Post Reply First Impressions 1: "Working!!"
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Posted 1/18/15 , edited 1/18/15
Working!!, also called Wagnaria!!, is a slice-of-life comedy depicting the daily happenings in the lives of the staff of a small family restaurant. It is a series driven primarily by the evolution of its characters' relationships over time without any particularly apparent broader plot objectives as of the end of its third episode, with its humor is focused upon their various eccentricities and interactions. The anime is an adaptation of the manga, a four panel comic strip, and currently has two seasons which are each 13 episodes long. A third season is scheduled to begin airing in July of this year. The first season was directed by Yoshimasa Hirake, who has worked with a fairly diverse range of genres and has accumulated quite a bit of directing experience in one capacity or another over the years.

Animation/Visual Effects, Illustration
Let's start with what's best about the visual experience of Working!! in its first three episodes: you can really tell that a lot of care and attention was given to small details in the illustration. The background art is beautiful, with each room in the restaurant being structured and decorated so that the viewer genuinely believes they could get up, head over to any family restaurant, and see the exact same sort of thing. The plates of food being served are gorgeous, and frankly everything looks delicious. It is of critical importance that backgrounds and small details be this way if the viewer is to successfully immerse themselves, and I'd say that Working!! has done a bang up job in this regard. There are, of course, times when the background disappears and is replaced with colors and patterns intended to indicate that something silly is happening, and I really don't like it when this is done since the jokes being told are generally able to stand on their own without this shift and because it temporarily breaks the immersion, but it's not so bad as to ruin the experience.

The color palette for the series is reasonably varied and fits its locations well, but there is something of a tendency toward bright colors. This is largely a result of the setting, and it's perfectly fair, but I don't prefer bright and shiny colors personally. That's not to the discredit of Working!!, it's just a personal preference of mine.

The animation is a bit of a roller coaster ride, at some points being pretty good and at other points clearly showing restraint to the detriment of the experience. Sometimes the foreground and background will be rich with motion, with the characters who are speaking to one another moving about the room and people in the background going about their business, but at other times we're given conversations where the characters who aren't currently speaking awkwardly turn into unblinking mannequins against stationary backgrounds. This is a common thing in anime and a good way to stretch out the animation budget as far as it needs to go, so this isn't a complaint specific to Working!! by any means. But it is common enough to draw attention to itself. For example, in the first episode a scene with plenty of background movement in its beginning depicts a conversation between Kyoko and a customer complaining about the temperature in the restaurant. There is a man in the background looking up from his newspaper who is supposed to be eavesdropping, but he looks frozen in time throughout the conversation. He doesn't blink, doesn't shift, doesn't respond to people who come running by him until much later, he's clinically dead for a minute. When Working!! really commits to animating it does a fantastic job, and to its credit when characters are speaking their movements are mostly pretty fluid and detailed. But there are times when things get really, really awkward.

Writing, Characters
When judging this anime it is important to keep in mind that it is an adaptation of a four panel comic, and so its humor and style focus quite a bit on sketches which could conceivably stand alone and which deliver fast-paced, hard-hitting punchlines. When adapting a four panel comic into an anime the biggest challenge is to ensure that each sketch flows smoothly into the next one to create a cohesive narrative, and Working!! does this very well. The first three episodes’ primary function has been to introduce us to the characters by answering some basic questions about them, displaying their eccentricities, and exploring the origins thereof, and while I can say that the humor is entertaining and effectively delivered I cannot say that each character has been introduced equally satisfactorily.

The characters who have been best handled at this point are our de facto main characters, Sota Takanashi and Popura Taneshima. At this point I feel I’ve gotten to know each of them reasonably well, and their personalities have been broadened and fleshed out enough to keep them entertaining and interesting. Popura is sympathetic and likable for her determination and friendliness, and Sota (while a bit of an oddball) is ultimately a decent person who seems to serve as the audience’s voice in the series by calling out the oddities he’s witnessing in the rest of the staff. Manager Kyoko Shirafuji’s laziness, probable yakuza ties, and sensitivity about her age make for great comedic possibilities, and these possibilities have been successfully taken advantage of as of episode three. Chief server Yachiyo Todoroki doesn’t really get any depth until the third episode, but the audience is teased with references to her katana through the first two. I feel our patience was sufficiently rewarded, and it was kind of interesting to see a discussion and flashback which actually answered the question of how Kyoko and Yachiyo met, why Kyoko is eating parfaits all the time, and why Yachiyo carries a sword about all in one fell swoop.

