Wagnaria!! Season 2 Episode 1 – Dream Job
Wagnaria!! (Working!! in Japanese, but called Wagnaria!! on the English DVDs to make the title more unique) is yet another slice of life show based on a 4-Koma manga series set around remarkably unusual people in an otherwise usual setting. Unlike the vast majority of its contemporaries, Wagnaria!! isn’t based around high school life, and wasn’t afraid to have a much higher “adult” population than is usual for the genre. The number of important male characters was also much higher than average, which is to say that there were more than two.
Wagnaria even features a male lead as the official protagonist. Souta Takanashi was continually mistreated by his older, much taller sisters, all of whom have their own odd quirks and neurosis (naturally). This in turn led Takanashi to develop a love for all things small and cute, so when he meets the pint-sized Poplar Taneshima, who is tiny even by Japanese standards, he’s utterly smitten—not romantically, but the way one might adore a kitten or puppy.
Wanting to spend as much time around her as possible, he winds up getting hired at the family restaurant where Taneshima waitresses. There he discovers his own mental hangups are minor compared to those of the rest of the staff.
Taneshima, obviously, has a chip on her shoulder about her height, and constantly resents being treated as a child by everyone. Fellow waitress Mahiru Inami is violently androphobic, to the point she can’t interact with male customers; Takanashi promptly becomes her new punching bag. Chefs Jun Satou and Hiroomi Souma are both relationally challenged, with Satou finding ways to tease Taneshima and Souma collecting blackmail material on everyone. Yachiyo Todoroki, the last of the original waitresses, always carries around a katana due to family issues, and is violently devoted to the restaurant’s manager, Kyouko Shirafuji, who is mostly looking for excuses not to work.
And that’s only the beginning. As the series progresses we meet the restaurant’s owner, who spends near all of his time searching for his “lost” wife. (That is, she literally is lost.) Then the staff learns that a girl named Aoi Yamada has been living in the store attic after she conned the owner into letting her stay, and she’s reluctantly dragooned into helping out. And of course each of Takanashi’s sisters gets her due as well, although the show hasn’t done all it can with them yet.
The show was a personal favorite of mine back in 2010. It was a slice of life show that never reached the heights of popularity of a K-On! or a Lucky Star, but was far funnier than either series—not just because it was far more innovative in its setting or cast of characters, but in how it used them. Having a much larger cast of characters than usual all interacting at the same time creates a much more freewheeling sense of chaos.
It also was far more willing than any other slice of life show to let romantic attraction play a role in the story. One of the major subplots is how Inami starts to develop feelings for Takanashi as he works to cure her of her androphobia; it’s also revealed reasonably early on that Satou likes Todoroki, but is unable to get through to her because of his inexpressive nature and Todoroki’s obsession with the assistant manager. While the recently finished My Ordinary Life (another slice of life show that had a decent sized male cast) was willing to play around with unrequited crushes and the like, actual romance was out of the question.
But also, like the best of the slice of life genre, Wagnaria!! did not remain endless locked in the status quo. It was carefully crafted to have the characters not just interact with each other in humorous ways, but also continually goad each other into growing, however incrementally. Inami does slowly learn to interact with Takanashi, even if in fits and starts. And Todoroki did inadvertently learn that Satou had feelings for her toward the end of the first season, even if both of them promptly tried to shove that revelation under the rug.
It’s for this reason that I’m slightly worried about the second season of Wagnaria!! The first episode almost seems to return us to status quo ante, with no progress within the episode of any of the main plots, and with both the Todoroki/Satou and, worse, the Inami/Takanashi relationships seems to take a few steps back. Some of that might just be from the desire to reintroduce the audience to the setting and the characters, but while I’m not expecting series-changing events right off the bat, I’d at least expect the show to keep what progress it had.
Of course, I’m also worried about the change in staff, with both the director and series composer having been switched out for this season. The replacements have most of their experience in working on trashy plotless fanservice deployment engines rather than quality (or even decent) shows; this was not exactly a confidence raiser for me.
It the new season funny? Well, yes; I’m certainly enjoying it, and having seen the second episode already I can say that the relationships formed last season might be progressing at a snail’s pace, but at least they are getting screen time. There’s enough different aspects to how the staff can interact with each other to keep the show fresh, even if things stay mostly the same.
So, while the second season of Wagnaria!! may not provide anything deeper or more interesting than 20+ minutes of crazy people going off on each other, it’s not less enjoyable for the lack of something more serious. Of the new shows I’ve seen so far, even the ones I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet, Wagnaria!! is the best comedy among them. That’s hardly a poor way to start.
You can watch the first episode of the second season here. I don’t know of any place where the first season is streaming, but it is available on Amazon, which means Netflix or similar services should have it to rent. Edit: Now Crunchyroll has the entire first season available as well. Problem solved.