WWW.Working!! – 05

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This newest version of Working!! just isn’t clicking for me anymore. It’s another episode full of little skits and running gags that doesn’t move beyond the ensemble’s individual quirks, which in most cases, remain muddled, and Hayashida is the most muddled character of them all.

Tha manager seems to have a seedy background, Muranushi has a handful for a mom, while Kamakura waves a katana around…but if you’re going to have a new cast, recycling jokes form the old one isn’t a confidence-inspiring move.

Perhaps the third season of Working!!, in which most arcs were wrapped up for the ensemble, was a good place to stop. A new cast was a bold idea, but it’s a risk that hasn’t really paid off after five episodes. Nearly all goodwill I started with for this new cast has been whittled away, and so unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reviewing any more.

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WWW.Working!! – 04

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This fourth episode of WWW.Working!! seems content to continue running three gags firmly into the ground: Hana is really bad at cooking, Shiho is extremely vindictive, and Rui likes Higashia but can’t tell him.

Everyone else is kinda just around, and Higashida exhibits a stubborn cynicism about just about everything that makes him a hard guy to root for. He has a couple choice rejoinders, but it’s not enough.

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By the episode’s end, Hana has made more chocolate for Higashida, and it’s just as bad as her first attempt, sending Higashida into an unimaginative psychedelic trance. Shiho buys Yuuta dog food, because she’s horrible, and Rui makes chocolate for Higashida, but gives it to Miri instead (who goes on to give Higashida a surprise taste).

Back when I started this show, I took solace in the fact the characters showed promise, such that the lack of a plot that moved forward quickly might not be a problem. But to stay invested, the characters need to be more than just their quirks (or in Higashida’s case, his attitude). This week they weren’t, and the episode suffered.

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WWW.Working!! – 03

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This week the last two characters who appeared in the initial promo art are introduced, starting with Yanagiba Miri, who is not a staff member but a customer Daisuke initially believes is a ghost.

Turns out she’s just a truant from his very class, who got sick earlier in the year and is now worried she won’t make friends. Daisuke’s numerous protests for her to “Go to school!” are good for a chuckle in an otherwise par-for-the-course episode.

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There was initially some potential in the pairings of Daisuke/Hana and Shiho/Yuuta in the forest “test of courage” segment, but aside from learning her parents are just as “weird” as his, not much happens on the former front, while Yuuta’s insistence he and Shiho start over merely as friends only makes her more hungry for pain-and-suffering damages.

Adachi and Maranushi barely register, and the discovery of a raccoon is neither here nor there, though it seems Daisuke will be fostering it at his home, meaning Hana will be by more often than before.

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The second character introduced is the adorable Nagata Rui, who like Yanagiba is Daisuke’s classmate but actually attends school. He tries to get Rui to be friends with Yanagiba, but she instead gets fixated on the fact that Daisuke and Hana seem to be close.

It’s clear Rui sees Daisuke as a potential mate, and Hana probably wouldn’t mind if they dated, while he sees neither girl that way. In this regard, he’s the same somewhat oblivious romantic lead as Takanashi, but with one key, merciful difference: he’s not obsessed with small cute things.

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WWW.Working!! – 02

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I’m really liking this new Working!!, because it feels like it takes place in an alternate universe, where everything is the same, only different. The new show and cast is replete with echos of the old show and cast, but with enough differentiation to be worth the watch.

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Still, this new Working!! might be trying to actually improve on the formula it refined with its first cast. Take Miyakoshi Hana. She’s violent and unreasonable like Inami, but not because she hates men. In fact, she gets along with Higashida just fine, and even insists he invite her to his house so he can help her study for exams. It turns out she’s a lot more normal than Inami was, and that’s actually refreshing.

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Or take weirder co-workers like Muranoshi Sayuri. She’s very neutral and deadpan in her voice and expressions, but is still canny enough to use her ability to see customers no one else can see to put some rude bros in their place. She also shows she’s got a winning smile…as long as you complement her.

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Like Hana and Daisuke, the other couple-in-the-making here doesn’t follow the same path as Satou and Todoroki in the other show. Instead, it’s a weird, long-standing situation where Shindou Yuuta actually got the lonely Kamamura Shiho’s rich dad to pay more attention to her, often talking about things so complicaed they fly over Shiho’s head.

