Anime Review: Working! Episode 4

(Originally published on Livejournal on May 26, 2010)

Anime Review:
Working!! Episode 4

About The Series: Wagnaria is a small family restaurant in Hokkaido that is understaffed, so Poplar recruits Souta as the newest part-time employee. However, Souta soon learns that his fellow co-workers are anything but normal. For example, the manager doesn’t seem to care about her job, Yachiyo is always carrying around a sword, and Mahiru is inexplicably terrified of men. Not that Souta is a bastion of normalcy himself; he has a fetish for small, cute things and the reason he took the job in the first place is because he can’t say no to the diminutive Poplar. Despite all their differences, the employees at Wagnaria do their best to keep the restaurant running smoothly.

In This Episode: A stranger shows up passed out behind the restaurant, drunk. Souta says that she is from his neighborhood and he will take care of her — when everyone leaves we discover that she is actually his older sister. However, this provides perfect blackmail material for the chef, Hiroomi — and it turns out that he is a master of finding out everyone’s weakness at the restaurant and using that knowledge to get everyone to do his work for him. Everyone, that is, except for Inami, who he has never been able to get close enough to learn her secrets; like every other male, she immediately socks him and runs away whenever he comes close. We also see the other chef, Jun, in his uncomfortable unrequited relationship with Yachiyo who doesn’t seem to notice (or rather doesn’t want to notice) him being sweet on her. Back at Souta’s home, we are introduced to his three older sisters (a mean-spirited lawyer, a perpetually-drunk playgirl, and hopelessly emo romance writer) and his younger sister (still “normal”, but Souta worries when the “Takanashi gene” will kick in), and it becomes easier to understand why he is as messed up as he is.

My Thoughts: Aaahhh!!! As if introducing eight totally dysfunctional characters in the first three episodes was not enough already, the show decides to throw in *four more* completely messed up people, each one with their own unique problems that make them unable to cope in society. One of my pet peeves I have with lots of shows — rather than flesh out and explore the characters they already have, they just add more and more characters until it’s just a big one-dimensional crowd. (I especially have this complaint about Angel Beats, which has an even larger cast, even less character development, and no hope of dealing with them all in any significant manner in twelve episodes. And don’t get me started on Durarara…)

That gripe out of the way, Working!! still maintains ‘teh funny’. Older sister #1 is a mean-spirited hard-as-nails lawyer; older sister #2 is about as goth-emo as you can get, hiding in her darkened room all day writing her romance novels; older sister #3 is a lush passed out by day, out on the town by night. Suddenly we can start to feel a bit sorry for Souta, constantly being browbeaten by his family; even though he is still in high school, he has to play the role of the responsible one, the man of the household, taking care of them all. But it is his younger sister, still in elementary school yet nearly as tall as he is, that is the most interesting. Even though she is still sweet and innocent, Souta worries that will soon change as she grows older with hints that she is learning the skill of manipulation.

The previous three episodes were all primarily used to introduce the characters at the restaurant, and this episode continues with that to give a bit more detail about the two cooks, Hiroomi and Jun. As nice as Hiroomi seems, turns out that he’s a blackmailer, adept at weaseling out everyone’s secrets and hinting at revealing them as a way to get his coworkers do work for him. And then there’s Jun, always cool and aloof…until Yachiyo shows up and he becomes all flustered like a big puppy dog. It’s so obvious to everyone that he has a crush on Yachiyo…except for Yachiyo who is so fixated on the manager that she is unable (unwilling) to notice, even when directly pointed out to her. And there’s nothing scarier than a jealous, lovestruck Yachiyo with a sword at the ready.

Initially I was worried that Working!! would just a series of endless jokes about Poplar being extremely short and cute — thankfully that has not happened. There’s enough weird character quirks among the cast to keep the show going without having to rely on any single tired gag. Except for Inami’s bone-crushing fear of men and her right hook — I’m getting sick of that pretty fast, wish she’d get over it already. It does not seem as if the show has any specific direction or plot; instead taking all of the uniquely “slightly broken” characters, throw them all into the same pot and let the stew form on its own. And that plan seems to be working (pun intended).

The Verdict:
My review of Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.
Random Curiosity review of Episode 4:

Up Next: Episode #4 of Angel Beats, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, K-On Season 2, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Giant Killing, and The Tatami Galaxy.

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