Hey there MoarPowah!, long time no see (not really, but it’s been over a week)! This time I’ll be writing about a slight blast from the past, to commemorate the advent of its second season (which is scheduled to air during the Fall 2011 Anime Season).
Some notes before we start. Working!! (also known as Wagnaria!!) started out as a “ four-panel comic strip manga series written and illustrated by Karino Takatsu, and concerns the activities of the unusual employees at the Wagnaria family restaurant” (taken straight from the Wikipedia page). There are three drama CD’s of it, and although the CD cast and the anime cast are completely different, in my opinion the anime cast did a decent job. (Therefore you will not hear any complaints about a decrease in the quality of the voicing in the anime, from me at least.)
Anyways, without further ado, let’s dig in! Itadakimasu!
The story starts in Wagnaria, a family restaurant managed by Shirafuji Kyouko (an ex-juvenile delinquent, although she still resembles a yakuza boss). Kyouko needs moar workers bees for her hive, so she sends Taneshima Poplar (like the poplar tree; ironically her most defining feature is that she’s really really short) to recruit another worker. Poplar asks in school and around town, looking for another worker for the restaurant, and after repeatedly being rejected and brushed off (because she’s so short), she comes across the main character of our series, Takanashi Souta. He immediately takes a liking to Poplar because of his obsession for small things (not just cute small things, but all small things), and agrees to work as a waiter in Wagnaria.
At Wagnaria, Takanashi (even though I use Kyouko and Poplar for their respective characters, Takanashi is generally referred to by his surname during the anime, so I will do so as well) meets the rest of the workers: Todoroki Yachiyo, a kind and helpful girl who carries around a very intimidating katana and is unusually infatuated with Kyouko, Satou Jun (the cook), a generally serious man who enjoys taking out his frustration on Poplar everytime Yachiyo inadvertently, unknowingly and indirectly rejects him, Inami Mahiru (a waitress), a timid girl with androphobia and inhuman strength, and Souma Hiroomi (a waiter), an easy-going guy who blackmails the other workers (except Jun and Inami) so that he himself doesn’t actually have any duties. Two other workers join in much later on: Yamada Aoi, a runaway who is overconfident but only causes trouble (and lives in the attic of the restaurant), and Matsumoto Maya, who is the only (self-proclaimed) “normal” person at Wagnaria (but has two large curls in her hair on the side of her head that look like sheep horns).
Since this is only a 13-episode series, the anime progresses rather quickly. After a few episodes you can easily tell that Takanashi and Inami (I use Inami as well for the same reason I use Takanashi instead of Souma) are bound to get together. Inami is unable to approach males to the point that she instinctively punches any male that gets close to her; most of that time, that means Takanashi is sent flying six ways to Sunday everyday he shares a shift with her. Takanashi, unable to tolerate being treated as a punching bag, decides to “cure” Inami of her fear of men. Using various methods (some of which involved Takanashi’s reluctant cross-dressing), their relationship deepens, and you can tell that Inami becomes absolutely smitten.
As far as plots go, the one in Working!! is not bad, although it’s not spectacular either. One thing I can commend it for is its premise; I don’t see anime about workers at family restaurants very often. However, the line that the plot progresses along is far from unique: main male character gets introduced to a new environment, he makes friends, he meets a girl, he and girl walk together on the path of lurv. Nevertheless, Working!! was well-paced, very funny and somewhat emotional (it could be moar emotional for others, I’m just not really a sap for romance), so I was entertained to a satisfactory level.
The characters of Working!! are one of the best points the series has; each character is unique in their own way, and has a somewhat decently put-together backstory. Take Takanashi. When you first meet him, you think he’s some creepy lolicon, but it turns out he has an equal appreciation for short girls, stuffed animals and water fleas. His universal love for small and cute things (and his undying hatred for cross-dressing) originates from being tormented by his (taller) older sisters when he was young, and being forced to wear their hand-me-downs. Likewise, Inami’s androphobia is also caused by the strong influence of a family member; her family was so overprotective of her that he brainwashed her into thinking all men were wolves (and also added weights to her backpack every day to build up her strength). Each character has their own interesting quirks and (endearing) flaws, making the cast of Working!! a major player in the quality of the show.
… but even when I praise the cast, I cannot deny, I have a major hate-on for both Inami and Yamada Aoi that can be explained in no other way aside from “they’re annoying.” Inami’s past chocked up my sympathy points, but I never really disliked the part about her that fears men. What I hated about her was her timidness. Inami cries at the first sign of danger, she cries when she’s nervous, she cries when she’s frustrated, she cries when she’s happy, it seems she cries even when there’s nothing that could possibly be worth crying over. Another trait that I picked up about her was her tendency to fidget and do the cute “embarrassed” pose when she’s feeling, well, embarrassed. It was such an obvious fanservice move on the part of the director(s), I still can’t accept it as a relevant or necessary addition to her character. In fact, on hindsight, Inami’s whole character is filled with fanservice flags: she’s innocent and pure, she’s needy, she’s a little tsundere, she has a fatal flaw only the main character can fix, she’s the perfect archetype for the a main love interest in a romance series. This seems to be a trend in my reviews, but I cannot stop my hate-on for the Mary Janes.
As for Yamada Aoi, she’s just useless and doesn’t add at all to the plot. She’s just loli fanservice after all.
Anyways, back on track, the music in this series was very fit for the mood, although it isn’t noteworthy. What I remember the best is the opening theme, “SOMEONE ELSE.” The OP is very bright, cheerful and catchy, as is the OP animation. It’s sung by the voice actors of Poplar, Inami and Yachiyo, to boot. The ending theme, “Heart no Edge ni Idomou Go to Heart Edge,” is less impressive, although that is understandable as it is sung by the voice actors of the male workers of the restaurant. (And, this should be reason enough because most male voice actors do not double up as professional singers, although most female voice actors do for some reason.) Speaking of voice actors, let’s go through the voicing cast. We have an amazing male cast here, with Fukuyama Jun (probably now best known for Lelouch) as Takanashi, Daisuke Ono (the won the award for best Male Seiyuu in the 4th Seiyuu Awards for his role as Sebastian Michaelis in Kuroshitsuji) as Satou Jun, and Kamiya Hiroshi (the voice of, need I say again, our endearing bastard Orihara Izaya from Durarara!!) aptly cast as the (somewhat) bastardly Souma Hiroomi. The female voicing cast is slightly less impressive, although some most know Kitamura Eri (Yachiyo) as Yui from Angel Beats, Takagi Saya from High School of the Dead (and check out Judge’s H.o.t.D. article) and Kawashima Ami from Toradora!. Another well-known female voice in the cast is Asumi Kana (Poplar), who voiced Tachibana Miya from Amagami SS and Yuno from the Hidamari Sketch series (which should not be mistaken for a certain similarly designed magical girl series).
Finally, the other driving points about Working!! (aside from its characters) are its art and animation quality. The animation quality was consistently good, so I have nothing to say about animation, aside from that it’s satisfactory. The art style is very “moe” even though none of the characters have gargantuan eyes (unlike the art of a certain door-opening studio, which does draw gargantuan eyes). But, even though the character designs were unique to me at the time, in hindsight (unfortunately), I can name moar similarities than I would like from other series and/or games. For example, Satou Jun (the cook for Wagnaria) has an uncanny resemblance to Sanji (the cook in One Piece). And for another example, Poplar looks like the female Trainer in Pokemons White and Black.
Over and out, goshisousama deshita!