The-O Network Online has been undergoing some staff changes as of late, and we're all very lucky and very glad to have snapped up a new anime reviewer, Ken Ohata! Ken will be laying the smack down on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Japanese animation, so keep a lookout for more from him. After the jump we have his first official review, Working!! Read and enjoy! --Stephen Bajza, Editor
Working!!, known as Wagnaria!! in North America, is the anime adaptation of the 4-koma manga series by Karino Takatsu. The manga has been ongoing on Young Gan Gan since January 2005. There have been nine volumes released to date and three drama CDs were produced between 2007 and 2009. The anime was aired in April 2010 and the second season was announced on April 1, 2011.
The story starts with Sota Takanashi, a sixteen-year-old high school student. He is recruited by Popura Taneshima, an adorable but extremely short seventeen-year-old high school student, to work at the family restaurant Wagnaria, hence the American title. Takanashi accepts her request but is dragged into unforeseen working conditions. Wagnaria is just a normal family restaurant, but the employees aren't exactly what he expects them to be.
Wagnaria's employees act as a dysfunctional but comical family. Popura is small enough to be mistaken as an elementary school girl, which is ironic because she was named after the poplar tree so she would grow tall. There's Inami Mahiru who appears to be a normal seventeen-year-old girl but has sever androphobia. Her androphobia will cause her to punch any male that comes near her regardless of species, which tends to be, for better or worse, Takanashi. The Manager, Kyoko Shirafuji, is rather apathetic towards anything in the restaurant besides eating parfaits and whatever Wagnaria serves. Then there is Yachiyo Todoroki who has an obsessive admiration of the manager and carries around a katana while serving her customers.
For Takanashi's fellow male employees, there's Jun Sato, and Hiroomi Soma. Jun Sato has a threatening appearance and acts quite intimidating, but is actually a very helpful guy. He often finds creative ways to tease or play pranks on Popura about her height. On the other hand, Hiroomi Soma may look like an easygoing cook, but he tends to blackmail his fellow co-worker into doing his job. He has a knack for getting information about others, and is curious about what his fellow workers are doing.
Takanashi's fellow co-workers may seem like an odd bunch, but Takanashi himself is unaware of his own strange behavior. One thing I applaud of this series is that they introduce a new term for those who are misinterpreted as lolicons. What Takatsu introduces is the new term "mini-con", which is someone with an obsessive preference for anything that is small like puppies, kittens, children, and even water fleas. Takanashi adds more variety to the Wagnaria oddity.
The thing that I loved most about this series is the voice actors. Coincidentally, or maybe not, all three male characters are voiced by seiyuus from Durarara!! in practically the same roles. We have Jun Fukuyama acting as Takanashi, who has that same perverted role he did for Shinra, Hiroshi Kamiya for Soma, the sadistic and know-it-all type as Izaya, and Daisuke Ono who plays the silent giant similar to Shizuo.
The seiyuu for the female characters aren't in the same situation as the males, but I have to say they were very amusing. We have Kana Asumi for Popura, who nearly has the same lines as Yuno in Hidamari Sketch. She provides this cute mascot-ish feel to Popura, making her action more adorable. Kumiko Watanabe performs Kyoko Shirafuji whose attitude is completely different from her performance as Keroro from Keroro Gunso, which surprised me. We have Eri Kitamura for Yachiyo Todoroki, which was quite new to me as I usually see her voice acting characters that are more energetic or youthful. Kitamura plays a more lady-like and mature role for Yachiyo, showing Kitamura's new and interesting voice acting talents. Saki Fujita, who voiced the virtual idol, Hatsune Miku, plays the role of Mahiru Inami. Fujita does a great job switching from a shy and timid teenager to flustered, and sometime violent, androphobic.
What I enjoyed most out of this series is that it made me actually want to work in this kind of environment. I kid you not, I wouldn't mind cleaning up the messes these characters bring as long as I got to mess around with them. Last time I checked, family restaurants, or any other type of restaurant, don't have cute midget waitresses, katana-wielding waitresses, or even a blackmailing cook to serve people. I enjoyed Takatsu-sensei's sense of comedy which, to me, wasn't annoying or unbearable to watch, but was actually nicely done and didn't really offend anyone. I also loved how Popura keeps on saying "I'm not short!" throughout the whole series, despite her own humiliation when she contradicts herself.
Another thing I liked was the character designs by A-1 pictures. The character designs by Takatsu-sensei were simple and sketchy. For an anime, the characters would need details to make them alive, but at a minimum to stay close the original work. Looking at the manga and anime, I wasn't disappointed in the design and was really happy to see them being animated. I really compliment A-1 for the character designs and making Takatsu sensei's work come alive.
If I had to pull out something I didn't enjoy about this anime, I would say it was the tempo of each episode. Although the manga was a pretty simple 4-koma anime, I felt that this series took too long to develop. I felt like the anime took its time to fill the gap between each 4-koma of the manga so that the story would make sense. 4-koma manga are usually fast paced and need to shorten its storytelling to get to the point. Although I felt the anime's storytelling was time consuming, it was something that couldn't be helped when you're transferring several short chapters from a six-page manga to a full 30 minute animation.
There is just so much more I could talk about that makes the series both hilarious and charming, but I'll resist spoiling it. I would recommend anyone, literally anyone, to watch this anime. I would have to say this show was one of the funnier and entertaining series that aired in spring 2010. If you're interested in something with a story, you'll likely find what you're looking for around the last few episodes, but I would say the giggles packed into the anime will make up for it. There are even more characters to come in this series that will make Working!! more fun to watch. If you're into slice-of-life type storytelling, get yourself to watch Wagnaria!! now! I would overall recommend this series to anyone looking for a fun show bundled with laughs.