Wagnaria!! 2 Complete Series Premium Edition

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, February 16, 2014

The first season of Wagnaria!! (Working!! in Japan) was one of my favorite comedy anime series, and one of the better titles that NIS America licensed when they first started releasing anime for North American distribution. The quirky characters and outlandish scenarios still stand out in my mind, but season one did end rather abruptly and did get slightly bogged down with a focus on a dysfunctional romance. Right around the time that NIS released the first season in North America, Wagnaria’s second season came out in Japan but the publisher was quiet as to whether they had licensed the complete series or not. Nearly three years later they have finally released Wagnaria!! , and to say I was excited was an understatement as I put the five other anime series I was watching on hold to marathon the 13 episodes.

While it is technically possible to jump right into this season without having seen the first one, viewers will get much more out of the random humor and quirky characters if they’re familiar with the previous events (plus season one is streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll so it’s fairly easy to find). Wagnaria!! 2 once again takes place at the family restaurant of the same name, where a cast of misfits work together and create seemingly random situations that often have hilarious results. The main character is Sota Takanashi, who has been bullied by three older sisters growing up and has an unhealthy obsession with cute and tiny things such as children and animals. Sota’s co-workers include Popura who is often mistaken for a child but is actually 17, Mahiru Inami who has an irrational fear of men and punches him every time she sees him, and the sword carrying chief of staff Yachiyo (to name a few). Rather than going for a linear narrative Waganaria!! uses sketches during each episode with a few mini story arcs that tie everything together. However, there is a little bit of character development throughout the season, as each person doesn’t seem to be exactly the same from the beginning to the end.

The first season got bogged down a bit at the end with some romantic implications between Sota and Mahiru, as she developed feelings for him when he was trying to help her fear of men but he only saw her as a dog he was training. This is still a fairly major story element during the second season, but the writers were able to further expand upon the main cast and throw out even more hilarious situations than before to keep things feeling fresh. Wagnaria!! continues to use slapstick comedy in each episode, and the overreactions of each of the characters results in plenty of amusing situations. What I liked about this season was that not only did it introduce three new characters in the form of manager Kyoko’s former gang underlings and Yamada’s brother, but it gave Sota’s sister’s some additional screen time as well. The pacing also seemed a bit better, as rather than spending the majority of an episode on one or two characters the entire cast seemed to get more of a focus this time around and there seemed to be a bit more spontaneity. I don’t want to give too many specifics about the episode scenarios away as I believe that a lot of the charm this series has is in its ability to be completely nonsensical. But whether it’s Sota’s downright bizarre obsession with tiny and cute things or Kyoko’s ineptitude as a manager (since she only care about eating the food rather than the customers), each of the main cast is as over the top as possible and I found myself laughing regularly at this restaurant that seems completely dysfunctional.

Since the staff behind Wagnaria!! has largely remained the same for the two seasons, the overall look and feel has remained the same. The only major difference is the format that Wagnaria!! 2 was released on, as NIS America has switched over to a Blu-ray only package this time around rather than only including DVDs. What continues to draw me into this series is the way that it merges a semi-realistic setting with plenty of crazy animation that brings the comedy element into play. The amount of detail that has gone into the restaurant and the surrounding town is notable, as there are lots of little nuances that make it feel like this could actually be a real location. When it comes to the characters though, this is definitely an anime. Inami has fists of steel that often puts dents in walls, and almost every character has extremely exaggerated facial expressions that are used to add to the humor. It’s a fairly flashy approach and while the quick cuts and exaggerated animations never reach the level of a series like Nichijou they’re still sure to catch your attention and help to give Wagnaria!! a feel of its own.

The first season featured opening and ending themes that got stuck in my head for days, and this looks like it is going to be happening once again. “Coolish Walk” is arguably just as catchy as “Someone Else,” and is once again sung by the three female leads, while the new ending theme “Always Love & Peace!!” uses the three male leads. I’ve mentioned this in other reviews, but having the voice actors sing the theme songs for anime is a trend I have been okay with in recent years as it helps to further give particular series their own identities and showcases how much talent is going into these shows. The other music in Waganaria!! 2 isn’t quite as noteworthy as the themes, and this is mainly due to the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of it. Rather than placing background music during every scene A-1 Pictures does it every so often to add emphasis, but for the most part lets the voice acting and sound effects take center stage. This does seem to have been the right decision though, as the actors once again bring the characters to life and really add an eccentric flair to the overall show. Just be warned that if high pitched, squeaky voice acting grates your ears this may not be the type of anime for you.

NIS America’s on-disc extras for Wagnaria!! 2 include the usual clean opening and ending themes, while the hardcover art book/episode guide has some neat artwork and additional details about each of the characters for viewers who are interested. It’s right in line with the other premium editions that the publisher has put out for each of their shows, and I appreciate their continued attention to detail in making each of the episode guides/art books match the series it is for rather than going for a uniform approach. However, this is another one of those anime where I wished NIS America had been able to get some interview content with the voice actors or production staff as it would’ve been neat to have some insight into how the actors approached their wacky roles. This is another case where they are probably limited by what the Japanese studio is willing to do, but as long as it seems like something that might be possible I will keep pushing for interviews to be included.

If you haven’t seen the first season of Wagnaria!!, do yourself a favor and check that out first before diving into this one. While you could technically jump into this one, the rapid fire pace and references to some previous events make it easier to get more out of the episodes if you come in with some existing knowledge. But if you loved the first 13 episodes as much as I did, rest assured that this second run is able to offer just as many if not more laughs while giving the entire cast plenty of time to shine. This is probably one of my favorite comedy focused anime NIS has put out to date, and hopefully they’ll continue to find quirky series like this one to bring over in the future.

http://nisamerica.com/index.php?nav=ap&aid=wagnaria
http://www.crunchyroll.com/wagnaria

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