Fun At Work
- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy, Seinen
- Airing Date : Oct 8, 2017 to Dec 24, 2017
- Studios : A-1 Pictures
Blend S Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
A-1 Pictures is no stranger to slice-of-life comedies, and Blend S is their latest addition to the genre. While this type of anime does possess a few common traits, mostly a lack of any real tension, the tone and stories can vary considerably. Even in the same city, people live completely different lives; therefore, what some see as mundane, others find exciting. Slice-of-life is popular for a reason, but there is such an overabundance of anime out there, that it can be overwhelming to recommend. How does A-1 Pictures latest series compare with other slice-of-life anime? Is Blend S a worthwhile addition to the genre?
Maika Sakuranomiya loves the Western life and dreams of a day when she can travel the world. Coming from a traditional Japanese family, Maika is the youngest child and still in high-school. Despite her generally cheerful and helpful personality, Maika's existence is haunted by a strange trait that constantly causes trouble. Whenever this high-school girl smiles, her eyes take a devilish turn, making it seem like she has a sadistic personality. This rather lonely existence was turned on its head once Maika was offered a job at Dino's maid café. Café Stile is tailor-made for customers who want to be served by a certain type of waitress, like the “sadistic” Maika or the “tsundere” Kaho Hinata. Almost instantly, Dino falls in love with the oblivious Maika, as he tries time and time again to capture her interest. Through her interactions with Dino and the rest of the waitresses, Maika slowly learns how to love her sadistic appearance, as she opens up to the concept of romance and friendship. Dino and Maika are not the only potential couple in the series, although romance is not given any significant importance.
What We Liked About Blend S
A comedy depends solely on the lovability of the characters. Thankfully, Blend S' cast is spirited, funny, and relatable; there was never a point where we detested the thought of having to spend another twenty minutes with these people. While not necessarily creating anything new, A-1 Pictures crafted a solid slice-of-life series that blends – pun totally intended – work hijinks and romance to a satisfactory extent.
The art-style might not be anything noteworthy, but the studio still managed to create a visually pleasing series. Obviously, the design of the characters received the majority of the focus, ensuring that audiences are never left wanting for their waifus. In terms of animation, Blend S is more than acceptable for the slice-of-life genre.
Similar to the “Working!!” franchise, A-1 Pictures' latest series holds a passing resemblance to real life, but cannot be described as grounded. The characters almost behave like real people, as they deal with mundane problems like trying to balance work and their studies, although they are not above delivering an over-the-top performance. Blend S is entertaining and an easy recommendation for comedy fans.
Blend S is based on Miyuki Nakayama's four-panel strip manga, resulting in an anime that feels like a series of sketches. To their credit, A-1 Pictures adequately adapted the shorter stories into normal length episodes; but the content is bogged down by repetition. Due to the source material, Blend S moves at a relatively brisk pace, as punchlines are delivered by the second.
Slice-of-life fans should not hesitate to try the series out, but it is unlikely to impress anyone who does not already love this type of show. For the most part, Blend S does a decent job of recreating a few of the tropes associated with the genre but is far from groundbreaking or even original. This season does not lack for hilarious anime, and A-1 Pictures' “Working!!” in a maid café lacks punch.
Sure, we would love for every anime to be revolutionary and awe-inspiring, but that is never going to be the case. Once-in-awhile, a series comes along that aims low and passes with flying colors. With the fall season coming to a close, Blend S is likely to be forgotten quickly, which would be unfortunate. With the exception of one character, Café Stile's entire staff is pleasant, but they lack any real defining characteristics or moments that allow them to stand out. The anime never sways from the norm, but it does that rather well.
It is always amusing to see teenagers try to pull off dual personalities, and that is pretty much Blend S' entire premise. Maika might be the protagonist, but she is not the only person who has to go against her natural instinct while serving customers. As maid cafés are hardly common outside of Japan, the setting feels fresh and worth exploring. We cannot comment on whether Blend S is an accurate representation, but we hope so.
