At first glance, Shinryaku! Ika Musume and Working!! have only superficial resemblances. The two are slice of life comedies, have casts of wacky characters off the kookiness charts, and superfluous punctuation present in both titles. However, on closer inspection, there are a large number of other superficial resemblances. And rather than continue to list them with commas, I think a bulleted list would go over better with both of us. So both series…
- Mainly take place in restaurants
- Have annoyingly catchy opening tunes that repeat the same word for the first five seconds
- Are airing second seasons this Autumn
- Play host to a lesbian and a character with a crippling fear that prevents them from working with the protagonist.
Also, I have generally positive feelings about both, minor quibbles aside. Ika Musume was as wholesome as anime fun gets without being called Chi’s Sweet Home (It takes restraint to keep a tentacle rape joke from ruining that when it’s practically soliciting you for free), that occasionally managed to be clever enough to make me like it. Ika Musume was an enjoyable lead, her total obliviousness to surface customs coupled with delusions of her own grandeur making her the highlight of the whole damn thing.
However, at times it just didn’t do what it could’ve. This can most likely be attributed to being only 12 episodes long, but there were times when the humor was left wanting, and these were usually when the focus wasn’t on Ika Musume, or when it was showing her adjusting a little too well. She’s a cephalopod out of water, after all, and it’s weird if she catches on to surface customs that easily. Still, when she did indulge herself in conquest, it ended in predictable, laughable failure that made it hard to dislike her. Hell, it even made rooting for her seem to be a viable option.
Working!!, on the other hand, seemed to overstay its welcome an episode or two longer than it should’ve. I didn’t get much from the main focus shifting from Takanashi adjusting to his new job with eccentric coworkers, to him dealing with an androphobe who he eventually falls for. It was something that felt out of place in an otherwise silly show, even more so since it was treated as comedic rather than debilitating.
Still, Working had a much stronger cast than Ika Musume, all of them having some kind of memorable quirk. Coupled with the much better character archetypes, and the relationships are much better overall. Again though, it wore on after a little while.
The two are about equal on my scale, just above average but hesitantly placed there. So, rather than do something reasonable like flip a coin or watch both second seasons, I’m going to see which one follows my list of anime-related annoyances the least. For reference, here they are in descending order of most to least forgivable:
6. Unnecessarily Improbable Hair
Anime is known for having all sorts of silly hair. When it’s added as part of a joke, or if it doesn’t look too idiotic, it’s easy to accept it as part of a character and move on. But when it’s there while seemingly being a detriment, it tends to wear on my nerves. It’s a small thing, but it niggles nonetheless.
In spite of Ika Musume’s tentacle hair, she doesn’t earn this demerit. Her hair adds to the comedy, and allows ample ground for the obligatory tentacle rape scene that surprisingly does not happen.
The clear winner here is Working!!’s Jun Satou. While his hair isn’t odd, there’s no way any kitchen I know would hire him with it possibly drooping into the food like that. With me prepping for the food service industry for the past four or five years, it just really bugged me.
Demerit goes to Working!!
5. Unnecessary Verbal Tics That Add Nothing
Right off, you’d think that this award would go to Ika Musume for her constant affixation of –Geso to the end of everything. But she’s supposed to be a squid, and have all sorts of squid mannerisms that are difficult to drop. While a squid with the ability to even add –Geso to the end of everything is a rare sight, impossible even, it’s fitting with her character as a hopelessly ambitious dolt with unrealistic designs on world domination.
Meanwhile, on Working!!’s end, we have Poplar, the diminutive waitress who looks like she’s in grade school, despite her age. Despite blending into the scenery when she isn’t whipped into a frenzy about her height, or lack thereof, she has one other unique characteristic: Her inability to say Takanashi as anything other than Katanashi. How cute. And by cute, I mean utterly pointless and just a little irritating.
One demerit to Working!!
4. Unnecessary Offense Against Microsoft Word’s Spellcheck.
This one’s easy. I type out one sentence about each show, and see which pisses off my word processor the most. I absolutely hate writing reviews of these kinds of shows with superfluous punctuation for this exact reason.
“Working!! might just have the most annoying title to type out, second only to the iDOLM@STER.”
“Shinryaku! Ika Musume is only marginally better by comparison.”
Ten points to Gryf- I mean, Shinryaku! Ika Musume. Which converts to one demerit.
3. Unreasonably Freaked Out Female Cast Member
Toward the tail end of both series, there was a segment of an episode about something creepy, or rather something that attempted to be creepy.
In Working!!, Yamada, one of the resident mooches, found a book of scary stories and read them out loud to the crew right before they decided to head off. Two of the girls were too scared to return home alone, so Souta had to appropriately taunt them. It was one of the worst, most pointless episode segments in a show already about trivial work-related matters.
On the other hand, Ika Musume had a plot involving creepy dolls. No matter what, having creepy dolls thrown into the creepiness equation always validates freaking right the fuck out. In fact, it’s odd when somebody isn’t scared by them. But to balance out the reasonable fear, we have a waitress afraid of Ika Musume just because she’s different. So with a negative on Working’s end balanced with a wash for Ika Musume, we have…
One demerit to Working!!
2. Great Expectations Backfire Episode
You know what I mean by this. A character with uncouth, strange behavior that would ordinarily land them with a restraining order or a prison sentence is told that they must rectify their ways. But they’re not alone in this, because the character that tells them is usually willing to help through means of telling them that they mustn’t indulge in their behavior. The idea of this kind of episode is fine, it’s just that the execution is always the same, and thus loses quite a lot of its potential impact.
Working!! has Inami Mahiru, the male-phobic waitress of the restaurant. With three of the main cast members being an affront to her crippling fear, she eventually has to learn to not punch men whenever one gets near her. This is mostly learned through trial and error, mostly error involving her punching Souta, rather than something to take up an episode before forgetting.
While there are a few episodes dedicated to directly helping her get past her fears, the development remains consistent and somewhat believable, even if the extent of her phobia isn’t believable in the least. The sheer quantity of these scenes does get wearisome after awhile though, no matter how adequately they’re done.
Ika Musume has somebody with the opposite issue with the main character- she can’t keep her hands off poor Ika Musume. There’s one episode spent with her trying to be reformed that ultimately ends up being all for naught.
While Working!! had more of these kinds of scenes than it really should’ve, at least it tried to make the results consistent. Ika Musume gets the demerit for the banality of its episode.
- The Horribly Underutilized Character
In every show, there’s always one character that really strikes a chord with you. At least that’s the case if it’s any good, and not filled with unlikable sacks of flesh that have less grey matter in their combined skulls than a brain damaged protozoan. These characters can assist in making otherwise entirely vapid pieces of shit watchable just by their mere presence. For me, the two prime examples would be Sawako-sensei and Ritsu from K-ON!, the only two that balance out the aforementioned brain damaged protozoa.
For Shinryaku! Ika Musume, we have… well, none of the characters aside from Ika Musume really endear themselves. Sure they’re not all annoying, but none serve to act as anything but a prop for Ika Musume herself, who makes for a decent character that gets as much treatment as she deserves.
In Working!!, Kyouko the manager is a lazy, apathetic, vindictive, hateful shrew with a never ending craving for parfaits and making Souta a miserable lout who can never catch a break. And when a group of teenagers harasses her crew, she calls a gaggle of thugs to rough up and rob the hooligans. In short, she stole my heart right away.
So why is it that she seems to get less screen time than every other important character? Or maybe it just seemed that she had less screen time, since every scene without her suffered in quality. I’m just going to blame Poplar for ruining it.
Demerit goes to Working!! for not using the best character as much as they could’ve.
So the number of demerits adds up to 4 for Working!!, and 2 for Ika Musume. My recommendation then, if we’re going by results, is to choose Shinryaku! Ika Musume over Working!! for the Fall Season. However, if you’re tired of both, the option to not watch either is always open. And if you’re a fan of both and have the time in your busy life, checking out both is also a viable option. Again, both are decent comedy series, but neither really do much except provide something slightly more desirable than a lobotomy by means of potato peeler. Mostly through means of unbelievably infectious OP themes.