Episode 19 is here!
We’ve got a fairly light-hearted show here. Three shows full of character and identity make up this APR.
Just as a slight warning, for this episode and the next – a few weeks ago I had a catastrophic computer failure which led to me losing a handful of anime reviews that I had already written up! However, I’ve rewritten them to the best of my ability, so this shouldn’t be too much of a big deal, just super annoying for me.
Also, one particular show has caused this blogger something of a classification headache! Big questions will be asked. That’s all to come, though…
Wagnaria!!/Working!! (2010, S1, 13x24mins)
Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
“Stalking is proof of affection.”
Working takes place at Wagnaria, a small family-owned restaurant. Popura, an undersized schoolgirl who works there as a waitress, is tasked with finding a new employee to help at the restaurant. After struggling to find anyone, she eventually bumps into Takanashi, a younger (but taller) boy from her school, who agrees to work there. Takanashi is introduced to the rest of the small team, including a sociopath sous-chef and a girl who is so scared of men that she hits them when they get too close. The story follows these people in and out of work, with a primary focus on Takanashi.
Basically Plot: Restaurant-based comedy following its quirky employees.
Note: I am writing this review a long time after I have finished watching season one. Due to a catastrophic computer failure that resulted in me losing so many documents, I have had to re-write this review to the best of my abilities.
Like many anime series in that light-hearted comedy genre, this was a really easy and enjoyable show to watch. However, Wagnaria (called Working in Japan) offers a lot more than most other comparable shows. Firstly, the jokes are really good. Wagnaria uses that classic anime staple of changing the drawing style for comic effect really well, but also measures that with really intelligent timing. This is a rare anime in that it understands the weight that saying very little (or nothing at all) can have. The comedy side of the show is also helped by some really good dialogue between well-developed characters. Wagnaria has created what I think is one of the best character sets I’ve seen in a comedy for a long time. Each character brings their own unique and quirky style to the set, and by only having a handful of characters none of them are minimalised or diluted in any way. Wagnaria, like the restaurant itself, brings you to a cosy, close-knit group of oddities that you can’t help but adore.
A criticism that is often labelled at these sorts of shows is the story. Usually it is almost non-existent behind the stream of cheap jokes and loud characters, but Wagnaria actually does succeed in creating a tangible plot in its love-triangles. While if you were to compare its story with other romantic anime series it would most certainly fall flat, the story here is strong enough to elevate Wagnaria to a level above those other, often cheap light-comedies. One major criticism of said story, though, is that there’s no sense of time in Wagnaria. The shift from Takanashi being asked to work at Wagnaria to him suddenly walking and talking as if he’s worked there all his life is seamless, and a bit disconcerting, but this is only a minor issue, really.
Overall, by creating a near-perfect balance of personalities and coupling that with some expert comedic timing and writing, Wagnaria is one of the best comedy series I’ve ever seen. While it does somewhat fall into that trap of having no major story, Wagnaria has enough of a plot to comfortably place it above other light-hearted comedy series. This is certainly not a show I will forget in a hurry!
If you liked this you’ll love: Nisekoi – Another comedy with a young character set, Nisekoi does have a different setting, focusing on the romance side over anything else, but is still one of the funniest series I’ve seen. Wagnaria and Nisekoi both build their successes by filling their shows with a wealth of fun and childish happiness, and these are two shows that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
Bakuman 2 (2011-2012, S2, 25x24mins)
Slice-of-life, Teen, Romance, Comedy
“Our dreams keep increasing.”
Following on directly from season one, Bakuman follows school friends Mashiro and Takagi as they try to make it as mangakas (people who make manga, a Japanese form of comic, for a living). Having finally gained the serialization at Shounen Jump that they had dreamed of, Ashirogi Muto – the pen name of the Mashiro and Takagi double-act – quickly learn that getting to that stage is only half of the battle.
Basically plot: At a new level of competition, the two artists learn of the real struggles of obtaining success.
Note: Again, I write this a long time (and many episodes) after the conclusion of S1. Therefore you will have to forgive me if you notice that my opinion of S1 has changed in any way since I wrote that review.
I was a big fan of the first season of Bakuman, and I’m pleased to say that this season carries on the good work of its predecessor. Bakuman has created a story model, in terms of Ashirogi Muto floating in and out of serialization, which allowed them to create hours upon hours of decent, simple story. Yes, the story wasn’t exactly monumental or especially moving – something I think was one of the major flaws with this series was its lack of, or inability to portray emotion – however its simplicity allowed the show to turn its focus onto the character, something that I think Bakuman has done well in every area.
While the two main characters Mashiro and Takagi are not necessarily the deepest anime protagonists there’s been, what Bakuman does a really good job of doing is maturing these two, along with love interests Miho and Kaya, as the story progresses. They are the same people, but every so often something will happen which will remind you of how far they’ve come. I’ve now seen fifty episodes, and the Ashirogi Muto double-act has matured from two high-school kids into fully-fledged authors. One of them has even got married, and that progression really does come across, and I always admire a show that can effectively show that much time passing through their lead characters.
