Because of a mistake on my part, this review is a re-posting of a now non-existent post. If you’re one of the few people who saw this thing prior to today, just treat that showing as a free sneak peek and this post as the real McCoy with some minor changes to it
I don’t treat every anime fairly, but I do have a few specific standards that must be met when judging them. No matter what genre, studio, director, or whatever is attached to an individual product, I must always feel like something important is happening. There are different ways you can make something feel important, but it generally needs to make me thing. It needs to make me laugh. It needs to feel like the team behind the anime gives a crap. And before people bring up how the team behind that Brynhildr anime was trying their heart out, I mean give a crap in a way that isn’t stupid.
So that brings me to my Secret Santa: Hataraki Man, which I elected for because the other options were Vision of Escaflowne and Kamichu, and the only way you’re going to get me to watch a Sunrise mecha or a slice-of-life show revolving around some little girl falling in love and experiencing the benefits of a religion I have no interest in is if you gave me the Bernie Lomax treatment of killing me and making my corpse do the most out-of-character things. To be fair, I did try Escaflowne because I thought its “classic” status and the era that it came from would at least make analyzing what’s wrong about the show fun, but nothing about what the show did right or wrong clicked with me and I stopped watching after the third episode.
Not that Hataraki Man was a better option, because it turned out to be one of those slice-of-life shows that is simply what it is: an anime about a working woman who ruins her social life through taking her career too seriously. Most office entertainment like Office Space, Parks and Recreation, or Mobile Police Patlabor would use that premise to leap into some humor, drama, or good insight into the working environment, but Hataraki Man chooses to go the route of insultingly having none of these, reminding me of Shirobako if at least got the basics right, but only got the basics right. Throughout most of the show, I’m watching this woman work in a magazine company and all I have to say is “why?” Why am I supposed to care that she’s ruining her life through work dedication, and why am I supposed to care about her dedication to work itself? And before people give me that “because I can relate to her” bullshit, let me remind you that this is fiction! I go to fiction in order to get something I can’t get in real life. I go to anime to get something I can’t get from other mediums. Like Pee Wee Hermann, I don’t want to watch something I’ve already lived through.
The first half or so of the anime does have structure: each episode, one of the employees interacts with our “hataraki man” protagonist, Hiroko, and we learn more about her, them, and how they perceive each other throughout a 22-minute runtime. Unfortunately, because the show never really attempts to be funny, never tries to make a big deal out of their interactions, and doesn’t even really tell me anything all that unique character-wise, each episode comes off as rejected filler from an early UPN sitcom. They do try to sprinkle drama here and there regarding Hiroko’s social life, but it’s the same stuff you see in every office story with no unique spin to it and it doesn’t really even build up to anything resembling an overarching story in the grand scheme of things. Even when the show gets more dramatic in the second half regarding Hiroko’s apartment getting flooded or her “even more workaholic” boyfriend, nothing about the show makes my brain function because it never really goes beyond the premise that was laid out to us, which in of itself ain’t that interesting. And just to give this anime one final kick to the balls, the animation is technically good, but it’s poor in terms of visual metaphors. I can’t recall one time the cinematography even came close to making me feel like I’m in an office environment.
Hataraki Man is one of those early noitamina shows that most people have forgotten in order to remember stuff like Honey and Clover or Paradise Kiss. I see people remembering it as some cult classic that deserves to be looked at more in relation to those works, but after watching this, I think the reason it was forgotten whilst the other two survived in viewers’ memory is because it wasn’t good and the other two were. Paradise Kiss in particular was funny, dramatic, used the visuals and writing to give me a good insight into the fashion industry, had an awesome ending, and did it with a high school girl to boot. Hataraki Man came, went, and despite having an adult women in her late 20s as the main, didn’t give me anything at all. In fact, I wrote this review not even 24 hours after I saw the show and I’ve already forgotten more than 80% of it.