22 October 2012

#2LR Too Late Reviews - Final Review, "Working!!" Season 1

By episode 13 of "Working!!", the narrative arc is firmly established.  The main narrator of the series is Takanashi, and while he may not be involved in every plot that goes on around him, it does seem as if he is the straight man to everyone's neuroses.  However, when there are an additional eight characters--each making at least one appearance through the end of this set of episodes--you can imagine that there is more than enough humor and conflict for all.

I do have more than my share of praises to offer the show, starting first and foremost with the pacing.  I enjoyed the fact that this was not in any way, shape, or form a bunch of one-off jokes with everyone returning to status quo by the end of the episode.  To be truthful, if there ever was a setting that this format would match best to, it would be a restaurant... any Gordon Ramsay show can demonstrate this very easily, or even Iron Chef.  The grand majority of food in one's life is only remembered as long as it takes to get to the next meal.  There are plot elements that followed this format, such as the aforementioned hot springs episode, or the episode where Takanashi's younger sister comes to work an internship.  Part of the joke surrounding the episode is the fact that his younger sister is possibly two inches shorter despite being between three to four years younger, and she pretty much towers over the remaining female cast.

The one reason that I continued to watch anime, though, was that the majority of the shows have a narrative arc to them.  The main conflict of the show is an issue that has both a very local dimension as well as a universal one, in that one of the other waitresses (Inami) has a fear of men, and when confronted with one typically hits him quite violently.  The remaining male cast has more than happily accepted Takanashi as he is now Inami's personal whipping boy, and the show focuses on how he tries to help her get through these issues.

The universal dimension to this is an issue that is as old as (communal) work itself... how do you deal with a coworker who is unable to adapt or cope?  Takanashi certainly has his share of options, and ends up picking the most difficult yet most rewarding... he tries to help her through it.  It certainly helps the series and the comedy that this is the solution that leads to the most humor, as long as one follows the "comedy equals tragedy plus distance" formulation.  Of course, the other thing that the series tried to do is to not show blood after the first time, as this isn't exactly supposed to be Mortal Kombat (or even "South Park".)  It would be so easy to follow the path that Takanashi's manager laid out, which was to schedule them opposite... but Takanashi, like many other people, doesn't mind a challenge.

Of course, the other issue is local in that these same two people are together and facing adversity.  The writers of this first series seem very careful (yet very gleeful) in not resolving any of the possible romances that they are trying to set up among the characters.  It would be very easy for me to conclude this review much like the writers are concluding Season One, by giving it an incomplete.  However, I'm going to swerve you a bit too, and give you a ceiling and a floor and the reasons why.

Ceiling for this series -- a solid 3.5.  I want a bit more humor, and I want more characters bumping up against other characters.  Workplaces are some of the most unpredictable places and outside conflict, just as much as inside conflict, can be used in very interesting ways.

Floor for this series -- 1.8.  Yeah, it's highly volatile, and that's because I see some of the possible pitfalls forming. One is that almost everything is inside conflict between all of the established characters.  This gives the show more of a soap opera feel to it, and I hope that it doesn't bog the show down.  Takanashi's losing his quirks, which is a sad thing in my mind... I don't want him to be a completely impartial narrator, and I would love to see the other characters act as the straight man even occasionally.  I can navel-gaze with the best of them (you should've seen my first two rather pretentious starts to this review), and I hope that this series doesn't get too much deeper into its own navel itself.

If I were to give an overall current rating, I would say it's a 2.7.  It had a great start, and hopefully it will recapture some of its momentum.

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