Reviewby Jacob Hope Chapman, Jun 6th 2014
Servant × Service
Sub.DVD - Complete Collection
Lucy Yamagami hates her name. It's not so much the "Lucy" part that gets under her skin, or the "Yamagami" either. It's all the stuff in-between. Her full name is Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika and so forth until Yamagami eventually appears at the end. She can't bear to blame her parents for the offense, however, so she's resolved to take revenge on the government office worker who approved the name on her birth certificate. Step one: apply for a job at the ward office in her hometown. Step two: do her boring bureaucratic job with diligence and pride. Step three: find the employee responsible and...well, Lucy isn't sure. She is, in the words of her co-workers, a very smart idiot.
Social service work can be tedious, but Lucy and the other new hires try to make the best of it, whether they're filing piles of paperwork or enduring abuse from grouchy visitors who, understandably, would rather be anywhere else. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when fellow fresh grunt and lazy prodigy Yutaka Hasebe starts showing romantic interest in Lucy, chipping away at her with roundabout flirting even as she pushes him away out of feelings of embarrassment and inexperience. Lucy came to this dreary job in search of revenge, but could she be a few steps away from finding love instead?
One of the nicest things about Servant x Service is the opening theme song, a bouncy tune set to manic visuals that combine character art with live-action photos and candy-colored CG office fixtures. (It's much neater than it sounds.) The song claims that if you have a problem, the civil servants are here to help you, but one lyric also carries a warning. "Going so smoothly, slowly, easily, and nonchalantly is boring!" If only the show following this opening theme had heeded its own advice.
If a comedy revolving around the daily lives of government pencil-pushers sounds dull and inane, that's because it is, and Servant x Service doesn't really go out of its way to change your mind about that, naughty-sounding title aside. You're either on board with the drollery or you're not, and how well SxS works is based entirely on how lovable the characters are. Fortunately that is something the show gets right.
Following in the footsteps of the equally adorable Working!! (titled Wagneria! in the US,) Servant x Service's pack of low-wage clock-punchers is nothing if not easy to like, albeit in a transparently marketable sort of way. Lucy is large of chest and small of brain, but kindhearted and good at her job, while her potential suitor Hasebe is the opposite, an immensely talented slacker who took a government job because it was reliable and easy, but hasn't found anything he really cares about himself, except for Lucy. They're an easy couple to root for, and mirroring the awkward main couple in Wagneria, they're given enough genuine romantic development to keep us invested without committing enough to change the episodic status quo.
Really, that's the biggest problem here. Servant x Service has a comic cast of characters, from the endlessly patient and sweet Saya Miyoshi (who secretly possesses a well-meaning acid tongue,) to shy and eccentric section manager Kenzo Momoi who communicates via robotic plush bunny rabbit in lieu of leaving his house for work...but it's not actually funny. It's genuinely cute, and for what it's worth, cuteness seems to be priority one for the show. The "service" in Servant x Service doesn't solely pertain to civil work. It sports a mostly female cast, the women are all attractive and marketable in their own way, the ending credits song features them having a slumber party, and that combined with endless other small in-show cues makes it clear that spending twenty-minute pockets of time with likable pretty ladies is most of the appeal here rather than raucous laughs.
The nice thing about this is that they all have enough personality to make the experience benign and charming rather than uncomfortable. (The fact that they're full-grown women with varied relationships to others is a nice bonus too.) They're fanservice characters that don't feel like fanservice characters, so the show casts a wider net than "fantasy for otaku," and all kinds of audiences can comfortably enjoy spending time with these characters. It's not really a comedy, at least not a funny-ha-ha comedy. It's a bubble bath filled with smiles, warm-fuzzies, and maybe at most half a giggle. Often, it doesn't even take twenty minutes for that bubble bath to start putting you to sleep, though. Aniplex's DVD set is pretty bare-bones, with clean themes and no dub, but it does come with a booklet containing episode summaries, promotional art, and some of the 4-koma comic strips the anime was based on. Unsurprisingly, they're adorable and mostly driven by squeaky clean "fanservice" involving the female cast, but not so much funny-ha-ha.
SxS may not be very funny, but graciously, it's not obnoxious either, which is the greatest pit these 4-koma gag anime can fall into. Its sense of humor is just very safe and familiar. Being based on a 4-panel comic, the predominant tone of Servant x Service's gags is dry or stunned reactions to unconventional behavior. Someone will say or do something that's weird or awkward, and someone else will react with bemusement, and then the joke is over. For what it's worth, SxS' approach to this old-as-dirt style of anime comedy is a little ambitious for a gag strip. Episodes don't feel like a series of disconnected jokes, but build on the events of the previous scene, and running gags build on events from past episodes in a way that rewards enduring a little boredom. It is at very least more cohesive than many anime of its stripe, and not a bad-looking show with A-1 Pictures' diligent hands behind it. It's mostly animated talking heads and the occasional jostling bosom, but SxS doesn't look lame and cheap when it very easily could have. It's nicely animated for what it is, with no obvious visible shortcuts, and everyone stays on-model while doing their menial daily labor.
In the end, though, the best Servant x Service can aspire to is "cuteness." It never ranges into drama for even a second, there are no real conflicts in the ward office, and the two or three developing workplace romances are built on wacky bouts of flirting and awkward dates rather than any more gripping developments. Lucy eventually finds the object of her revenge, and his identity is an unexpected twist, but ultimately it doesn't matter, and there's no serious consequence to be had. It's never a regrettable viewing experience, but it's got forgettable stored up in bulk. Every new day passes as easy as the last one for a civil servant, and it's hard to see what anyone with a taste for something juicier could get out of it.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Adorable cast filled with sweet couples, snowballs its running gags, always cute and never annoying
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