What They Say:
It’s hard to get ahead in the publishing industry and it’s even harder when you’re a woman in Japan, where only one manager in ten is female. Despite that, Hiroko Matsukata’s determined to reach the top, and at only 28, she’s worked her way up to an editor’s position at Jidai weekly. But to get that far, Hiroko has had to dedicate her life to work, work, and more work while suppressing her more feminine character traits in order to blend in with her uncouth male coworkers. Just because the other Jidai employees have nicknamed her “Hataraki Man” (Working Man) doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t like the chance to be a bit more girly and have some romance occasionally. Unfortunately for Hiroko, her sometimes boyfriend is an even bigger workaholic than she is.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. This gives the show the best audio presentation possible for a home video release for the most part but it’s not a show that’s going to really take advantage of it. It’s a pretty dialogue-driven series with some outlandish moments here and there, but the highs tend to come from overreactions of the characters and some of the music to highlight that. It’s a solid mix that puts the dialogue across the forward soundstage where it needs to be and everything moves smoothly without any problems during regular playback. But it is a standard almost slice of life kind of track so it doesn’t really have anything to stretch with.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 480p widescreen. This is a standard definition set of materials encoded using the Blu-ray format so it’s got a higher bit rate where needed and a cleaner and more efficient encoding overall, as well as being on a single disc for the eleven episodes. Animated by Gallop, the show is one that has a pretty rough look to it and felt like it belonged in the ‘90s if not just a touch earlier. It goes with some slightly washed out looking color palette choices but the encoding captures it well with a solid look that has little in the way of noise during idle or active sequences. It’s not the kind of show that will stand out well but with a good variable bit rate using modern tools, the end result is a clean looking show that doesn’t create any problems and smooths out whatever might be there in the source. Fans of the show will be thrilled with how good it looks even if it’s not high def.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc inside. The front cover goes with the familiar visual of the main cast of characters all together and it has a strong illustration design that will let it stand out well against some other titles, especially since these aren’t standard looking characters in the here and now. The red striped background adds a little more weight to the cover and with it using the series name there as well gives it a little more to work with. It’s not the most engaging of covers but it stands out well. The back cover sticks to the red design and has a fun visual of Hiroko to the left running along while the right has a brief summary of the premise and four larger than usual shots from the show that highlights her life. The production credits round out the bottom as does the technical grid which covers the standard definition aspect of this release nicely. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this single-disc release is pretty straightforward stuff that’s nicely done as we get the static image of Hiroko dominating it. It again has that illustration feel as it takes up the left side of the screen with her looking busy as hell while a blue-filtered city street scene plays out behind her. The right has the standard strip of navigation where it breaks the eleven episodes out into two tabs to move through as it covers the episodes by number and title. There’s not much else here so everything is quick and easy to navigate at the top level. Due to this being an SDBD, there are no pop-up menus to be had here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Moyoco Anno, Hataraki-man is an eleven-episode anime series that aired during the Noitamina block in the fall of 2006. The series saw Gallop animating it with Katsumi Ono directing it. It had a follow-up live-action TV series a year later that interpreted the manga in its own way as well. The manga kicked off back in 2004 and is technically on hiatus but it essentially wrapped up in 2007 with four volumes. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Moyoco Anno’s works going back to Happy Mania but a lot of what she does sticks to smaller short run projects for the most part with lots of one or two volume gigs. She has some fun ideas to work with but fleshing them out in full in an ongoing way just isn’t what she’s interested in for the most part.
This series definitely has some interesting ideas to it and it sets the stage well across the run, ending in a way that got me to a point where I wanted more of it, which is frustrating. The focus is on Hiroko Matsukata, a woman in her late 20’s that works at Jijdai magazine. She’s a solid writer there with lots of connections, talent, and overall ability to get the job done. She’s also got a lot of drive with it as this is what really gives her life. The series name translates as “working man” and she’s working in that way in general but goes above and beyond like she’s leveling up when the need arises. It’s a kind of thing that flows better in Japanese, I suspect, but the main thrust is that she has to work pretty damn hard to get the same level as respect as some of the slacker type men that work at the magazine.
Hiroko’s stories are largely standalone as she has to deal with different things and consequences of such. This is made clear in the first episode regarding political corruption that she’s put together and how it’ll unfold, making it clear things aren’t always what they seem and pressure can hit in very unexpected ways. We get stories that deal with her handling a stakeout or just trying to get through a normal day of all kinds of work shenanigans, especially with coworkers that aren’t exactly all that motivated and can get away with it because they’re men. She continually takes on more and more work and excels at it but pays the price quietly. But it comes with Moyoco Anno’s belief that the hard work ethic of Japan is eroding hard and that men and women like must give more of themselves to all of this, to the company and to the job. When a coworker who is involved with a well-known writer discovers along with the rest of the office that his plane has crashed, she’s just as focused on work as everyone else.
It’s in the last couple of episodes that this mentality is really made clear. Hiroko knows she’d be in a much worse place than her coworker and kind of admires her for her ability to hold it together like she is. Hiroko’s getting sick makes her work complicated for a while and the way she throws herself into her work to make up for that just furthers the rift with her ostensible boyfriend, Shinji. He’s in a different field, having moved to sales recently, and that has him traveling a lot and the two talk less and less. We see how it frustrates them both, her internal dialogue and his drunken ramblings when things come to a head, and it reinforces all the pressures that they both face in this kind of environment. Yet Moyoco Anno pushes Hiroko to just ending things somewhat with Shinji, having her more distraught, and turning to her work for focus and salvation in a way. It’s a place where you get the sense that Hiroko’s life is about to undergo a change and you want more but it’s also where the series draws to a close.
Hataraki-Man feels like a show that’s dealing with a specific kind of cultural issue through a lens that I’m not sure I’ve got the right view of, or am interpreting right based on what’s here. There are a lot of fun things going on within the show as Hiroko overreacts to people and situations, helps some other female coworkers, and at times seems like she has it together. But the way the work situation is presented and the focus on giving everything in your life toward the work there’s something that doesn’t sit well for me. Hiroko is more a warning than something to aspire toward, made far more blunt and blatant during the last few episodes. I hadn’t heard of this series prior to its license but it’s definitely an interesting one to work through and I’m glad that it at least managed an SDBD release for fans of Moyoco Anno and her works in general. Maiden Japan put it together solidly here and there are no complaints to be had.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: January 22nd, 2019
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.