by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 6 of
I'm finding it increasingly hard to believe that I found Yamada annoying when she was introduced in the first season all those years ago. After providing some useful comedic interludes in the last episode, she steals the show in a different capacity this week. I never thought the day would come, but the loud, proud airhead might finally have to deal with the consequences of running away from home and living in a restaurant. Considering that we're talking about Yamada here, those consequences are destined to be entertaining.
This episode opens with Takanashi continuing his frantic attempts at avoiding the inevitable conclusion that he and Inami like one another. As the walls of romance close in around the restaurant's various not-quite-couples, Yamada can't help but notice that the added excitement has led Souma to pay less attention to her. She tries to drag some gossip out of Takanashi and Todoroki, and the results are predictably painful. Taneshima continues to work harder to make up for her increasingly useless coworkers, but the extra effort eventually catches up with her and she's forced to take a sick day. Just as things start to settle back into the usual routine, Yamada's day of reckoning finally arrives: her long-lost brother finds her working at the restaurant.
The Yamada drama adds a third narrative bombshell for the show to juggle, and the script is starting to have trouble keeping up. This episode bounces back and forth from one plotline to another, an approach that serves Wagnaria!!3 well when it's working with the usual complement of jokes and antics. With multiple characters facing big decisions, however, the narrative structure ends up slowing things down by not giving any one scene enough time to seriously affect its particular story arc. As a result, it feels like the series is running in circles sometimes when it should just pick a direction and follow it.
The show's sense of humor seems to be running on autopilot this week, possibly as a side effect of the plot's increased importance. The characters lean on their more established quirks, like Yamada's incompetence at work or Satou's tendency to smack people with a frying pan. The comedy is slick and practiced, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. The One Piece of new material is Taneshima's fever-influenced magical girl dream, and it's not really worth the screen time it takes up. Rather than repeating jokes from within the series, the scene repeats jokes from magical girl parodies in other shows. The serious character ends up as the mascot, Taneshima's wand is just a wooden stick, her powers are utterly useless against the villain, and so on. The execution is fine, but the premise feels recycled.
Thankfully, the showdown between the two Yamadas is more than enough to carry the weaker parts of the episode. This scene has been a long time coming, and the series makes good use of its comedic potential. Aoi and Kirio are both amusingly stupid on their own, but putting them together creates a swirling vortex of hilarious idiocy. Aoi refuses to acknowledge that she knows her brother, only to immediately follow up on her denial by asking him how their mother's doing. A hastily retrieved wig is somehow enough to briefly convince Kirio that he's got the wrong person. Their gaffes are timed and delivered to perfection, and the fact that both characters are typically called by their family name is also used to good dramatic effect. When Souma tells “Yamada” to go home for the day, it's initially difficult to tell if he's abandoning Aoi or telling Kirio to back off. This is a strong scene on just about every level, allowing the episode to end on a strong note.
Wagnaria!!3 is being understandably cautious when it comes to setting up events that will alter its key character dynamics, but its hesitation seems increasingly unwarranted. Every time the show has stirred things up this season, it's done so with skillful writing and direction that belies its status as a simple workplace comedy. At this point, it'd be better off just diving in head first instead of dragging things out.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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