Anime Review – Wagnaria!!
Everyone remembers their first job. Hoping you don’t mess up while learning the ropes. The pride of getting your first paycheck. Being punched in the face by a fellow employee who’s violently afraid of men. Okay, so you may not have experienced that last part, but it’s part and parcel for 16 year old Sota Takanashi during his tenure at the Wagnaria family restaurant. After being recruited by Popura Taneshima, a 17 year old high school girl short enough to pass for a grade school student, Sota soon finds himself embroiled in situation after situation with his wacky co-workers.
Originally titled Working!! in Japan, Wagnaria!! is based on the four panel comic manga by Karino Takatsu published in Square Enix’s Young Gangan magazine. A wonderfully cute comedy, Wagnaria!! brings the laughter in quick succession with a similar short form format as hit anime Azumanga Daioh. The title draws humor from the personalities of it’s lovably off-beat characters as they deal with each other’s unique quirks and traits. Sota’s interactions with those around him range from the saccharinely cute affection he shows Popura due to his obsession with small things (he gleefully compares her to a water flea in the first episode); to the horrible beatings he suffers from Mahiru Inami, a seemingly shy girl who’s terror of men causes her to react violently whenever she is near Sota. As more players are introduced into the mix, their relationships continue to grow more emotionally, and amusingly, entwined. Being a “slice of life” style comedy, there isn’t much of an overarching, unified story in Wagnaria!!. Refreshingly concise plots do show how the characters grow and change over the course of the series, but without tying viewers to the weight of a massive tale. Once you have a grasp of the basic who’s who and who likes/loves/fears who, you can reasonably pick up and enjoy the series at almost any point.
A-1 Pictures once again lives up to it’s well deserved reputation as one of the best studios around with some superb work. Wagnaria!!‘s artwork is crisp, clear, and fresh, featuring a lively color palette and smooth animation. The character designs are particularly well rendered and expressive, avoiding the noticeable trend in some moe/harem anime where character faces all end up looking somewhat the same. The lack of an English dub track didn’t bother me nearly as much as I expected, since Wagnaria!! eschews overuse of jokes based heavily on Japanese language puns and idioms. They do crop up, but not nearly so often as some anime. The subtitled dialogue is all excellently translated, efficiently relaying all the humor and heart of the original script.
Along with the complete series, US publisher NIS America released a special edition bundle which includes a slipcase box and hardcover artbook. While some fans may not be interested, I found it an awesome callback to the halcyon days of the early 2000’s anime industry. The character and background concept art was particularly nice to see as I love the occasional peek behind the scenes of production. With a second season scheduled to premier in Japan this October, I look forward to spending more time with the erratic employees of the Wagnaria restaurant pretty soon. So until then, sit down, grab your fork and dig in! Because, no matter which course you order, Wagnaria!! still delivers a full helping of entertainment in thirteen fun-sized servings.Anime Review - Wagnaria!!,