Being railroaded due to his weakness for cute things, Takanashi Sota ends up working at the family restaurant Wagnaria through the efforts of Taneshima Poplar. There, he meets up with a rather eccentric group of coworkers (to put it mildly) Which goes better than should be expected, due to him already having pretty weird sisters.
Well, at least until he meets up with androphobic Inami Mahiru.
And there you have the reason why I didn't go for this show for the longest time. Oh yes, word had reached my ears about this violent mental case punching every man getting within arm's reach. I've been pretty vocal about my dislike of this sort of thing before, and given how often and casual this particular element of anime "comedy" has been used over the last couple of years, it's a major thorn in my side. (Though thankfully, it's mostly limited to the lesser works of romantic anime or harem shows, so I don't have to suffer them too often.)
Well, don't you worry, because Wagnaria!! has a whole wealth of elements to draw comedy from, which will take a lot of the brunt of Miharu's violence off your mind. Like... uh, Kyoko's contact with a bunch of thugs that will "take care" of any problematic customers.
Wait, that didn't make the show sound funny? Sorry, let's just... let me try one more time. Please?
Because, believe it or not, Wagnaria!! actually is pretty damn entertaining. A lot of it stem from misunderstandings and the characters misreading each other, often to rather extreme levels, which is part of the reason why School Rumble earned its comedy cojones. And it's this character-related hilarity that makes the show so much easier to digest. OK, so it's a little bit too reliant on gimmicks, like Mahiru's androphobia, Kyoko's "connections", Poplar's shortness or Yachiyo carrying a katana on her at all times. (Yes, at ALL times, no exceptions.) But the dialogue is a hoot, and delivered with such timing that I can't help but being impressed. And amused.
So, who are the characters? Well, in the MAIN main seat, we have Sota Takanashi, a seemingly normal and levelheaded guy. The only thing "off" about him is his strong fetish for cute stuff, which is the reason why he accepted Poplar's offer for a position in Wagnaria. While most of his peculiar and occasionally creepy adoration for the cute is directed at the diminiutive girl, it also nosedives straight into the really weird by including Water Fleas. Most of his interactions are centered around two of his female staff colleagues, one being the aforementioned Taneshima Poplar, who despite her extremely short height, is actually Sota's senior by one year. The other regular female prescence comes in the violent hands of Inami Mahiru, a girl who is so strongly phobic against men that she'll punch them if they come within arms reach. (And through the manipulative machinations of her father, she punches really, REALLY hard.) She really wants to rid herself of her phobic mania, though, which is why Sota becomes a somewhat regular victim of her punches.
Among the other regulars, we find Todoroki Yachiyo, a seemingly calm and mature woman... except she is constantly seen with a katana at her hip. To make matters worse, she's not above using it if she thinks someone is getting between her and Shirafuji Kyoko, Wagnaria's manager. Said manager had a past as a juvenile delinquent, and she still calls in favors from her old gang from time to time. She usually avoids having to do any work in the restaurant, reasoning that the restaurant would be better off if she didn't even try.
Rounding off the male side of the spectrum, we have Jun Sato and Hiroomi Soma. Sato is one of the more sensible characters in the show, and while he does have a large amount of patience, the crew at Wagnaria can and will occasionally wear it down. Most of the time, this is caused by Yachiyo's complete cluelessness to his feelings for her. Keeping a keen eye on the proceedings is Soma, who usually wastes no time getting to know his coworkers. Unfortunately for them, he's most interesting in getting some inside dirt on them so that he can blackmail them into doing his work.
The fans of bright, cute art and animation are going to find little to complain about, because it's a pretty nice looking show. Animation's kind of average, which makes me suspect is why slice-of-life shows are so popular these days; they're easier to animate compared to action shows. To make up for that (even if it doesn't really have to make up for anything), character art is pretty nice and stable. The music is pretty forgettable, though, and isn't helped much by the irritatingly pop-y intro theme. Being a NIS release, Wagnaria has no English dub. Among the original Japanese voice actors, I grew fond of Ono Daisuke's somewhat sardonic tone as Sato. Asumi Kana continues being cute as Poplar, where I earlier heard her as Yuno from one of my newer favorites: Hidamari Sketch, and it's easy to hear the similarities between the characters. And lastly, Ryo Hirohashi voices one of the later arrivals; Yamada Aoi, where she brings out the same kind of voice she used for Alice Carroll in Aria, or Ishigaki Tamaki from Taisho Baseball Girls. Though in Working's case, I'd say she's closer to Alice; somewhat socially awkward, but really sneaky when she wants to be.
It really is a funny show, I swear. And not just because almost everyone in it are crazy. OK, so Sota's subnormal interest in cute things borders on creepy at times, while Soma's a manipulative, blackmailing little punk. But the part that makes it so much fun is seeing this show put the characters up against each other, and somehow, everyone gets out of it mostly unscathed. When you add that to its sense of self-relisation and how it (probably unintentionally) pokes fun at things characters in most "comedy" romance or harem shows have an unfortunate habit of getting away with without question, you end up with a show that's strangely satisfying.
Yes, I'm being vindictive about it. You have a problem with that?
I think the most fascinating part about this show is just how it can get by on such a cast. In some ways, it reminds me a little about a more malevolent version of Hidamari Sketch. The characters are mostly played up against each other, wherein their personality traits and eccentric nature make for some pretty fun dialogue. But I'll be damned if this isn't one of the most difficult reviews I've ever had to write, because it's not easy trying to write a positive review for a show that contains so much of the elements I strongly dislike in anime in general. But when a show manages to turn that into a funny show -- and, most amazing of all, made me sympathize with the violent girl in question, then that needs to be acknowledged.
It's actually a really fun show. It must be some kind of conspiracy or something. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: This show is all about the slapstick violence and the occasional bouts of black humor. Most of the violence is kept offscreen -- which is mostly Kyoko's dealings with her former gang members -- with the exception of Mahiru's punches, all in "glorious" slow-motion realism. (Except for the omitted permanent damage punches like these would cause in reality.)
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Wagnaria!! © 2010 Karino Takatsu / Square Enix / WORKING!! Production Committee
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