Reviewby Paul Jensen,
Love is in the air at the restaurant, and so is a surprising amount of danger. Miyakoshi and Higashida start officially dating in the hopes of making Miyakoshi's cooking slightly less poisonous. Shindou is still trying to find a way out of his massive debt to Kamakura's family, but all of his options carry the risk of a swift and painful death. Adachi and Muranushi seem to have feelings for one another, but Adachi's constant indecision is beginning to drive Muranushi over the edge. With all three couples walking the line between affection and mortal peril, does the restaurant have any hope of surviving?
After going light on narrative substance in its first half, WWW.Wagnaria tries to put some meat on the story's bones in this set. Most of its plot arcs focus on the quasi-romantic couples that populate the cast, with each duo facing a variety of challenges and setbacks. In keeping with the show's style of humor, many of these problems are self-inflicted; the only thing stopping these characters from hooking up is the possibility that they might end up killing one another in the process. Pushing the story in this direction plays to WWW.Wagnaria's strengths, and it gets some solid comedy out of the cast's antics.
Higashida and Miyakoshi are the most consistently entertaining of the three couples, which is hardly surprising considering that they're the show's main characters. The quarrelsome, antagonistic chemistry between them proves to be a major asset as they reluctantly take Saint Valentine's advice and start dating. Both characters have ulterior motives here: Miyakoshi is thrilled by the idea of making Higashida buy her things, and Higashida thinks it'll be easier to wait for Miyakoshi to get bored with the relationship than it would be to talk her out of it. Since they're both acting in their own selfish interests, it's easy for the audience to sit back and enjoy the chaos without feeling bad for either of them. The series is able to find a satisfying ending for this relationship in its final episode, staying true to that mutual hostility despite wrapping things up on a positive note.
We also get a clearer picture of the shared backstory between Kamakura and Shindou, which lends some context to their twisted relationship. This doesn't stop Kamakura from acting like a colossal sadist or Shindou from wallowing in a swamp of self-pity, but it does at least nudge them away from their roles as pure comic relief and towards being actual characters. This duo delivers some of the show's most amusingly over-the-top moments, especially once Shindou starts risking his life by pushing back against Kamakura's constant torment. Despite all the throwing of sharp objects and talk of removing organs, things wrap up on a surprisingly mellow note for this couple. I wouldn't go so far as to call it unsatisfying, but it's certainly a surprising narrative choice on WWW.Wagnaria's part.
Adachi and Muranushi have perhaps the most stable relationship of the bunch, but that's not saying much in this crowd. They hit their comedic and dramatic peak early on in this set, with Adachi fumbling his way into something resembling a confession of love. The process of getting to that point is quite entertaining, and the moment itself is perhaps the sweetest scene in the series. Unfortunately, it's mostly downhill from there; the series never quite manages to find a suitable replacement for the tension that defined most of their early interactions. Muranushi's unreadable poker face still helps to facilitate the occasional joke, but Adachi seems to run out of material well before the final episode. As a slightly quirky couple in a series full of truly eccentric characters, Adachi and Muranushi have a hard time standing out.
WWW.Wagnaria helps its case in its second half by continuing to experiment with its comedic style. The core formula of characters refusing to fix their personality flaws remains, but the way in which that setup is used changes from episode to episode. A chocolate-related incident leaves both Higashida and Miyakoshi feeling like they've done something terrible to one another, but a miscommunication leads them to talk about two completely different things in the same conversation. An argument with Adachi causes Muranushi to call in sick, but it's the rest of the staff who suffer when her ghostly customers start to act up. Scenes like these play with the show's core elements just enough to keep the humor fresh. The temptation always exists for a comedy series to coast along on recycled material as it nears the end of its run, so kudos to WWW.Wagnaria for continuing to throw new ideas into the mix.
From a visual standpoint, the series remains reasonably strong overall and a cut above the genre average. The animation is able to consistently meet the demands of the visual direction, and the art style is pleasing to the eye if not overly distinctive. Beyond the simple task of looking good, the show's visuals also help to enhance several of its jokes. Saint Valentine's spiritual realm is still a striking departure from the restaurant's more familiar backgrounds, even if Higashida and Miyakoshi have grown more comfortable with barging in and asking the old guy for advice. A change in Kamakura's behavior is indicated by flowers growing out of her head, and the series puts a fun twist on this sight gag by having other characters interact with what would normally be an abstract image.
This release from Aniplex is more or less in line with the previous set, with two discs in a plastic case fitting into a more visually pleasing slipcase. The cover art is nicely presented, and the package includes another set of postcards. The short bonus scenes in each episode remain the primary attraction among the on-disc extras, though this set also includes a set of commercials narrated by the main cast. I did experience some issues getting the subtitles to appear during these commercials, but the problem was confined to this particular extra feature and did not affect the episodes.
Despite packing more substance into its second half, WWW.Wagnaria falls a bit short of the standard set by its franchise sibling. The resolutions to its storylines are satisfying but limited in their emotional appeal, though it's difficult to ask much more of a single-cour comedy series. As a genre title, WWW.Wagnaria is well served by its willingness to try out new material instead of banking on past successes. By keeping the humor relatively fresh, it ensures that the laughs will continue through the final episode. Whether viewed as a spiritual successor to the original Wagnaria or taken on its own merits, this is a consistently funny show with a solid grasp on its particular style. So long as you don't ask too much of it, you'll likely have a good time.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Adds some romantic substance to its comedy style, keeps the jokes coming until the end
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