Senpai ga Uzai Kouhai no Hanashi
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Reads 165
Total reads

Captures the lifestyle dysfunction suffered by so many working adult millennials (so, the opposite of escapism)

Review of Hataraki Man
by Rivka
Posted on July 27th, 2019
Positive 7
Overall Rating

In brief: Hiroko is a working woman in a modern Japanese office - she's a journalist & editor for a major magazine, whose desire to always put forth her best efforts makes her life outside of work slowly deteriorate. On the one hand, she can't see any alternative that she likes: being like one of the slothful men at the office (which is very much an Old Boys Club, and so they don't NEED to put in effort to remain hired) is both repugnant and likely to get her fired, but continuing as she has been guarantees that she'll be spending the rest of her twenties and thirties prioritizing work over family, friends and lovers. Not to mention, she risks joining Japan's frightful statistics pool of those dead from overwork. Can she make a choice she can live with?

***Spoilers in the following review for the entirety of the show.***

Oooohhhh, this was not even slightly relaxing to watch. It feels very realistic, but definitely falls on the side of "this is a crapsack world, and nobody gets out alive". Hiroko has to put up with a ton of nonsense, from society as a whole and from the men (and women - the show edges up on Women Be Competing for much of an episode before relenting and allowing them to be allies in the perpetual war of the sexes that the show demonstrates is the status quo), in every episode. She does more work, for less recognition, than the men in the office. Since she's not able to conform to feminine stereotypes, the men in the office don't do her favors like they do for the "cute" one, or bend over backward to please her like they do for the "ladylike" one. The show title is itself sexist; the highest compliment any man at the office can think to give her is to call her a hardworking MAN... because clearly, if she were more traditionally feminine, she would not be a hard worker.

She doesn't get any relief outside of work. Her boyfriend, also being too invested in his job, but crucially not sharing her mindset of putting in the best effort possible (he's much more like the younger men in her office, who coast around knowing they won't be fired - although he gets a little character development when he realizes that he's that kind of guy), fails to empathize with her, and can't even take her seriously when she calls him frightened after barely escaping a mugging. Yes, this is a belated warning that female reporters have to worry about retaliation in the form of assault when they publish stories. Anyway, by the end of the show, they realize that they don't spend any time together anymore, and he breaks it off first. I can think of two guys she knows from work (one at the office and one from a book publishing company) who would be much better boyfriend options for her, based on their chemistry and understanding of each other's drive, but the show ends with her doubling down on work instead.

Lest you think she's just the one the narrative dumps on, oh no, no one is allowed happiness for very long unless it's kept entirely off screen. For example, the masseuse that Hiroko goes to on the regular for relief from shoulder pain gets her own highlight episode, in which she decides to break free from the timekeeping and service restrictions of her current employer, only to find out that the new job misled her in the interview and she's going to be doing rapid-fire mini massages instead of using her true relaxation methods. In another example, the fourth woman at the magazine office, the "kouhai" to Hiroko, busts her ass trying to get her favorite author a spot in the magazine, only to have the liaison duties & credit taken away from her and given to another editor. Also, Hiroko's soon-to-be-ex boyfriend finally gets used to his job as the construction foreman and takes pride in his new rapport with the workers he's responsible for, only to be moved laterally into the sales department, which he couldn't care less about.

I spent much of the time watching this thinking, "well, this is why the population of Japan, and other ultra-capitalist countries, is decreasing". Across the world, the younger generations have to choose between working - and therefore money, food, shelter - and starting a family, and they just can't afford the latter without the former, and don't have the time & energy to go out dating. I know that the Boomers might find this anime to be an exaggeration of the difficulties of being an employed adult, but I promise, it's just a cynical take on the facts. All that said, it's well done, so if you like shows that adhere closely to the real world (and don't skimp on its problems) I recommend giving this anime a try.

My reviewing system for films and shows that are NOT anime:
1-5: I hated it. I also don't think it has redeeming qualities, so you shouldn't watch it either.
6: I didn't like it. It's not my thing, I didn't like the execution, I don't want to see it again. However, I don't think it is a BAD film or show - it has qualities that will recommend it to those who like that kind of thing.
7: It was fine. I didn't love it, and I don't need to see it again. I won't be sad if I never see it again.
8: I liked it. I didn't love it, and while I'd like to see it again, I wouldn't want to see it often.
9: I loved it. I would be sad if I never saw it again. I might want to see it every few years.
10: I loved it beyond description. I wouldn't mind re-watching it every year.


Clarifying my Anime rating system:
My number key below is an attempt to parse the small differences between 5 and 6, 7 and 8, & 9 and 10. When I rate, I consider my own enjoyment, the characterization and the plot, the appearance of the animation, and occasionally the soundtrack - in roughly that order. An anime will lose at least 1 point for presence of deal-breaker tropes (for example, comedic pedophilia), and more if the trope(s) ruined my enjoyment. On the other hand, it will gain at least 1 point for artistry in animation or sound.

Never Recommend:
1-4, inclusive. Further clarification: I don't expect to rate anything 1-4, as I would probably never finish watching something in this range of rating. It's likely to have bad plotting, subpar animation, bland characterizations, silly and/or irritating tropes, etc.; I would consider it to be pure excrement.

Cautious Recommending:
5: In this case, it started out with a higher score and slipped over time... because I normally don't watch anything that I would score below 6, except for movies (small time commitment).
6: I may or may not have watched the whole show, but I recognize deal-breaker issues in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch. It just wasn't enjoyable enough for me to forgive its flaws. There would be huge caveats to any recommendation.

Likely to Recommend:
7: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to think I would rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I might suggest it to someone if I know they like the specific sub-genre or other work by the studio.
8: I had a good time watching it, but it didn't move me the way a 9 or a 10 does; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it if I liked it more on reflection. I would be willing to rewatch it. I'd recommend it with the occasional caveat.

Highly Recommend:
9: I enjoyed it very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and likely to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences.
10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and definitely want to buy DVDs. I would shill this to anyone.

EDIT: for 2021, I'm participating in the MAL Anime Challenge. Any anime in the Completed section with a * in the note was watched for the challenge.

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