However, the success of this show doesn’t simply lie in that core quartet. Bakuman has one of the best, most effectively utilised and perfectly created collection of side characters I’ve ever seen in anime, and they really come to the floor in season two. Crowd favourites like Niizuma Eiji are developed, whereas other side characters are given a perfect amount of detail and screen time, allowing each character to have his own identity and purpose. You end up caring for the careers of people like Fukuda as much as Ashirogi Muto.
To make a good series is an achievement. To keep that going for fifty episodes is excellent, and Bakuman has certainly achieved that. It doesn’t change the successful formula from the first series, instead season two just adds a few extras to sweeten the pot and keep the viewers interest fresh throughout. Adding extra support characters is the masterstroke to season two, and while chances were missed in terms of adding emotion to this story, Bakuman remains a really exciting and engaging piece of anime that I think is a must watch!
If you like this you’ll love: Food Wars! – (Copied somewhat from S1 review) While these two shows deal with completely different areas, they both occupy space in that ‘over-dramatised competition’ genre of anime, although Food Wars does take that up a notch. Food Wars is similar to Bakuman in the sense that they both follow incredibly passionate, gifted individuals who are forced to compete against people who are sometimes more righteous, sometimes louder and sometimes simply more talented than them.
I’ve Always Liked You (2016, S1, 1x63mins)
Teen, Romance, School
The story follows three girls and three boys as they each try to make their way through the emotions of teen crushes. The story primarily focuses on Natsuki Enomoto, who has a crush on childhood friend and next-door neighbour Yuu. She thinks she’s brought up the courage to express her feelings to him, but ends up passing it off as practice the moment the words escape her mouth, making it even harder for her to finally admit her feelings to him.
Basically Plot: Mini-movie showcasing that classic part of growing up: the school crush.
This is actually a really awkward one, and has actually opened up a can of worms for me. I was initially going to write a whole article based on this one anime, all to answer one simple question: What counts as a film?
You may have noticed above, but ‘I’ve Always Liked You’ isn’t strictly an anime series. The single, hour-long episode is actually classed as a film.
Now, for me, this could never be classed as film, with the main reason behind that being that it’s way too short. But there is such a thing as short films, so what about that? In terms of a film layout, this ticks all the boxes – such as – but for me it lacks the real impact and depth to be classed as a movie. I think that, in my head, I’ve settled for calling this a TV movie. What this really should have been, and what I thought this was coming into it – is the opening, extended first episode setting up a long-running series, a la Fate/stay Night: UBW.
Taking this hour-long ‘episode’, or whatever, on its own merits, I’ve Always Liked You is actually a really good offering. The level of understanding and humility when it come to the often overplayed topic of teen love (although it focuses more on those quiet, personal, one-way crushes instead of the classic ‘you both like each other so just get together’ plot, which I thought was really clever) really comes through, from the very start right to the very end. The emotions, and the characters behaviours, in the most part, feel really realistic, and I personally think this is the smartest effort I’ve seen from the anime genre in terms of trying to portray what a teenage, high-school crush really is like.
The story itself could have been a lot more cliché than it was, or sounds. I though the whole ‘practice’ thing was really clever, and that particular story played out nicely throughout. However, I do think that some of the other mini-stories playing out in the background were needlessly underdone, in terms of me wanting to see and understand those people much more, and the show itself didn’t seem to pack any weight into its punches, lacking any real touching or dramatic moments throughout. Even the grand ending was little lukewarm, which is probably half the reason I’m left wanting more as opposed to talking about any closure or grand climax that could have happened.
The animation on this show is also incredibly well done. It uses the advantages that anime gives you – in terms of having colourful, vibrant characters and place settings – but resists the urge to overdo it (just), creating a really crisp picture that looks like it’s been produced to the highest quality.
In conclusion, I guess you have to assume there’s a market in Japan for one-hour shows like this, but for a western audience I can’t imagine this would go down well at all. The story is pretty good, and it’s backed up by some seriously good animation, but the undramatic nature of the piece and the soft ending will leave a lot of people wanting more, I can imagine. That might not be a bad thing, but I think it highlights that in the one-hour slot they had planned to tell a story, they haven’t managed to do so, or at least not to any decent – and I threat to use the word ‘acceptable’ – level.
If you liked this you’ll love: Say “I Love You” – These two remind me of each other in many ways, including the names, but I think the main one here is how teenage romance, and that awkward uncertainty that surrounds it, is really the centre-piece for both these shows. While maybe lacking in the drama department, and not necessarily having the greatest ever story, SILY really does a good job of creating two likeable characters and adorable scenes that are in very similar taste to I’ve Always Liked You.
What’s your thoughts on this film classification debate? Do you think something like I’ve Always Liked You should count as a film, or is it more of a special-episode type of deal? Let us know what you think below!
Also, what a big APR this was! Plenty of thoughts to chew over, but if this still isn’t enough to satisfy your otaku cravings, check out all of our other anime reviews – from Attack on Titan to Aldnoah:Zero, there’s plenty to look at here at The Culture Cove.
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 20 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring fantasy epic Fate/Zero!