by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 1 of
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I'm not sure there's any one term that perfectly describes WWW.Wagnaria's relationship to the original Wagnaria. The two of them don't have any storylines or characters in common, so it seems inaccurate to call the new one a sequel or spinoff. In fact, you could easily watch this series without having seen or even heard of its predecessor. It may be best to think of it as a similar story in a shared universe, with a new cast of employees at another restaurant from the same chain. Much like the original, WWW.Wagnaria starts off with a new waiter joining a staff full of oddballs. Our hero in this case is Daisuke Higashida, who starts working part-time after his family runs into financial problems. He's a serious guy who'd much rather be studying than working, so the eccentric personalities of his fellow employees don't exactly fill him with joy.
The two Wagnarias share the same original creator, the same production studio, and several key creative positions, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the format of character-based comedy is more or less the same. Higashida serves as our levelheaded window into the world of the restaurant, reacting with the appropriate levels of shock and frustration whenever another character does something odd. While it'll definitely feel familiar to returning fans, the new cast features a wide enough range of personalities that the jokes feel new and fresh. It'll take a while to build up the chemistry amongst the dozen-plus named characters, but the early signs are promising. The dialogue and comedic timing are both on-point, and there are plenty of entertaining moments in these first few episodes.
The relationship between Higashida and chief waitress Miyakoshi is an early highlight, possibly because it receives the most screen time. The two of them are polar opposites in terms of personality, and they're not shy about driving one another crazy. It's the kind of friendly bickering that this genre thrives on, endearing both characters to the audience even as we laugh at their interactions. There are also signs of a potential romance here, and while that idea would probably make Higashida want to jump off a cliff, it would also play to the strengths of this franchise.
As for the rest of the cast, the jury is still out. Most of them are at least entertaining, with the ghost-whispering Muranushi and the shamelessly selfish Kondou being early comedic standouts. What we haven't seen yet is much effort to develop the supporting cast beyond their obvious comedic roles. The obnoxiously dumb guy is dumb and obnoxious, the guy who doesn't speak Japanese can't understand what's going on around him, and so on. The series does appear to be setting up storylines that will give these characters the chance to display a little depth, so there's at least cause for cautious optimism here.
In terms of art style and animation, WWW.Wagnaria looks as good as it needs to in order to keep the audience's attention on the comedy. Some of the most eye-catching content can be found in the opening and closing sequences, which maintain the franchise traditions of colorful visuals and peppy songs sung by the main cast. One interesting note is that the backgrounds look almost suspiciously familiar. Even if the characters are working in a chain restaurant, I would've liked to see a little more variety in the layout and appearance of the place. It's not a huge issue, but it does feel a little uninspired.
Whether you call it a spinoff, a sequel, a reboot, or something else entirely, WWW.Wagnaria looks like it's capable of living up to the standards of the original. It has a promising cast of characters and a good grasp of the franchise's laid-back style of comedy, and that's at least half the battle right there. The barrier to entry is also very low, and this could serve as a good jumping-on point for viewers who don't want to make the three-season commitment that the original series now requires. As long as you've got a taste for character-based humor, this latest workplace comedy looks like it'll be worth your time.
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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