Reviewby Paul Jensen,
The everyday hijinks and misadventures of the world's most dysfunctional restaurant staff continue as Wagnaria moves into its third season. The friendship between Sato and Todoroki begins to evolve into an actual relationship, while Takanashi and Inami are forced to acknowledge their own tempest of romantic tension. Even the restaurant's resident slacker Yamada can't escape the winds of change as she stumbles into a reunion with her real family.
It feels very appropriate for Wagnaria!! to take place in a diner-style restaurant, as the series has several things in common with the kind of food you'd expect to find at such a place. It may not be the best thing in the world and it's unlikely to change your life in any significant way, but the quality is consistent and the ambience is pleasantly familiar. It's the comfort food of anime comedies, and it's remarkably good at what it does.
Wagnaria!!3 delivers the same kind of harmlessly goofy humor that can be found in the show's previous seasons, but also makes a serious effort at resolving some long-running storylines. These episodes see the relationship between Sato and Todoroki take some big steps forward. A night out on the town forces both of them to confront their feelings for one another, even if it means that Sato has to spend the following episode in physical agony from all the stress. The romantic tension between Takanashi and Inami is also addressed, though the progress here is less consistent than it is between Sato and Todoroki. There are some emotionally compelling high points, but they're balanced out by some frustrating narrative decisions that put the brakes on any meaningful progress for the time being.
The surprise star of this set is Yamada, who steals the show through an unexpected reunion with her real family. We finally learn why Yamada ran away from home, and a confrontation with her mother leads to a genuinely touching exchange of emotions. Yamada herself even seems to grow as a character, which comes as a surprise given the expertise with which she usually avoids all forms of work and responsibility. Even through all this drama, Wagnaria!!3 remains a comedy at heart, and any personal epiphanies that the characters go through inevitably happen under bizarre and amusing circumstances.
That consistent focus on humor is almost always a good thing, as this series is at its best when it's making the audience laugh. With two seasons' worth of character development already in the bank, Wagnaria!!3 has the luxury of simply dropping its cast into a situation and letting the comedy happen naturally as the quirky personalities bounce off of one another. This sort of humor works especially well here because the characters are generally comfortable with, and sometimes even proud of, the stranger parts of their personalities. There's something about a straight-faced, unapologetic admission of guilt that never fails to amuse.
The only issue with the comedy is that it occasionally comes on too strong when a storyline starts to get serious. This is most evident in the introduction of Yamada's mother, who is apparently so incapable of expressing emotion that her children need a hardcover manual to figure out what she's thinking. It makes for an amusing image, and it even works as a humorous commentary on the difficulty of seeing eye to eye with family members. The trouble is that it's just ludicrous enough to distract from what should be a tense moment as Yamada's decision to run away from home finally catches up to her. The scene still works, but it does raise the question of whether or not Wagnaria!!3 might be a little better if it could rein in its comedic instincts from time to time.
On the visual front, Wagnaria!!3 is pretty solid. The animation is generally competent, and it's able to rise to the occasion whenever the characters need to do something more complicated than walking from Point A to Point B. The background art is nicely done, with the interior of the restaurant depicted in enough detail to make it feel like a real place. Considering how much time the characters spend at work, that extra level of detail goes a long way towards keeping the series interesting to look at. The music is unobtrusive and largely forgettable apart from the catchy opening and closing songs.
This set is par for the course when it comes to Aniplex's less extravagant releases. Both discs fit into a single case, which in turn is packaged in a slipcase with a set of postcards. The cover art looks great, and there are no glaring audio or video issues on the discs. On-disc extras are as sparse as it gets; seven subtitled episodes, a separate English credit sequence, and that's all. What's here is quite nice; there just isn't much of it considering the price of the set.
Wagnaria!!3 throws a considerable amount of effort at developing its plot, and the results are fairly encouraging. The characters grow more compelling as they're forced to deal with the issues they've spent two seasons avoiding. Through it all, the series is able to consistently deliver its particular style of humor. It's been a long time since the first season aired, but Wagnaria!!3 continues to set the standard within the workplace comedy niche.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Remains as funny as ever, story finally feels like it's going somewhere
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