Stepping back and really looking at it, I think it’s hard not to be impressed with the third season of Working. It’s managed to raise the stakes on every level without losing the comic charm that makes the series such a success, and that’s not an easy thing to do. And while there’s no question that much of what happens on this show is patently absurd, in context it all seems to make sense to a degree that’s almost frightening.
I found myself thinking it had been too long since the prince of baka Kirio-kun had made an appearance when voilà! – there he was. In a cast full of crazies Kirio is right there with the best of them, but his encounter with Kotori-chan proves full of surprises. First, it turns out that Kirio figures out the truth almost immediately (it’s the voice) – then he reveals that he and Kotori have a past. Kotori, it seems, was Kirio’s first crush – and it wasn’t until much later that Kirio found out the Takanashi 4th “daughter” was actually a boy.
Given how skeevey all that is sure to make Souta feel, there’s no mystery about how this encounter is going to end up. This whole “dress as a girl to figure out my feelings about Mahiru” thing is kind of dark for a comedy, especially given Souta’s family history, and it’s got most of the gang at Wagnaria worried – even Yamada (and when Yamada is worried about you, you know your life is a mess). She even goes on a “diet” – though it’s actually more a hunger strike until she can figure out how to enter her order correctly and generate a ticket.
I like the fact that we have co-workers reacting in such a normal way to completely abnormal behavior – it’s very rooted in the notion of shedding light on reality through absurdity (another great anime example of this is Uchouten Kazoku, though the approach is certainly different). Also very worried about Souta-kun is Popura, ever-diligent in her self-perceived role as wise sempai and mentor. Her story is going to turn out to be rather more serious than Yamada’s, though.
Popura being the center of a major plot is very rare for Working, sadly – though of course she was the star of the very first episode – so as an unabashed Popura fan I’m always glad to see it. Her role here is tied in with Yachiyo, and as soon ad Yachiyo told Popura she wanted to see her after work I knew exactly what was about to happen. Again, this development is handled in quite a realistic manner – it really does seem as if it’s time for Yachiyo to move on, and these sorts of goodbyes are a painful part of young-adult work life in these sorts of jobs. As for Popura taking over as “chief” (which I guess we’d have called a shift supervisor) again, it makes sense – who the heck else is going to do it? Popura is ready for this, just like Yachiyo is – she needs to push herself and grow up a little.
There’s some other stuff going on here – a subplot with Souma and his new camera primarily (sorry, but it’s just creepy and stalkerish and so is he) but truthfully, this couldn’t more obviously be boiling down to Souta and Inami for the finale. I was quite pleased to see him ask her outright whether she preferred him as a guy or a girl, and that she answered honestly – the whole Kotori return has felt a bit contrived to me from the start. And equally, it was nice to see him finally (sort of) ask her out, even if the circumstances were fairly bizarre.
But damn, Souta’s mom is terrifying. She’s been eerily silent as her son has gone round the bend, but it seems as if she was just biding her time, waiting for him to show some progress so she could pounce ghoulishly. Just what drives Taknashi-san is sort of the missing piece from this final arc of Working – I kind of hate to see a character who didn’t even appear until the last 5% of the series to cast a large shadow over the ending. What does she want here, I wonder – surely it’s more than a simple desire to mess with her children’s lives for the fun of it…