Yet when it comes time to respond to her offer of marriage (thus wiping out his father’s debt to her father), he reverts to a little kid who thinks girls are gross. Shiho clearly hasn’t taken that well, and has since treated ever encounter with Yuuta as transactionary.

Just as I’d like to see Daisuke and Hana becoming better friends, which they’re well on their way to doing, I’d like to see Yuuta mend fences with Shiho. Even if neither of these things happens, the point is I’m invested with these new characters, so I’m going to keep watching.

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WWW.Working!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A spinoff of the popular slice-of-restaurant-life comedy Working!!, with an all-new cast at an all-new branch of Wagnaria. High schooler Higashida Daisuke is forced to get a job at the restaurant when his dad’s business goes bankrupt. Like the previous iterations of the show, his fellow employees are weirdos in one way or another.

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Why you should watch: If you enjoyed the previous Working!!s like I did, you’ll enjoy this, and possibly even appreciate the refreshed cast, since we’ve had three seasons of the original cast and there weren’t too many stories to tell. Unlike Servant x Service, the nearly-identical restaurant setting eases our transition into this new show. It’s also packed with star voice talent, from Nakamura Yuuichi to Tomatsu Haruka and Hisaka Yoko.

The comedy style is familiar, with rapid fire jokes and absurd situations and conversations. Each character acts and reacts differently to the bland protagonist, and he and Tomatsu’s Miyakoshi Hana (the unflappable high school floor chief who may not carry a katana but packs a mean punch and makes hallucinogenic chocolates) have an easy instant chemistry.

The cast includes a lazy college student who likes to quiz people on obscure history, a feckless manager who’s terrible at math, and a rich girl who arrives in a Rolls-Royce and tries to solve every problem she encounters with fat stacks of cash (usually successfully).

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Why you shouldn’t watch: If you’ve had your fill of Working!!, or just aren’t on board with a new cast, many of whom share traits with the originals, you may not need this spin-off. Animation isn’t any worse than the previous shows, but it’s not any better, either. Like those shows, any serial progress will likely be slow, although this time misanthropy won’t play a huge role, thankfully.

The Verdict: We’re in familiar territory with WWW.Working!!, but there’s more comfort in that than disappointment. All of the new characters are likable right out of the gate, and there’s a lot of potential for both serial development and episodic wackiness going forward. As a low-stakes, low-effort workplace comedy, I rate this show highly watchable, with a good chance of recommendedness.

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Working!!! – Special – Lord of the Takanashi

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A few months back I voiced my frustration over Working!!!’s apparent reluctance to deliver a proper resolution to the Inami x Takanashi romance, instead ending on a “To Be Continued.” Well, this hour-long special is that promised continuation…and baby, it delivers. All is forgiven.

I still think this could have gotten done in the last couple of episodes of the threequel, but in hindsight, I didn’t mind the material we got instead, as well as this special that gives the resolution plenty of time and space to unfold.

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Because while there are lots of other good things going on in this special—Yamada coming to grips with being reunited with her mom; Popura trying to be the best future chief she can be; Nazuna preparing to take over the world one day—most of the time the focus is where it should be: on our main couple.

Takanashi continues to cross-dress on order from his mother, who would deny him both romance and manhood as long as he’s dishonest about his feelings.

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Yachiyo is concerned about Takanashi (mostly because he’s a good worker and she needs the labor) so when Inami beseeches her for a time when she can run into Takanashi (who had his schedule adjusted to avoid her), the boss is happy to comply.

Inami lies in wait and confronts Takanashi, who is very reasonable with her, and seems to be on the cusp of saying what he should have said a long time ago, but yet again a parent butts in and delays the catharsis; his mother, again, not allowing a son who lies to date anyone.

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The only way this stalemate will be broken is if Inami sallies forth to rescue Takanashi as his knight in…his own work uniform. I love the idea and the symmetry of Inami dressing as a boy to save the one she loves dressed as a girl (especially the little dig Yamada gets in about her wrapping her chest).

