WWW.Working!!, an adaptation of Takatsu Karino’s webcomic, sits side-by-side with Working!! with the same premise but different characters – that is, it’s also a workplace comedy following the dysfunctional staff at a branch of the Wagnaria family restaurant chain. There’s no direct connection between the two series, but if you’ve seen Working!! then this will be comfortably familiar. The sense of humour remains the same, the characters are still anything but normal, and the romantic elements will sneak up and charm you all over again.
Yet it remains resolutely different. There are few characters that occupy the same functional role, and when they do they’re only minor characters, so you won’t be getting déjà vu anytime soon. This opens up a lot of new ground to explore in a setup that had already been covered extensively (or at least as much as you can get out of a workplace sitcom), ideally giving you more Working!! but from a fresh, new perspective! But different does not mean better, and WWW.Working!! is saddled with quite a few issues…
To start on a positive note, WWW.Working!! still knows how to execute romance. We get two involved relationships, and both can be really rather lovely. Muranushi and Adachi in particular are great fun to watch – they have wildly divergent personalities (Adachi is deathly afraid of her, while Muranushi is unreadable – although she makes how unimpressed with him she is clear) but a ton of chemistry. Their mutual insecurities means they both suck at getting across how they feel, resulting in a ton of misunderstandings and the like, but when they do connect properly it’s all the more satisfying. It’s good and cute and lovely, and by far my favourite part of this show.
Kamakura and Shindou also get a lot of great moments together. While their relationship may be defined by Shindou’s debt to Kamakura’s father and Kamakura’s resulting sadism as she holds his debt over his head (which alone brings some hilariously cruel scenes), Shindou’s gradual realisation as to how she feels and how he messed up makes for an entertaining arc – the conclusion of which is actually pretty heart-warming. And it’s an engaging development too – Shindou makes a very clear progression from being an idiot and only fretting about the money (to Kamakura’s chagrin) to worrying about her and their relationship.
Unfortunately, that’s where my issues with the show begin. Back to Kamakura and Shindou – while there are some lovely moment, where it ends up and especially how Kamakura develops doesn’t sit right with me. She goes from strong-willed and dominating, even if it’s obviously a mask to hide her underlying insecurities and affection for Shindou, to being super subservient and a total ditz (especially around him). I get that it’s part of the joke – that she used to be sweet and feminine until Shindou broke her heart, and is now reverting back to that as she no longer has a need for cruelty – but to have no other interests or goals in life except for him? And that Shindou prefers her like this – and actively so, not just because she’s no longer tormenting him – is an unsatisfying conclusion at best.
I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish with Higashida. Well, I do – he’s meant to be the only sane man who gets angry and annoyed at everyone around him – but it’s not done well at all. Takanashi in Working!! occupied a similar role but was moderated by his own weirdness – there was humour in his hypocrisy. He also didn’t hold the people around him in contempt. Higashida has no moderating element to his personality and is a mean-spirited asshole. And he does this especially to Miyakoshi, to the point it feels borderline abusive. This unsurprisingly undermines their sort-of relationship, with any hints of affection Miyakoshi shows towards him feeling impossible and a narrative contrivance. A shame, because Miyakoshi is wonderful and deserved to be handled much better. Higashida is also boring as fuck! He never changes throughout the show, never deviating from his established personality. Why did he have to be the protagonist?
The character quirk focused comedy that’s a staple of the mangaka’s work really doesn’t feel well-executed here. The jokes are uninspired, far too many fall flat, they’re structured and paced in very samey ways, the same basic jokes are repeated ad nauseam (fucking St. Valentine – it worked as a great one-off joke but quickly grew very tired), and there are high-level quirks that both feel out of place and too focused to actually have the scope for variety in setup or punchline. Criticisms were levelled at Working!! and Servant x Service about the humour, that the quirks led to predictable and repetitive punchlines, but I never felt the same way – there was enough flexibility to keep them fresh and varied. Here though? I’m beginning to understand.
The quirks constrain the characters as well. Kamakura’s entire character exists in relation to Shindou as a result of her ‘quirk’, so what really can be done with her beyond that? As soon as the show homes in on Miyakoshi’s near-fatal cooking, it completely defines her and derails any attempts to have her do anything else. And Muranushi takes a LONG time to progress beyond “sees ghosts but doesn’t know it”.
Further to that, many characters are either under-utilised or exist without adequate justification. What do Nagata and Yanagiba really contribute? Kouno? It looked like he was meant to be the Souma to Adachi’s Satou, but in the end just kinda stood there. And any scene with Kondou in was far better for it, so it was a shame she was side-lined as much as she was.
A lot of these problems can, in part, be explained by the runtime constraining scope (12 episodes with a fairly conclusive finale that closes out the possibility for a sequel) or by the fact that the webcomic actually predates the better known manga (technically, Working!! is a spin-off of WWW.Working!!) and so wasn’t made with as much experience, but regardless WWW.Working!! just isn’t as good. It is far from bad, but despite the highlights it’s still a messy show that simply fails to recapture the charm of its ‘predecessor’.