Chocolate is a helluva drug.
It’s easy to see how the source material of WWW.Working!! led to the main WORKING!! series that was so popular. Every mistake the 2002+ Web-ban manga made was corrected for the 2004 serialization. This is an adaptation of that web manga, though, so the mistakes all remain.
I’m going to talk about WWW.Working’s mistakes a lot this post, but it’s important to bear this in mind: I didn’t hate this show. I enjoyed it much of the time, and I kept up with it throughout the season, as opposed to most other series which I either lapsed on or had to marathon at the end. (Through no fault of their own; I have too many jobs.) The biggest benefit working for WWW.Working!! is that Takatsu Karino-sensei’s comedic beats are well in evidence. This series was frequently funny, and charming as well. The reason I’ll be mostly discussing mistakes is that they’re more interesting, and because comparing this Wagnaria to Popura’s Wagnaria shows how much a strong foundation matters to telling a great story.
Most of the mistakes have to do with characters. The biggest is that most of the characters’ personalities, and more importantly their eccentricities, aren’t, frankly, all that good. Take Muranushi—she’s an emotionless girl with supernatural sight she refuses to accept. The latter has potential, but not when she refuses to react, and the former overlaps with Higashida’s own emotionless aspect—especially since both frequently hide annoyance and/or anger. Adachi is the worst among them all—I seriously forgot what his eccentricity was for half the season. He saw Muranushi smile, and now he’s all meek? Boring.
Compare this to Shindou and Kamakura, who are very well characterized. The son of the debtor and the daughter of the creditor. The poor guy with bad luck, and the rich girl with a sadistic streak. They even share a strong conflict point of money. You might not like this pair—I’ll get to a problem with them shortly—but they’re well done. Compare them to Kouno or the manager, who are just sort of . . . there, and you can see the asymmetry in the cast.
This foundational problem leads to nearly every other mistake, including this next one, which is really two sides of the same coin. First, because many of the characters weren’t well-established, they were underutilized, because how much can you do with a character like Saiki who doesn’t speak very good Japanese? (About as much as Maya from the main series, which is probably why she hardly ever showed up.) This then made it feel like, second, that there were too many characters, even though WWW.Working had the same number of employees as Popura’s Wagnaria (ten), and a similar number of supporting cast. While fewer characters certainly works (see: Takatsu-sensei’s Servant x Service), WORKING!! proved that this level works fine, as long as they’re stronger characters. They weren’t here, so it felt like a lot of them were wasting our time. Kouno could have been deleted without losing anything, and while I would have missed Kisaki, she and the manager didn’t add much either.
I have a feeling that the way these characters just weren’t working led to the other major problem, which is that events didn’t flow naturally from the characters’ actions. Once again, Kamakura and Shindou were the exception, because their actions did flow from their actions, and their conflict with each other. But why did Saitou pivot from having some kind of past with Muranushi to completely being an accessory to Kamakura and Shindou’s story? That never made sense to me. I also don’t understand why Higashida decided to re-ask out Miyakoshi, even though I’m kind of glad he did, because I like Miyakoshi a lot (though maybe she deserves better). And no, I’m not saying it needs to make logical sense; many would argue that Souta choosing Mahiru over the far-superior Popura was the height of illogic. It made sense in context though. Higashida never showed more than mild annoyance with Miyakoshi, until he suddenly didn’t. It didn’t track.
The last mistake is something of a balance issue: the guys are all too clearly the victims in their respective relationships. This isn’t an issue in and of itself, but when all three guys (Higashida, Adachi, and Shindou) are all on the receiving end of a fist, knife, or sword (Miyakoshi, Muranushi, Kamakura), it start feeling like it’s the girls’ fault. This wasn’t an issue with WORKING!!, where only Souta was any kind of victim—Yachiyo would never do anything to intentionally hurt Satou, and Yamada wanted to be doted on by Souma, not imperil him—but I think a better example is Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. In that series, it could have easily been oblivious Nozaki’s fault when they didn’t get together, but it didn’t feel like that since Sakura kept chickening out. That made it both of their faults, and moved it from an adversarial dynamic to a pair of dysfunctional people continually missing their chance due to their own goofy personalities. WWW.Working has neither balance—it’s also fine if the guy is the victim in one relationship (Wakamatsu & Seo), provided the girl is in another (Hori & Kashima)—nor symmetry, which made the gender dynamic noticeable. Preferably, it wouldn’t matter, because it would all come down to those specific, unique characters, as it did in WORKING!! and Servant x Service.
There were other issues, such as the shorter run-time giving the characters less time to breathe (which is an argument for a smaller cast, since Servant x Service only had one-cour and it worked fine), Miyakoshi’s toxic cooking being one of the weakest character conflicts I can imagine, and the supernatural elements not always working (Muranushi, Yanagiba), though Saint Valentine was probably my favorite part of the whole series. I also liked that WWW.Working wasn’t afraid to chew through the seasons in order to advance the narrative with what time it had, giving us an actual resolution instead of stretching for a second season it was never going to get. I also really liked Muranushi and Adachi’s relationship by the end, even if I still don’t understand them.
In the end, WWW.Working was more interesting for me to analyze that it was good. It was fine, but if it weren’t for WORKING this would have never been made into an anime, whereas Servant x Service was strong enough to deserve one on its own. If this had been written after WORKING, I would be beside myself with worry that Takatsu-sensei had lost her touch, but as the source material predates her other, better work, I’m much more sanguine. After all, I’ve seen how much my own writing has improved from my old work to the new, and I’ve been publishing for fewer years than Takatsu-sensei has. Hopefully the next anime we’ll get from her will be of her newer work. Or more Servant x Service. That would be fine with me too.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for exclusive content. At stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Conflicted feelings on the Electoral College; Voting Reform: Single Transferable Vote; They didn’t feel heard. I don’t feel heard. This is a problem; and What the hell do we do now?