But the outfit won’t be enough: Inami must face a gauntlet of Takanashi’s sisters, deployed by her mother to test her. The first challenger is Kazue, but Inami gets past her accidentally by congratulating her on her re-marriage. Okay…maybe this won’t be so hard after all…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny!

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Izumi is next, but she’s actually glad Souta ended up with Inami, so forfeits their fight, accepting a forehead flick as defeat even though said flick never reaches her forehead. Just when it looks as if Kozue has Inami’s number (revealing Inami can only fight against men), when her buds show up looking for her, she totally flakes out.

But like Izumi, she’s on Inami’s side. So is Inami’s final challenger Nazuna, who instead tests how nice a person she is by refusing to fight her even though Nazuna seems to be rearing for one.

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Nazuna later becomes a powerful advocate for Inami at their home, where her mother remains unconvinced Souta should be freed. When we see the photo Nazuna produces of her mother as a 17-year-old arguably even tinier and cuter than even Popura, it’s concrete proof of how much people can change, if you just give them the opportunity to do so.

The clincher for Souta’s mom is when Popura shows up, and she realizes her son has changed: he went for the ordinary-sized girl over the tiny one.

Also extremely amusing is the fact Takanashi’s mom keeps that picture of her around her office because despite loathing how tiny she once was, she shares the same love of tiny cute things as her son, which is why she takes an instant liking to Popura, using her as a prayer offering, then attempting to kidnap her as she returns to work, satisfied Souta is on the right track.

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Takanashi brings up his intense affection for all things cute and small, which Inami initially and wrongly mistakes for a soft rejection. Takanashi goes on to say he doesn’t just want to be someone who can proclaim loudly and proudly that he loves tiny cute things; but that he can proclaim that he loves all the things he loves – like Inami.

He finally, finalllllly confesses, she says she feels the same way, he says he’s known that for some time, and she lets him take her hand the way lovers do, without creepy CGI grabbing wands. THANK GOD.

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After that wonderful exchange, and all the fun and hilarious stuff that led up to it, I stand fully propitiated. Working!!! took a while to get to where it ended up (three cours and a special, to be exact), but it got there. It didn’t let me down.

Hell, it almost makes me want to go all the way back to the beginning, this time without the stress of not knowing when or even if things will work out…because they did. So I guess there’s nothing left to say but Thank you, Working!!!, for all the laughter-food!

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Working!!! 3 – 13 (Fin*)

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GODDAMNIT, WORKING!!!. Would it kill you to resolve what has remained a romantic standstill for three seasons?!! Don’t get me wrong; I love Working!!!…but I fucking HATE WORKING!!! sometimes. And as good a start as it gets off on, this episode is unfortunately one of those times. I know, Japanese anime usually tend to focus more on maintaining a status quo than progressing relationships, but Working!!! proved it could buck the trend by finally bringing Yachiyo and Satou together. Is it so much to ask that they do the same with Takanashi and Inami?

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Apparently it is; at least in a 13-episode span. And wouldn’t you know it, it isn’t any particular problem between the two that causes the impasse from continuing. Rather, it’s freaking parents. First, Inami’s estranged father, who crashes Inami’s date with Takanashi when she forgets her wallet, then calls into question Takanashi’s fitness to date his daughter due to his transvestite tendencies (for which his mother can be blamed). Thus, the date goes pear-shaped, returning the two to their status quo of being cordial, even affectionate with one another, but not yet a couple.

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This displeased me. What displeased me even more was that precious minutes of this supposed finale were spent revisiting whether Inami has been cured of her androphobia, or exploring Souma’s scopophobia, or Popura’s atychiphobia. These phobias are all well and good, but the resolution of Yachiyo x Satou gave me hope the same would be done with Inami x Takanashi. Only yet again, Working!!! is dilatory; skittish about resolving its most compelling romantic entanglement, for no other reason than it need to keep going a little bit longer.

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That “little bit longer”, it seems, will come in the form of an hour-long special, in which hopefully the fact that Takanashi flakes out on another get-together with Inami due to the intervention of his mother will be resolved. I certainly hope it does, because frankly, I’m sick of the status quo. I know this is slice-of-life, and it’s a comedy, but I didn’t introduce these serious romantic elements, the show did, and it’s the show’s responsibility to follow through and stop leading me on, damnit!

