What a pure, simple pleasure it is to have Working back on the anime schedule. The punctuation may change (it’s “!!!” this time) and there’s more development than one might think, but the essence of the series’ appeal never seems to wane. It’s timeless in the best sense of the word, and the experience of seeing it again makes the almost four-year absence feel as if it never happened – you’re immediately transported back inside this quirky, exasperating world. And what a wonderful feeling that is.
I could turn this into a “let me count the ways” sonnet easily enough, but a post on a new Working premiere requires a certain accounting of just why this show is so good. It starts, of course, with the fact that it gets the little details of the setting so right – anyone who’s worked in food service will verify that. There’s the cast, which is remarkably engaging and distinctive in a medium where distinctive characters are anything but the norm. There’s the machine-gun dialogue, with its irresistible rhythms and gravitational pull.
What Working really is, then, is anime’s best sitcom – this is pure character-driven situation comedy. Takatsu Karino’s writing (we see this with Servant X Service, too) is very much of a kind with Western workplace situation comedies in format, but the humor adds a delightfully off-key manga sensibility. The real magic is that this series can make me love things I normally find irritating or worse – hyper-cute lolis, Fukuyama Jun, endlessly drawn-out misunderstandings. That’s a testament to how good the writing and the performances are, plain and simple.
Unlike with Servant X Service, the main romantic pairing is the weakest part of Working for me, but it must be said that this has gotten better over the course of two series. Inami shows a genuine desire to change, and she’s gotten considerably less violent as she’s made incremental progress in fighting her Androphobia. Still, I do find other cast members and their stories more engaging – especially the sadly under-utilized Popura. The other weak link for me is Souma, who in contrast to Inami hasn’t shown much growth – his troll antics can be amusing, but they have a limited shelf-life for me (and he was at his worst with the Yamada siblings storyline in Working ‘!!.
Speaking of which, we do indeed have recurring storylines in this series – it’s not as episodic as most people make it out to be. Again there’s an interesting contrast between structure and tone – the episodes are almost always a traditional mini-plot format, but they subtly advance the main storylines. Inami continues to confront her growing feelings for Souta. Satou continues to helplessly pine for Yachiyo (with Souma’s so-called “help”). Kirio continues to search for Aoi even as Ooto-san looks for his wife (these two stories intersect hilariously in this premiere).
This episode does an admirable job of touching base with all the major plots and showcasing the running gags. The first ep concerns the lost little girl from S2, whose return reminds us that no matter how cute a loli is, there’s always one even littler and cuter waiting to steal your thunder. I’ll take Popura any day, mind you, but she’s quite perturbed by chibicon Souta’s blissful infatuation with said toddler (he spends his workday with her hanging from his neck). Happily, Souta reassures Popura that she’ll always be his “Chichai-sempai” – though sadly, I don’t think any romance between these two is in the cards.
Yamada Aoi’s general baka act provides a sort of ever-present secondary track for the series, and this ep is no exception. Her brother Kirio shows up in the B-part, running into Inami (her hairpins this week are a sheep and a musical notation). Kirio is a bit of a baka in his own right, though Inami strives not to point this out openly when he searches for Aoi in the underbrush. His “I found a housewife in the bushes!” may be the funniest line of the episode, and the housewife is none other than Otoo-san’s elusive wife. Aoi later finds her too, and decides she’s a perfect candidate to marry Otoo-san and be her adoptive mother.
This is a classic Working comedy of errors – Aoi is trying to pair up Otoo-san with the woman he’s already married to, Kirio is searching for her, Otoo is searching for his wife, and none of them realizes that their quarry is mere meters away. And Otoo-san’s wife pulls off her own version of a locked room murder by disappearing, despite the fact that Souma and Yachiyo have boxed her in. Normally this endless delaying of the inevitable would piss me off, but somehow Working makes it work – maybe it’s the knowledge that there’s (presumably) going to be a payoff at the end of this season that makes it tolerable.
The funny thing about Working is, you don’t want it to change too much because it’s so familiar and so enjoyable. Even the OP and EDs are consistent and reliable, both in sound and animation – and that’s all part of the series’ charm. The hairpins, the head-pats, the broken dishes, the ever-silent “normal” Maya-san – they’re all as recognizable as old friends, because that’s exactly what they are. Formula is a word I use in a negative context more often than not, but Working shows us the positive side, just as it takes so much that would normally be a drawback and turns it into a strength. I love this series, and returning to it is nostalgia of the very best kind.
OP: “NOW!!!GAMBLE” by the Working Girls