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Wagnaria!! Season 1 Premium Edition Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Life working at a family restaurant isn’t easy, especially when you have a crew as odd as this one.

What They Say:
The family restaurant Wagnaria stands by itself in Hokkaido. One day, Sota Takanashi, who loves all things small, meets tiny little Popura, who offers him a job working part time at the restaurant. Attracted by her petite stature, Sota accepts her offer. To his surprise, the restaurant is filled with eccentric characters. Get ready to dish up some wacky comedy together with Sota and his coworkers!

Contains episodes 1-13.

This 2-disc premium edition includes a premium box and a 32-page full-color, hardcover artbook filled with character introduction and relationships charts, illustrations, background and chracter rough sketches, and four-frame comics.

The Review:
The audio presentation for Wagnaria is like other NIS America releases at this stage in that it has just the Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The show is essentially a simple dialogue driven piece where there’s some fun little action effects moments as well. There are heightened moments of dialogue where things get a bit exaggerated, but it never gets to a point where it’s problematic. The variety to the cast means we have a lot of different types of voices but they’re often well placed and clean and clear throughout. The mix for Wagnaria doesn’t stretch itself but it’s solid and problem free.

Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is spread across two discs seven episodes on the first disc and six on the second alongside the couple of extras. With animation production by A-1 Pictures, a studio I have a hard time finding fault with for the most part, we get an appealing looking release here as the show works with a real world design and simple workplace comedy material, so it’s filled with a lot of detail but has a basic look to its actual animation. With it being a character driven slice of life show, it doesn’t have a lot of heavy lifting to do but the characters look great and the use of animation to move them around works really well, giving them a fluid feel with a solid amount of detail to it all. The characters are all distinct and the look of the world is well captured by the transfer here.

Wagnaria comes in the standard style of premium packaging that we’ve seen with past releases where it has a solid chipboard packaging that holds a great hardcover book and two clear thinpak cases inside to hold the two discs. The front of the box has a very cute picture of Takanashi and Taneshima in their uniforms doing their work gig. What makes it stand out is that the background is all white, and they have a lot of white in their uniforms, so the rest of it stands out even more strongly. It’s great in its simplicity and very appealing. The back of the box uses the same kind of basic white background while the character artwork is of Inami in a casual outfit which has a lot of color to it that looks very cute, though her right shoulder and shirt looks just a little odd.

Within the box we get a pair of clear thinpak cases that uses the same style as the box with different pairings of the characters in their white uniforms set against a white background with the simple logo, all of which of course use the Wagnaria!! named as opposed to the original Working!! name. The back covers are pretty dense with a breakdown of two shots for each episode that has the title and some of the production credits associated with it. The bottom third of the back cover has a lot of the production information included as well as a very solid technical grid that covers everything very cleanly and clearly. Unfortunately, there’s no artwork on the reverse sides of the covers.

What draws me to these premium editions are the hardcover books and this one is no exception. It opens with a great little relationship diagram and then goes into character pages with designs and artwork as well as a series of background pieces of artwork. There’s also several pages worth of the translated four panel comics. There’s a lot of really good material here that looks great and is a very good and fun read, especially when you get to the four panel comic. These continue to be really great unique items for each release.

The menu design for the release is pretty simple and follows a familiar pattern which has the same layout on each disc. The right side has the straightforward text breakdown with the episode number and titles as well as the credits and setup aspect. The left side has different pieces of character artwork done in the same style as the front cover with it all in front of a white background, so it all ties together very well. The menus are very quick and easy to use with a simple but solid design that fits in nicely with things. With it being a monolingual release, there’s no issues with player presets.

The only extras included are clean versions of the two ending sequences which are on the second disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the seinen manga by Karino Takatsu that began in 2005 and is still ongoing as of this writing, Wagnaria!! is known originally as Working!! and is a thirteen episode series that deals with the simple slice of life fun of a group of people working in a family restaurant. What helps with the show is that the cast of characters builds beyond just the high school level and has a few different ages working there and some nice variety to their personalities because of it. What makes it stand out even more is that A-1 Pictures is behind the production which gives it a strong real world visual design that feels very lived in and authentic, even when it gets a bit silly.