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Working!!! 3 – 12

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Satou is back and he and Yachiyo are now a couple, but it’s pretty much business as usual at Wagnaria…except for the fact Takanashi is now “Kotori-chan.” Everyone’s a little worried about this, but he claims it’s not a compulsive thing; he’s dressing as a girl (again) to help sort out his feelings for Inami, which seems arbitrary and silly at first, but gradually comes to make more sense by the very end.

Until then, he witnesses Yamada finally learn how to make a proper billing slip, and Kirio plays along that he’s a girl, and manages to get Takanashi to describe the kind of person he likes (which is just a description of Inami) before revealing he knew it was him all along (and getting slugged for it in a way that also calls Inami to mind!).

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Later, Takanashi and Satou notice that Souma has been unusually quiet and un-meddling lately, though they learn it’s just because he purchased a camera that lets him be voyeuristic from a further distance, amassing a large collection of albums full of photos of Wagnaria staff. Takanashi and Satou ending up confiscating the ones of Inami and Yachiyo, respectively. Was it Souma’s intent all along?

As for Popura, she’s called into the break room after work to find Yachiyo and Kyoko waiting for her. I’d be just as worried as she was that she might be in some kind of trouble (no matter how nice they are, a boss can’t arrange a private talk without an underling worrying it’s bad).

Turns out Yachiyo is leaving Wagnaria to use what she’s learned there to fluorish on her own. Satou is aware and supportive, natch. And Yachiyo, Kyoko, and even Satou believe Popura has grown enough to become the next chief, replacing Yachiyo. This has been a long time coming, as we’ve seen Popura thrive all season as her co-workers have been distracted by personal issues.

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Finally, Takanashi’s cross-dressing rather surprisingly pays off. From his perspective, at least, he feels he and Inami can interact a lot more naturally when he’s pretending to be a girl. He’s also in the unique position to ask her if she prefers if he’s a girl or a boy. Suddenly on the spot, Inami answers honestly: she prefers the boy.

Then, out of the blue, Takanashi invites her to come with him to the store she couldn’t find on her own because she got lost. In effect, a date. He can scarcely believe he did it, but he did, and tomorrow, he’ll be back to being Takanashi. To which I say, bravo! Unfortunately, there’s only one episode of Working!!! left to explore a Takanashi-Inami date, if it actually happens, but if it does and the two can progress a little more, I’ll take it.

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Working!!! 3 – 11

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Now this is more like it: a Working!!! with focus and progress, which deftly balances the long-awaited development of long-standing serial plot with the show’s usual slice-of-life and character-derived comedy. Long has the shy Satou suffered in Wagnaria’s kitchen, unable to properly express his feelings for Yachiyo. Long has the sheltered, isolated Yachiyo suffered in Wagnaria’s dining room, unable to properly express her feelings for Satou.

This week, building on their birthday date (which ended awkwardly), the couple finally manages to come together and say what needs to be said without any misunderstandings or narrative half-measures. After nearly three seasons, we’re finally thrown a whole bone, as the show surrenders and breaks the status quo of these two’s relationship. And I couldn’t be happier.

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Neither could Yachiyo, it would seem, as she practically buries the twee Popura in her Flowers of Happiness. Then those flowers wilt when Kyoko refuses to let her make any more parfaits or other treats for her, showing this transition isn’t without difficulties. But this is merely Kyoko trying too hard to get out of the way of Satou.

While he’s not happy about Kyoko being such a force in Yachiyo’s life, the fact is he fell for the Yachiyo who loves and admires Kyoko, and even if a lot of things will change now that he and Yachiyo are dating, Yachiyo making Kyoko parfaits and talking about Kyoko to him all the time don’t have to go away.

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In the light of what turns out to be a fairly harmless transition (except to Satou’s stress-sensitive stomach, for which he takes off two weeks), Kyoko lifts the co-worker dating ban, with a very encouraging eye towards Takanashi, knowing full well his feelings for Inami. In fact, now that the seemingly impossible (Satou and Yachiyo dating) has occured, it opens up the possibility the show could end with Takanashi figuring out what to do about Inami, as Satou did. Whether he will remains up in the air, as for now he dresses in drag as “Kotori-chan.”

