Ah, Working. One of the more noteworthy slice-of-life series this decade spanning three seasons and a story-culminating special. But what you might not have known is that there was another Working manga that served as its precursor. Thanks to Working’s renewed success found in its 2015 final season the original was adapted in 2016 as WWW.Working. Did it manage to recapture the essence of the first anime or was it better left in the past?
To answer that question, we must first look at what made the original Working work (as well as what didn’t). The story explored the endearingly eccentric personalities of the young employees working at a location of the Wagnaria family restaurant chain. Each of the characters came with baggage from their past, such as Inami’s androphobia brought about by her father instilling a fear of men in her as a child. As the series progresses the characters grow closer as they come to understand one another and a few romances even spring up.
My big issue with Working came in its third season when it began wrapping up each character’s arc with a tidy bow. It started to feel like a professional-grade fanfiction where characters all had the happiest possible endings. Yet the series remained satisfying as we had grown to love the characters by that point (you wouldn’t make it three seasons in if you didn’t). Unfortunately, this is the problem that WWW.Working exacerbates by having characters with empty quirks and forced shipping. This series is the cheap fanfiction alternative to its bigger sibling.
WWW.Working actually inspired a lot of hope in me that it would be great in its first few episodes. The setting, another Wagnaria location, brought back instant nostalgia and most of the characters popped right away. It was easy to understand their quirks and interpersonal relationships from their first moments on screen, such as Shiho’s spoiled-rich-girl shtick and how she agonizes Yuuta into submission over the debt his father owes to her father. They’re more upbeat characters than Working’s cast from the get-go than and the jokes hit hard in these early episodes.
And hit hard they do. Then again, but not so hard, and then again and again until you start groaning. The problem with these characters is that they’re mostly one-note caricatures. They have one or two traits that define their existence with little underneath the surface. Thus, when the series tries to get us to buy into their romances it falls flat because we have no context as to why these half-personalities go well together.
Masahiro and Sayuri exemplify this. Masahiro is a wet blanket, one of the kitchen cooks who… lacks confidence? Is bashful? It’s pretty unclear. Sayuri fares a little better as a kuudere-lite that can purportedly see ghosts although it’s little more than a gag. Their entire relationship is built around Sayuri shooting Masahiro a rare smile that causes him to fall in love at first sight. There’s really nothing more to it but the show continues on as if it’s earned our compassion for these people, causing an emotional gap between them and the viewer.
Daisuke and Hana, the “main couple” as it is, fare no better. The characters are played up to dislike each other for most of the series’ run. It’s obvious that the show eventually will make them realize they’ve been falling in love all along but never sells the viewer on the concept. Perhaps it’s a result of both characters being shades of unlikeable, Daisuke being angry all the time and Hana being thick-headed and a bad cook to (literally) deadly results, a joke the writers apparently thought was so funny that nearly every episode features it as plot line. It’s not that these traits can’t be done in an appealing way but when it represents the entirety of the character it becomes grating fast.
Daisuke is made more frustrating by the inclusion of Rui, a girl from his high school class that has a deep crush on him but fails to express it. She’s ultimately sidelined to a role where she tries to get Daisuke and Hana together in the vain hope that it will get her closer to Daisuke. It’d be a School Days flashback but Rui is incredibly sweet and relatable. We want her to end up with her crush. In the end the writers decide to have her aggravatingly write off her affection for Daisuke in order to justify the Hana ship to the viewer despite said ship being poorly justified in the first place.
It’s hard for me to even explain why Daisuke and Hana fall in love because the logic doesn’t work. He decides to start dating her despite having no feelings towards her in order to… help her improve her cooking. The show tries to logic this out but fuck me if I can piece it together. They eventually decide to like each other or something. Whatever. I don’t care. I shouldn’t have to figure out something that should inspire a guttural feeling in the midst of watching the damn show. Next.
Shiho and Yuuta’s relationship is perhaps the only one that works on some level. The two are childhood friends and Shiho has held a crush on Yuuta since he rejected her at a very young age. Thus she holds this against him as a justification for tormenting him ever since. This existing history helps us buy into the idea that these characters have grown affectionate towards one another. They also both understand the other’s feelings but can’t break out of their cycle due to the circumstances of their fathers, a nice reprieve from the other characters that remain blissfully ignorant of their partner’s feelings until the moment the writers decide it’s time to flip the love switch. It’s still needlessly dragged out but at least there’s some semblance of payoff at the end.
Perhaps WWW.Working’s biggest flaw outside of underdeveloped characters is the two-year timespan it attempts to cover in 13 episodes, a far longer span than Working covered in three times that runtime. The show covers a full year in its first five episodes but there’s no sense of this passage of time outside of the show arbitrarily declaring it. Heck, the characters claim to be the same age as they were at the start of that year. This is really the point where the show really begins to fall apart. If you’re going to use the passage of time as a narrative tool then it needs to be reflected in the characters growth, and said growth between each time jump needs to be thoroughly set up.
Tonally I don’t have much great to say either. It does capture the warm feeling of the Working I love but that fades away as the show repeats itself. It doesn’t allow itself a moment to slow down and build drama like its predecessor so it fails to stick its big beats but honestly it barely matters since the show had already lost my interest at that point.
I’ve been pretty down on the show but at the end of the day it’s not offensively bad, just an underwritten one-trick pony. I likely would have dropped it somewhere around episode six if I hadn’t committed to writing this post but it’s far from the worst thing I’ve forced myself to sit through. Anyway, I’m pretty sick of talking about it so… I’m going to stop. Yeah, that sounds good.
To summarize, Rui is best girl and she doesn’t win so it gets a thumbs down.