The character who has been handled most poorly at this point is Mahiru Inami, a character who despite having the greater bulk of the second episode and part of the first half of the third committed to her I still feel I know practically nothing about and have seen few redeeming characteristics in. Her panic disorder has been reduced to little more than a “punch out the main character” gag, and while an answer for the origins of her panicking was provided in the third episode it was hardly explored and felt like too simplistic an origin for such a pronounced problem. I feel like I’ve been cheated with Inami since the rest of the characters seem to be getting a decent amount of examination when their turns come up. Hopefully she’ll improve as the story goes along, but for now I’m not terribly impressed by her.

As far as character design is concerned I’m pretty well pleased all around. The characters are ordinary looking enough to be believable while still being unique enough to be interesting. Although I’ve complained quite a bit about her personality and lack of satisfactory exploration as of episode three I will say that I really do like Inami’s design. There’s enough variation in characters’ heights, builds, faces, hairstyles, and so on to keep them from looking like cookie cutters of one another, and each looks unique and interesting enough to be an independent, interesting character.

Music/Sound Effects
The music is appropriate and well-timed in Working!!, and there are some very nice jazzy tracks which set the atmosphere effectively. I’m also very impressed with the anime’s attention to the power that silence can lend a scene, a point which is sometimes missed. There are even some fun rock guitar tracks to enjoy. The synthesizer tracks, however, while hardly bad are also fairly unremarkable for the most part and they compose a big portion of the soundtrack. The opening theme song is upbeat, performed well, and enjoyable, and the closing theme is equally good. All told, Working!! has a decent soundtrack. The use of sound in Working!! is effective, and the range of sounds is broad enough to satisfy. From the clattering of dishes, to the stamping of feet, to the beeping of Kyoko’s phone, the immersion is added to by stimulating the viewer’s sense of hearing as well as the visual stimulation of the striking backgrounds.

Acting
Based on what I know about the characters so far the casting decisions for this series seem to have been well made. Kana Asumi delivers an effective performance which matches with Popura’s cute without trying to be personality, Eri Kitamura smoothly moves back and forth between Yachiyo’s calm composure and rabid obsession, Saki Fujita is every bit over the top as Inami requires her to be, Jun Fukuyama gives a wonderful amount of range and is clearly invested in Sora, this anime is pretty good as far as its acting is concerned overall.

Scores
Animation/Visual Effects 8/10
Illustration 9/10
Writing 8/10
Characters 7.5/10
Music/Sound Effects 7/10
Acting 8/10
Personal Enjoyment 8.5/10
Overall Score 8/10
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Posted 4/6/15
This one's apparently getting a well-deserved new season? I don't remember too many specifics of this show, but it was a good ensemble cast comedy. From what I recall, Aoi Yamada added a lot of life to the show when she was introduced.

But this show was quite different to shows like Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun. Monthly focused on quirky character attitudes, whereas Working focused on quirky character behaviors that were contrary and misleading compared to their attitudes. Attitudes meaning how they think and behaviors meaning how they act. So, Inami punches the main character, but she's not really thinking that she wants to hit him.

Anyway, character transparency is a pretty big difference in writing styles. Whereas we feel like we truly get to know Monthly's characters, Working's characters have mysterious behaviors that are later explained by examining their backstories, which tells us why they act that way and sheds a little light on what their real feelings might be.

Showing the behaviors is an easier way to write, because the attitudes can then be left up to interpretation or can change on the author's whims to fit the plot. It's a flexible, strong character writing style. If you ever make some kind of RPG character, it will probably be this writing style where the character has a backstory and behaves a certain way, but his/her attitude will be represented by alignment/attributes and won't be firmly expressed.

Well, I am not being terribly concise or specific, which I hate, so I'll stop from going on. I'm just pretty drawn to shows like these because of how we can look at a bunch of entertaining characters and start to see how they were constructed, whether it's a basic process or more involved.

Another thing I'm starting to get interested in is the colors you mentioned... there are some very colorful shows. Oreshura, No Game No Life, and Legend of the Legendary Heroes come to mind. And then we have a very different aesthetic from Attack on Titan. The extreme aesthetics from those shows... I think I'm a fan of their uniqueness, although lately more and more are hitting up that bright colors look. Is there a show you really liked the visuals of?
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