Wagnaria!! (known as Working!! in Japan) is a slice of life anime similar to Toradora!. Rather than focusing on mystic warriors, demons or other supernatural elements, Wagnaria!! is based around the quirky staff at a family-owned restaurant in Japan. It's more grounded than what usually springs to mind when you think anime, which is an enjoyable change of pace.
Although the series is based around the restaurant's staff, the primary protagonist is Sota, who begins working at the restaurant after a flustered waitress, Popura, begs him to take a job as a waiter there. Sota accepts, bringing him into contact with an unusual set of characters. In addition to Popura, there's Mahiru, who despite wanting to fall in love, has a bad habit of punching every man she sees. Then there's the manager, Kyoko, a former gang boss who still has a group of toadies working for her, and Yachiyo, who insists on carrying a katana wherever she goes.
Most plotlines revolve around Sota's interaction with the characters and their unique problems. Although plotlines tend to stick to the basics, they eventually weave a giant, and somewhat confusing, pattern of relationships. Although there's really no overarching plotline (other than Sota learning about the restaurant), there's a great sense of continuity between episodes. Even better, episodes are outright fun to watch. I'll admit I didn't get all of the humor, but I loved how common occurrences usually led to fun story ideas.
Wagnaria!! continues NIS America's trend of including full-color books with its premium releases. The book that comes with Wagnaria!!, called the "Special Sampler," features character profiles and a diagram of the show's complex relationship tree. There's also a gallery of common locations along with blueprints of the restaurant and a series of four-panel comics. Finally, the second disc features clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
I'm not a massive anime fan, but when it comes to interesting character-based stuff like this, I'm a complete nut. Although I'm still a massive Toradora! fan, I place Wagnaria!! right alongside it as one of my favorites. Similar to Toradora!, I think this is the sort of anime that needs to see more distribution in North America since it could probably hook non-fans just as easily as it can hook fans.