I don’t get to watch nearly as much anime as I might like, so there are a lot of surprises left for me to discover. That’s especially true now that anime and manga have both caught on here in North America (more than they had when I was in high school, at least), and it’s true because companies like NIS America are localizing interesting projects and making them almost impossible to resist. I can’t imagine that I ever would have known something like “Wagnaria” even existed a few years ago, but now I’ve watched the deluxe set on DVD.
So, what is “Wagnaria” exactly? It’s a 13-episode series about a family restaurant of the same name, but you’ve never seen a family restaurant like this one. The shift manager, Kyoko Shirafuji, threatens her workers and doesn’t seem to do much more than look sour and make schedules and eat parfaits. She was a former bancho, so she has thugs at her disposal if things get hard on her employees.
Popura is tiny and cute, a 17-year-old who (bust size aside) looks more like a 10-year-old. She is the one who is tasked with finding a new part-time worker for the restaurant after they lose an employee, and she is the one who finds a young man named Sota Takanashi. He’s much taller than she is, despite being a year behind her in school, but he loves cute things (even water fleas) and that’s enough that he agrees to come work at the restaurant.
When he arrives at his job, Sota finds that he’s gotten himself into a bit of a mess by agreeing to work at such a strange restaurant. Kyoko and Popura may be mildly strange, but they’re only the beginning. There also are Yachiyo (a young girl who carries a sword with her everywhere she goes) and Mahiru Inami (a red-headed vixen who involuntarily punches men on sight). In fact, there’s not a person on the entire staff who doesn’t have some sort of quirk.
Not that Sota isn’t used to quirks; at home, he has four sisters who can’t seem to agree on anything. One can’t help but wonder how Sota himself turned out as well as he did.
There are a lot of possibilities for such an interesting cast of characters, but “Wagnaria” doesn’t really have a lot of time to properly explore them. The first few episodes are spent introducing characters and they’re barely given time to slowly grow before suddenly the credits are rolling on the final episode and you’re wishing that you could pop in another few DVDs and keep the story going. It’s light fluff, certainly, but sometimes that’s all a person really wants and “Wagnaria” delivers that perfectly… and oddly.
For those who purchase the deluxe set, NIS America also has a few treats in store. The hardbound book includes a flow chart that presents all of the interactions in an easy-to-understand manner, plus there’s a lot of artwork and there are even some manga samples. The samples have even less time to do interesting things than the actual episodes do, but they’re still a nice treat for people who have fallen in love with the quirky characters the same way that I eventually did.
“Wagnaria” won’t likely be remembered as any great accomplishment in anime, but if you enjoy lighthearted misadventures and social interactions, you’ll find enough to like that you’ll probably join me in wishing things didn’t have to end.
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