As for Satou and Yachiyo, they remain painfully adorable in every scene they’re in together, especially now that the air has been cleared and there are no more secrets about who love whom: they both love each other, and it’s magnificent. Of course, Yachiyo is still new to many of the ways of the world, and ends up getting lost in the dark on her way to Satou’s apartment, but the fact she’s always carrying a katana offers her some protection from unsavory elements.

I also appreciate that after Yachiyo cooks dinner for Satou, and there are no options for her to get home at the late hour, she simply spends the night, taking Satou’s bed while he takes the floor. There’s a lovely casual practicality to it. I just wish we could have gotten a glimpse of the two talking in the dark before drifting off to sleep.

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Working!!! 3 – 10

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Souta and Kozue both have dreams about unpleasant experiences with their infamous mother Shizuka this week. Souta remembers being dressed as a girl against his will (perhaps a reason he has a fetish for cute things) while Kozue laments that her mother never remembers her name (perhaps a reason she drinks so much). However, she has a couple of friends who care about her (even if they have trouble always dealing with her) in Mitsuki and Youhei.

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The reason both siblings dream of their mother is that she’s apparently on her way to visiting her children after an untold amount of time away working. She reminds me of Chitoge’s mother, only we find out a lot less about her other than the fact she’s extremely busy and powerful and she seems to have a unique way of messing with her kids, from laughing at Kazue’s marriage, divorce, and reconciliation, to making Izumi cook despite protests she’ll die, to persistently forgetting Kozue, the middle child, even exists.

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While there still may be a part of her that still wants Souta in women’s clothing (and indeed, he’s dressed in drag independently for various reasons throughout Working’s run), his primary concern is that she’s found out he likes a girl, and he worries she’ll put said girl (Inami) under undue scrutiny. He vows to protect Inami no matter what, but his mixed reactions to her (bouncing his head off a wall, then walking her home with their hands closer together) continue to confuse Inami. One of these days, these two are going to figure it out. But then again, maybe they never will. Still, any glimmer of progress is appreciated.

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Working!!! 3 – 09

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Working!!! starts off with a typical scene—Yachiyo talking about Kyouko to Satou while Souma smirks—with the added element of a rapt Popura. Turns out she’s noticing something different about the two, surprising Inami, who assumed Popura already knew Satou was in love with Yachiyo.

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One person who barely gets noticed ever is Otoo’s wife Haruna. Her almost nonexistent presence, and the fact she needs to be chained up in order to avoid losing her again, remains one of the more entertaining teritary characters in the show. Even better, ever since Otoo married her, his own presence has gradually diminished, making them a “stealth couple”, which considering how rarely they show up in the show, makes perfect sense.

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Another tertiary character who hasn’t appeared in a while is Minegishi, who comes to Wagnaria to report Yamada’s mom is “back on track” as one of Takenashi’s mom’s executive assistants (a job he lets slide involves assassination, among other things).

Souma sent a vague report about Takenashi and Inami to her, but Takenashi sends him away before he can mention something important to him. When he comes back to try again, he encounters Inami out back, and when he touches her to get her attention, something happens that hasn’t happened seemingly all season: she slugs someone.

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Minegishi runs off, and Inami is mortified and ashamed, but Takenashi is there to assure her that not only did Minegishi of all people deserve to be punched (and he actually enjoyed it due to his masochism) but it inspired Minegishi to seek out a punch he had missed: that of his ex-wife, Takenashi’s oldest sister Kozue. He rather embarrassingly re-proposes to her at work, and she says yes!

Besides all that, Takenashi takes Inami’s hands in hers, and when she doesn’t feel the compulsion to punch him, he takes it as evidence she’s still cured of her androphobia, and her fists merely struck someone who both deserved and didn’t mind being struck. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the progress she’s made personally, and in her relationship with Takenashi, even though neither of them have yet to be clear about their mutual feelings.