1. Mafuyu Hoshikawa
Looking for a new waifu? Then, we recommend checking out Blend S. Picking the best girl is a rather daunting task, as they all have their positives, but Mafuyu is easily the funniest. A college student who looks like a preschooler, at first, her design can be off-putting. Portraying the role of a sweet little sister at the café, the real Mafuyu is strong and mature, as she constantly gives the manager grief for any inappropriate behavior. Mafuyu is a rather dominating woman, so it is hilarious to see her pretend to be kind and innocent while working at the café. While Dino and Maika share the most screentime, the manager’s interactions with Mafuyu tend to result in the funniest moments. These two are always stuck in a struggle for dominance, usually portrayed in an over-the-top shounenesque fantasy sequence, with Mafuyu proving to be the better.
In some ways, Dino represents us. He is a westerner who loves anime and Japanese culture, but he is yet to be fully integrated into that particular world. Café Stile is the type of establishment that someone who is obsessed with anime would create to try and bring to life their favorite waifus. As an outsider, Dino might have served better as the main protagonist, but the anime comes to life whenever he shows up. Despite being capable enough to establish a business, Dino is easily the least responsible member of the staff, as he shows up late and leaves at the drop of a hat. While the entire cast is allowed to shine, Dino and Maika are the lead characters, so it is important that they are funny. Thankfully, Dino’s attempts to impress the latter never get old.
3. Maika’s Accidental Sadism
Yes, this entry is dedicated to Maika's sadistic facial expressions. Now, this might seem like we are scraping the bottom of the barrel, but her character is defined by these moments. Maika ends up working at Stile because of this strange infliction, and pretty much all of her comedic moments arise from a misunderstanding caused by her sadistic expression. Surprisingly, this gag never gets old. While the animation is decent throughout, A-1 Pictures' best work can be found during this moments. The screen suddenly goes dark, as Maika turns from a sweet girl into someone who would fit perfectly on Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. While this running gag is present in every episode, Maika shows a fair amount of growth throughout the series. Due to her interactions with Stile's staff, the teenager slowly learns to not be embarrassed by her own appearance.
If slice-of-life is not your thing, then Blend S might not be worth a watch. The anime shares a few too many similarities with Working!!, and the quality is a step or two below that series. As previously mentioned, this one is best for fans of the genre who are seeking to kill a handful of hours. While not a terrible starting point for newcomers, people who generally detest slice-of-life anime are unlikely to be swayed.
Blend S does not push the envelope enough, resulting in a decent but forgettable experience. While the romance is never taken seriously, the majority of the humor arises from Dino's infatuation with Maika. It is slightly overplayed and gets tiresome after a while, as the punchline is always the same. With the exception of her sadistic eyes, Maika is a rather boring lead.
Okay, this might not annoy everyone, but it bothered us. The 26-year-old Dino spends the entire series trying to impress Maika, who is only 16 years-old. Ignoring that it is inappropriate for an employer to constantly hit on his employee, their age difference is rather uncomfortable. Maika is depicted as a rather innocent and pure teenage girl, while Dino is far from inexperienced. Blend S cannot seem to decide whether this behavior should be condemned, as the rest of the cast occasionally pretends to report their manager to the police.
2. Hideri Kanzaki
Hideri is the sole exception. Introduced towards the end of the season, this 16-year-old boy dresses as a girl and fulfills the idol role at the café. From the entire cast, Hideri is the only person that can be described as frustrating, as his obnoxious personality quickly started to grate on our nerves. While he is meant to be a relatively unpleasant character, Hideri does start to improve as a character towards the end of the series. Unfortunately, his late introduction means that he is not given enough time to properly develop. The cast was already quite large, so, Hideri felt unnecessary.
Blend S might not turn any heads, but A-1 Pictures can be proud of what they accomplished with this slice-of-life anime. There definitely are worse places to work. As the manga is relatively new, hopefully, there is a follow-up season on the horizon. For those searching for a fun way to spend an afternoon, we recommend spending a few hours at Café Stile.
Do you agree with our review? Is Blend S a worthwhile series? Please let us know in the comments below!