Reviewby Paul Jensen,
Life has gotten pretty stressful for Takanashi and the rest of the restaurant crew. It's do or die time for Sato as he prepares to finally confess his feelings for Todoroki. Taneshima faces a small mountain of self-doubt as her responsibilities at the restaurant start to increase. Takanashi's own emotions are all over the place as the return of his overbearing mother derails his plans to sort out his relationship with Inami. Everything is coming to a dramatic conclusion, but to the customers, it's just another day at Wagnaria!
Anime comedies, particularly those that overlap with the slice of life genre, often have trouble with endings. When the whole point of a series is to observe the everyday misadventures of a group of charming oddballs, there's not always an obvious conclusion for the plot to reach. With no real villain to defeat or tournament to win, these shows frequently settle for a lighthearted ending with the promise that the characters' lives will continue largely unchanged. This makes the final episodes of Wagnaria!!3 something of a rarity within the genre, as this set finds a way to give the long-running workplace comedy a proper conclusion.
The show's two “will they or won't they” couples both get a turn in the spotlight here, with Sato and Todoroki being the first pair to finally sort out their relationship. There aren't any big surprises in the way things play out for them, so most of the focus is on the journey instead of the destination. As you might expect from these two characters, there's one final round of awkward misunderstandings to get through, and Sato even jokes about Todoroki's habit of overhearing exactly the wrong parts of other people's conversations. The actual confession scene is fairly low-key, staying true to the characters instead of going for a sudden dose of melodrama. On the whole, it's a satisfying way to wrap up the story arc without disrupting the overall chemistry of the cast.
The romantic tension between Takanashi and Inami takes up the remainder of the series, and it's here that the narrative stumbles a bit. The need to drag this final conflict out until the final episode hurts the pacing and leads to a frustrating number of detours and “one step forward, one step back” moments. At least this set allows viewers to jump straight into the final episode, which originally aired several months after the rest of the show. Once the story finally starts moving in earnest, Takanashi and Inami get the ending they deserve. Just about every significant character in the series contributes something in the final scenes, allowing the last episode to say goodbye to the whole cast even as it gives the central couple enough space to work through their feelings. By the end, it feels as if the story has reached a natural stopping point, with all of the main characters ready to move on to the next chapters in their lives.
Thankfully, the show is able to maintain its sense of humor even as it pursues its narrative ambitions. The combination of goofy personalities and sharp dialogue continues to work well; conversations that might feel like a waste of time in a less well-written series produce a wealth of witty exchanges and delightful one-liners here. There's an element of self-parody at work in these final episodes as some of the show's key comedic pairings get one last chance to shine. When Yamada is able to criticize Takanashi for taking too long to rush over and yell at her for breaking a plate, it's clear that this series has its recurring jokes down to a science.
The latter half of this season sees an improvement over the first set in terms of the show's ability to make its comedic and dramatic parts work together. Instead of distracting from important moments, the characters' eccentricities make all the relationship drama a little more enjoyable. Kyoko's miraculous ability to use her own laziness and apathy to help other characters resolve their problems is always entertaining, and the idea of Sato needing to call in sick for two weeks to recover from the stress of starting a relationship with Todoroki is worth a laugh. Even the story's ostensible antagonists are more amusingly misguided than malicious, and it's clear that Takanashi's mother is only making his life miserable in order to make him be honest with himself. That mix of lighthearted humor and emotional soul-searching pushes these final story arcs towards the sweeter end of the dramatic spectrum, which matches up neatly with the overall tone of the series.
Audio and visual quality is generally consistent with the first half of the season, with competent animation and appealing background art accompanied by a decent, if unremarkable, soundtrack. The one memorable music cue in this set comes in the final episode, with a reprise of the first season's opening theme providing a healthy dose of nostalgia at just the right time. The packaging of this release is also consistent with the previous volume, complete with a second set of postcards. There are some genuine on-disc extras this time around, including some amusing character trailers and a clean version of the ending sequence. The double-length finale is listed with the extras as a “special episode,” but it's critical enough to the story that I'd lean towards calling it part of the series instead of a standalone entity.
Wagnaria!!3 captures the delicate balance of humor and satisfying character arcs that so many slice of life comedies try and fail to achieve. Aside from some frustrating issues with pacing, this series makes for a strong genre benchmark. Going for a definitive ending instead of leaving the door open for a sequel could definitely be considered a risk, but the show is better for taking it. For a goofy little series about incompetent waiters and waitresses, it's pretty darn entertaining.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Brings closure to the series while preserving its comedic charms
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