Now that’s how you do a sequel.
I loved the first season of Working – it made my “10 Best List” for 2010, in fact. If there was ever a show that seemed perfectly tailored for a continuation it was this one, and the only surprise was that the announcement took as long as it did. This is a terrific show, built on a hilarious cast and a very simple premise – young adults working in a menial foodservice job – that was eminently relatable for me, and I suspect a lot of other folks as well. The series captured the camaraderie that exists in these situations, along with the way we take sick pleasure in trying to drive each other crazy. But there were a couple of problems with the first season, namely that the show focused too heavily on one subplot – the Souta-Inami relationship – in a series that was designed to be a true ensemble. It didn’t help that the first season’s Inami didn’t come off as a terrible likeable character, and her violent side was overplayed way too much.
So there were some legitimate concerns going into the second season, especially given that there had been some staff changes in very important roles. And while the show started out fine, very much of a piece with the first season, there were a few inconsistencies that made the first six episodes or so a slight downgrade from the first season. There were lots of smiles and the overall effect was one of pleasant atmospherics but not as many big laughs. Then, with the arrival of Yamada Kirio, the show found another gear and other than a small hiccup in episode eight, never looked back.
It’s easy to pick out things to like about this second season. It more or less corrected the imbalance of the first season, treating the romantic subplot as one among many and not letting it take over the series. Not only that, but the scenes involving Souta and Inami were much better this season, and Inami was an order of magnitude funnier and easier to like. It was really clear just how badly she wanted to change, and her violent episodes were much fewer and farther between. This is very much a comedy, and it isn’t best served by taking things too seriously and pushing the “d’aaw!” moments too hard. But it got things just right between these two this season. There was meaningful progress in their relationship with the hint of more to come, but the show always pulled back just before making those scenes too cute. Even the OP and ED perfectly captured the feel of their S1 counterparts.
It’s not that easy to pigeonhole Working when it comes to comedy, because it’s so versatile and derives it’s laughs in so many ways. It’s a situation comedy, and not above mining comedy from misunderstandings. There are very few shows that can do sight gags as funny as this one can, with countless huge laughs derived from facial histrionics, hair sculpture and chops to the head (funnily enough, most of the best sight gags seem to feature Yamada). It uses language as a comedic weapon, and satire is a weekly part of the mix. But the reason all these elements work is because no matter what method Working is using to make you laugh, all the comedy is true to the characters. Whatever the style, all the humor here is character-driven and the cast is one of the funniest and most distinct in anime. There are no losers here – even “normal” Maya and mostly-absent Otoo bring a lot to the table with every appearance.
It’s funny that for the second year in a row, a Yamada joined the cast in mid-season and gave the series a much-needed jolt. I didn’t love the fact that the two siblings never met, but I did love the appearances by Kirio, as his entire family seems to be lovably and completely nuts. There were some other nice mid-season additions, like Kyoko’s old underlings, and Souta’s siblings were integrated into the fabric of the series in a way they weren’t last season. All of the main cast shined, though I absolutely wanted to kill Souma after episode eight. We saw the best Satou-Yachiyo episode yet (though still not much real development, sadly) and more hilarious Aoi moments than I can remember. Sure, I would have liked to have had more Popura – more Popura is always a good thing, and she’s been shortchanged in both seasons. But at least she was the star of the final episode, and Maya her co-star.
It’s just as hard to imagine this show not continuing as it was after the first season. It’s “sitcom” nature makes it perfectly suited for a continuation thematically – life at Wagnaria continues apace, and it in no way seems like an affront or a cash grab to keep chronicling it. Quality remains high, and the series is just as popular as ever – it looks as if BD/DVD sales are incredibly consistent with the first season, and might even exceed it. In short, A-1 has themselves what looks like a winning franchise here – a really good show that’s a success both artistically and commercially, with a wide demographic appeal and a following both in Japan and out. In short, what’s not to love? I’ll be shocked if there isn’t a third season, and that tempers my sadness at the ending of the second quite a bit. As sequels go, this season or Working will go down as one of the best.