This series is really one of anime’s little miracles. For a series to be as consistent as this one has over three seasons spread out across five years is remarkable. For a comedy to do so, that much more remarkable. Yet Working has managed to deliver the goods consistently week after week, even as plotlines have been resolved and characters have developed. So there really wasn’t any reason to worry that it wouldn’t be able to do it this time, too.
Otoo-san and his wife (who I really feel like calling “Okaa-san”) reunited? No problem. Yamada moving back with her family? No sweat. Comedically speaking we didn’t miss a beat here – in fact, this was one of the funniest episodes of the season. The reason Working can give us actual progression and not lose steam is because it has the ability to transition within its own storylines. Be they romantic or otherwise, when cliffhangers are resolved and milestones reached these plots (and relationships) don’t disappear – they merely shift into a new phase.
Let’s start with the Yamada saga, which gave us one of its best episodes despite the enormous elephant in the room being stuffed and mounted last week. This thread is rejuvenated by the addition of Kikuno, who’s as crazy as both of her kids but in a totally different way. Aoi is continuing to work at Wagnaria (to pay for the dishes she breaks) and even stay over when her Mom can’t come home due to work, so no danger there. But now she’s obsessing over trying to build a relationship with the mother she shunned for two-and-a-half seasons, and Kirio is growing ever more frenzied by the fact that Aoi won’t acknowledge him due to the natto incident.
On the mom front, the big news is that Yamada (encouraged by Popura) has talked her mother into getting her a cell phone – but it takes six weeks. And she’s gotten her mother’s mail address – but that took two more weeks. And when she sends her mother her first text, it takes Kikuno a half-hour to reply – and when she does, it’s a blank message which falls to Kirio to hilariously interpret. Not that this buys Kirio any cred with Aoi – she still shuns him in favor of her pretend big brother, Souma.
I think it’s fair to say that Yamada has been eclipsed as the loopiest baka at Wagnaria – by Yamada. Kirio takes his responsibility to preserve the family reputation seriously, and he steps up his game in a big way to make up for Aoi’s reduced presence. Kirio systematically annoys everybody, with a special emphasis on Souta as regards his denial-fest over Inami (getting a special assist from Souma here – Na? Ne?). But the real madness starts when Kirio decides that the way to become Aoi’s big brother again is to get acknowledged as Souma’s little brother too – and, by extension, Aoi’s big brother. So he (naturally) goes to Satou for advice.
Anyone who’s been watching Working can see the comedic potential in this scenario, and it doesn’t disappoint. Satou sees this as an opportunity to annoy Souma, so he advises Kirio to dress up like a grade-schooler and catch Souma like a rhinoceros beetle. But Satou has his own problems – it’s Yachiyo’s birthday. Happily for him his four years of prevarication and procrastination finally pay off, as he has four years worth of birthday gifts to deliver to Yachiyo (progress!). But his reward for his courage is Kirio deciding that the path forward is to become his little brother, so he can then by extension be acknowledged as Souma’s little brother. And then, by extension… Well – you get the point. As Souma ominously declares, anyone who gets mixed up with Kirio… ends up annoyed.
Finally, we get a hilarious subplot with Popura. I’ve more or less resigned myself to the fact that we aren’t going to get any major recurring plots for the best Working girl, but that doesn’t mean I won’t treasure the one-offs when I get them. This time out, she’s depressed when Souta asks her if she’s gotten shorter, and her consternation as she tries to find out if it’s true is irresistibly lovable. In truth, she’s actually grown 1 cm – but sadly, Souta has grown 3 cm himself. Poor Popura just can’t buy a break – even when she gets bigger she’s smaller, but that doesn’t stop her from being a constant delight every time she’s involved in the plot.