that we’re not just laughing at gags penned by a writer, but that we’re laughing both at and with a group of people with feelings, concerns and relationships.
There were a few things I didn’t like, but most of my complaints are minor. The show’s reliance on characters and interactions means that you have to work up a sense of familiarity with the characters before the humour really hits home; this takes at least three episodes and the opening of the series is much more hit-or-miss than the rest. Some running jokes don’t work so well (such as Todoroki’s sword) while characters like Kyouko and Otou never develop past gag character status. I also wasn’t fussed by a trap character introduced later in the series, partly due to the fact that anime as a whole has driven the “trap” concept so far into the ground that it’s now being used to mine iron ore.
However, with those few exceptions, Working! has a good nous of when to introduce characters, and a lot of the later additions, such as Yamada, Matsumoto and Takanashi’s sisters, end up among the most fascinating and humourous of the lot. This is a well polished and occasionally clever genre comedy, and while I can’t quite bring myself to rank it higher than Sketchbook or Minami-ke’s first season, it’s a must see for genre fans, and a possible converter for those skeptical of a genre whose current face is K-On!.
The Rating: 7
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun