Wagnaria!!3 (Season 3)

Excellent

This is the third and final installment of slice of work-life series, Wagnaria.  Wagnaria is one of those shows that got stronger as it went, both in the underlying material and in the anime’s treatment of the story.  This season brings a conclusion to all the swirling drama that was built in the previous two seasons.  They created an ending that was satisfying, funny, sweet, surprisingly genuine, and, in true Wagnaria style, over the top.

Purpose: Excellent.  In essence, the purpose was to wrap everything up, which they did in a suitably spectacular fashion.  What makes this series notable is how much it differs from the genre standard.  Normally, series of this type take a “two-steps backward” approach to maintain drama throughout the final season.  It ends up re-hashing much of what came before.  What Wagnaria did was evenly space out the payoffs to always keep their characters moving forward, more of a staggered approach.  This approach ended up giving equal weight to each of the characters and their individual circumstances.  Another notable thing about his particular anime is that they really do tie up all the loose ends.  That said, it wasn’t wrapped up so tightly that it ever feels like that’s the end of the interesting characters or goings-on.

Characters: Excellent.  The way the characters were presented, it’s clear that they were very aware and very careful of how and when they added new characters to the story.  What’s surprising is how tightly they fit into the story by filling more than one role.  Basically, the new characters aren’t superfluous.  Interestingly, the new characters round out the story instead of diluting or detracting from what’s going on.

While adding and developing new characters, they still managed to round out the existing cast and provide for solid character growth.  More background characters end up taking surprising spotlights and taking on a different flavor from what you’d normally expect.  It’s the character growth in spite of all the goings-on that solidifies this particular element as Excellent.

World: Excellent.  Why is the world Excellent when the setting is basically the restaurant?  It’s precisely because of how impactful the restaurant is on everyone’s lives.  The restaurant is what brings them together, but also is the glue that extends beyond.  In fact, much of this season is about expanding the world – breaking out of the setting and seeing how these relationships exist, even outside of the restaurant.  This is a perfect example of an extremely subtle anime world that is nonetheless very powerful.  Though the background doesn’t really change, it’s about the atmosphere that’s created.

Plot: Excellent.  Since this season was a wrap-up, the plot didn’t have too far to go.  However, what was really exceptional about the plot was how it maneuvered the setup of the individual points to solidly lead into the ultimate conclusions.  Once you look at the bigger picture, you realize that there were a great deal of intertwining plot points, often affecting several characters at once.  What’s quite impressive is that, in spite of its complexity, it ended up looking both smooth and simple.

One final note on the plot – even events that happen as a surprise have a solid, if hidden, buildup.

Storytelling: Masterpiece.  There are some really exceptional moments, coming with quite powerful buildups.  In fact, this season in particular has many extremely memorable moments.  This was accomplished through smooth transitions between serious and silly, making the two complement each other quite well.  They focused their energies on the presentation of the payoff moments, making them particularly special.  This made it so that the moment wasn’t only what was happening, but how things were happening.  Part of this was that they managed both the characters and the moments so well, keeping them true to what they had developed.  In other words, it you wouldn’t see a generic “sweet moment,” but a sweet moment that was the culmination of all that the characters had become.  These moments relied on the proper development and growth of the characters as well as the timing of the situations to create a powerful genuineness.

Pace: Very Good. The biggest problem was an odd pacing hiccup in the beginning.  Weirdly, they made a standing start, re-building momentum.  Both animation-wise, comedy timing-wise, and character-wise.  Fortunately, this ends up being worked out after about episode 3.  Once they pick up speed again, it keeps it powerful momentum throughout.

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