Minegishi comes back not to scold Inami, but to thank her, as well as to tell Takenashi that his mother, a powerful politician and VIP who is on the news (his co-workers never watch), is returning home, much to his consternation. Considering the myriad personalities of her kids, Mama Katanashi could be literally anyone…I look forward to meeting her and watching everyone I know bounce off of her!

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Working!!! 3 – 08

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Yamada may have moved back home, but she remains at Wagnaria after Otoo and Kyouko allowed her to keep coming in like Takanashi’s little sister to help out, and spending the night there when her mother isn’t home. So in a way, there hasn’t been a major change in the status quo, aside from the fact Yamada is usually going home and is now on better terms with her mom—though not her brother Kirio.

After that Aoicentric episode, this one is more of a grab bag, with a little story involving just about everyone from Otoo reuniting with his wife to Souta having to get a birthday present for Yachiyo (he actually gives her four for the four years he’s liked her).

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Many of these stories involve a Yamato in one way or another. Takanashi is annoyed that Kirio is talking so pleasantly with Inami, because he likes Inami, but won’t acknowledge that. He ends up beating Kirio up too much, and must recite a long-winded compliment that Takanashi thinks sounds like a joke, and it’s also how Inami interprets it, embarrassing her. So no real movement there.

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In another non-Yamada-related tidbit, Takanashi notices Popura may have shrunk, and Souma confirms she’s lost around 2cm, causing her to become depressed, because as much as she likes being pet by Katanashi, she also wants to grow more, not less. Turns out she actually did grow a centimeter, only because Takanashi grew three, she didn’t gain any ground, causing her to become depressed again.

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Back to Aoi, who convinces her mom over a period of six weeks to buy her a cell phone, then sends her mom a text, waits 30 minutes, and gets a blank reply back. Kirio, full of hidden talents, interprets the blank text as a long-winded inner monologue going on in their mother’s head about what Aoi’s original text meant and how best to respond.

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Finally, Kirio is sick of Aoi not acknowledging him as her true big brother (thanks to that natto theft incident), so he tries to become her big brother by becoming Souma’s little brother, which he attempts in the most ridiculous, true-to-the-Yamadas manner possible.

It’s actually Souta, whom Kirio asks for advice, who tells Kirio to take this route, in order to best annoy Souma as payback. But it isn’t long before the plan backfires and Kirio is annoying Souta to the point he must retreat from his own kitchen. Don’t get involved with Kirio; it isn’t worth it!

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Working!!! 3 – 07

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A lot of the interpersonal conflicts that arise in Working!! come down to people interpreting each others actions, words, or lack of words incorrectly; making the wrong assumptions. So it’s no surprise that the core conflict of Yamada Aoi—that she’s run away from home—comes down to such misinterpretations. After all, she’s one of the strangest communicators out there, having a running third-person commentary of her life as she lives it.

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Aoi is also bright and friendly and warm and cute—when she’s not being impetuous, cocky, or a huge hassle to others. Her mom is not any of those things. She comes off to many like a robot, and Kirio and Aoi were even furnished with “mom manuals” in order to interpret her subtle facial expressions, since she speaks so little. Aoi is in conflict with her mom because she never RTFM.

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As such, Aoi interpreted her mother foisting huge books on her to mean she was coldly forcing her to cram, even though her mother inside was simply worried about Aoi’s future. And Kirio eating her special natto (which he didn’t think was so great) is the last straw (or natto strand). Aoi tries to form a new family in Wagnaria, then Takanashi’s house, but her proper place is with her family; it’s just a matter of being convinced.

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The issue is brought to the forefront, and resolved, by two side characters. Aoi’s mom happens to be Takanashi’s eldest sister’s masochistic ex-husband, and Otoo’s often-lost wife Haruna convinces Aoi to go back home based on the principle of “ships passing in the night”, or family members and friends who may have wildly different ways of looking at and interacting with the world can still bump into each other on occasion, which is something to be celebrated.

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Aoi thus learns the conciliatory, re-connecting value of a hug from her mother (who tracked her down, ninja-style), and returns home, even though she still considers Souma a better big brother than Kirio. But while this means Aoi will no longer be living either at the restaurant or Takanashi’s, I’m sure she’ll still be “working” there on occasion; as long as it doesn’t interfere with her studies.

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