The show revolves around the family restaurant Wagnaria!! where a fairly diverse group of individuals work. The opening premise is that they’re a bit short on staff because of the usual kinds of turnover that happen and an icnrease in customers, which is a good thing, and that has the manager, Kyoko, sending out one of the waitstaff to find a new part timer. Taneshima is definitely one that would have some luck at it as even at age seventeen, she looks like she’s still in middle school because of her looks and shortness. She doesn’t have much luck for the most part though since people don’t take her seriously, but she does manage to find some help with a fellow classmate that decides to work there named Takanashi. Unfortunately, the only reason he does so is because he’s really keen on cute, little things, and that sums up Taneshima in a nutshell. He’s not interested in her in any sort of physical or emotional way, it’s more like his need to collect cute objects and just enjoy them.

Once Takanashi is working at Wagnaria, it’s a matter of time before we start to get to know the amusing but generally realistic cast of characters that works there. Takanashi gets to work the floor with Taneshima as well as Todoroki, a cute girl a few years older than him who wears a katana on her side. She’s got a bit of a crush on the manager where she’s almost like a puppy dog with her. To complicate matters, Kyoko obviously has little interest in her in a romantic way, but the main chef at the restaurant, a twenty year old named Sato, is definitely interested in her but he does his best to keep it all out of the workplace and from Todoroki since he doesn’t want to complicate things. And in the middle of this is another chef named Soma, a young man the same age as Sato who spends his time gaining information on everyone and using that to his advantage to make sure he’s always got a something on everyone in a rather fun way.

Wagnaria seems like at first that it will move towards dealing with a potential relationship between Takanashi and Taneshima because of how they interact at the start of it, especially with how he views her as so cute and huggable. Where the show goes as a romantic subplot is actually a lot more interesting and less expected during the first few episodes as we’re introduced to one more member of the waitstaff named Inami. She’s a year older than Takanashi but has a fear of men that’s been instilled in her by her father for so many years that if she gets too close to one, she punches them. Hard. Very hard. Takanashi gets beaten down hard on a regular basis, but there’s a slow and sure evolution of their relationship across the set that it feels like one of the more honest anime relationships I’ve seen in some time.

Because of its origins, there’s a slightly different layout to the show where each episode has varying length opening sequences that deal with different bits of humor and it will shift gears mid episode sometimes so as to not overdo a gag. All of the comedy comes from the characters themselves and how they react to situations since it works in a real world setting. The most outlandish thing it does is the punching from Inami and some of her quirks, but also the introduction of another waitstaff member named Yamada that ends up living in the restaurant through a less than believable quirk. Beyond that, it’s all very adorable and fun to watch as they work through their shifts, understand each other to different levels and occasionally have some small adventures. I did cringe when they all decided to go to a hot spring, but thankfully it avoids one of the the usual traps of such stories as they barely make it there.

The design of Wagnaria is pretty solid with some really good character designs that stand out well. Nobody is outlandish with their look or sense of style and it’s all done with traditional hair colors, so there’s no blues and greens, though we do get a little purple and a few blondes into the mix. There’s a simplicity to it all in a way since they’re largely kept to straightforward uniforms and a consistent setting, but there’s a lot of detail to it as well, both in the backgrounds and in the character animation with their facial designs and how they handle themselves. There’s something about this show that just has a stronger feeling of quality and attention to detail to it than you’d normally get for a show of this nature. It simply comes across as much more polished and professional and not just a show to fill out a season.

In Summary:
NIS America hits all the right marks with this release, though there are a few more noticeable subtitle errors than usual with the first pressing, by giving us a strong looking package with a great show that avoids the traps most shows of this nature fall into. The cast of characters here are fun and I liked that it didn’t go for the obvious relationship between Takanashi and Taneshima and also explored a few other relationships to different degrees. There’s a lot of fleshing out of different areas as it progresses, such as Takanashi’s family situation as well as the workplace dynamic with the manager above the restaurant manager herself and that adds a little fun to it as well. Wagnaria is a solidly fun little show that definitely leaves you wanting more, but feeling that more may take away from the charm and enjoyment of it all. It’s a show that if anything makes you want the manga at least to see where it all goes. Definitely recommended for fans of this genre and another solid addition to the NIS America catalog.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean endings

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: March 22nd, 2011
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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