Episode 5

by Paul Jensen,

How would you rate episode 5 of

Miyakoshi is starting to lose patience with being the only one at the restaurant who can serve customers with a genuine smile, but it's hard to fault her coworkers for being depressed or distracted. Adachi's stress-inducing relationship with Muranushi takes yet another bizarre turn when he meets her mother and discovers that there might be something dangerous behind Muranushi's bewitching smile. Kamakura continues to torment Shindou, but her malicious attention is briefly diverted by a poorly timed observation from Kouki. Higashida is as grumpy as ever, but he has a new reason to be unhappy as Miyakoshi drags Nagata into her ongoing quest to make non-toxic chocolate. Between the evil spirits, the poisonous sweets, and the abundance of sharp objects, it'll be a miracle if everyone survives to the end of the season.

There's some more character development mixed in with all the love and war this week, though some of it proves to be underwhelming. We get a look at Sakaki's backstory, and the image of the harmlessly incompetent manager as a juvenile delinquent certainly sounds amusing on paper. In practice, it suffers from the same lack of surprises that hampered the introduction of Miyakoshi's mother last week. Everything we learn about Sakaki's past is more or less in line with his personality, so there's no big twist to shock the audience into laughing. The presentation helps out a little bit, with Higashida playing his usual role as the cranky straight man, but the scene as a whole just comes up short on the comedic front. This episode does better when it just focuses on telling jokes, and Kouki's ability to accidentally strike a nerve with his coworkers proves to be much more entertaining than the foray into Sakaki's personal history.

With the relationship between Adachi and Muranushi continuing to build up momentum, it seems natural that we'd eventually meet some of their relatives. Muranushi's mother plays a useful role here by confirming some of Adachi's worst fears and dialing his stress level up even further. Making her a professional exorcist is also a clever move, as it makes Muranushi's ignorance of her own supernatural talents even funnier. The interactions between these three also shed some light on the comedic premise at the heart of this series: all three of the key romantic relationships can be seen as one character being haunted or possessed by the other. Higashida is unable to escape the vicious cycle that forces him to eat Miyakoshi's toxic chocolate, Shindou is doomed to endure eternal torment from Kamakura, and Muranushi has an inescapable (and perhaps supernatural) grip on Adachi's feelings.

In an episode that's often more interesting than outright entertaining, the conversation between Miyakoshi and Nagata helps to end things on a strong comedic note. The dynamic between them is different from what we've seen from Miyakoshi and Higashida, but it works just as well. Rather than acting as a belligerent voice of reason, Nagata finds her groove as a well-meaning but easily flustered audience for Miyakoshi's terrible ideas. It's fun to watch Nagata dig herself into a hole as she tries to wiggle out of the latest chocolate-related scheme, and Miyakoshi's blind overconfidence continues to be charming in its own way. I hope we'll see more from these two in future episodes, as they make quite a pair.

Even ending on a strong note can't disguise the fact that WWW.Wagnaria's comedic efforts aren't quite up to par this week. A handful of jokes hit the mark and the misses are mostly harmless, but the series seems to be having some trouble keeping its foot on the gas as we approach the middle of the season. At some point, it might be a good idea to stop throwing new concepts and characters into the mix and just lean on the stuff that already works. The more room Miyakoshi, Kamakura, and Muranushi have to wreak havoc on the rest of the cast, the better.

Rating: B-

WWW.WAGNARIA!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.

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