Servant x Service Volume 1
Servant x Service is a 4-koma manga, a collection of four-panel comic strips. Possibly the best-known of this type in the US is Azumanga Daioh, featuring a group of girls in a school setting. Many of the genre we see published here are based around a similar premise. Servant x Service differs in that it’s a workplace comedy.
The series by Karino Takatsu focuses on three new public service workers:
- Yamagami, whose parents gave her a ridiculous number of names because a civil servant wouldn’t tell them no, and she wants to find him and tell him how hard it’s made her life
- Yutaka Hasebe, a slacker who finds the job easy and hits on everyone
- Saya Miyoshi, a shy young woman who doesn’t know how to break away from the lengthy stories the older people tell her
There’s also their pushover boss, his rule-obsessed younger sister who won’t stop coming to work to visit him, a temp who’s into cosplay, and later, the chief of the department who appears as a remote-controlled stuffed rabbit.
The art is serviceable, mostly head shots fit in around the dialogue balloons, since most of the humor and situations are expressed in conversation. Recurring topics include why civil service workers have a bad reputation with the public, what to wear to work, and Hasebe asking out Yamagami. The series moves more into soap opera as it progresses, focusing on interactions among the cast.
When I stop to think about it, I’m surprised that this series made it over here. Humor can be tricky to understand and translate across cultures, particularly gags that depend on social aspects. Possibly one of the factors was the existence of an anime adaptation. Servant x Service was available digitally before being collected in print in two-volume omnibus editions, so the series will conclude with one more book, out in June.
I’m even more surprised that Yen put the series out in such a substantial chunk. These kind of gag strips can pale if you read too many of them at once, so it requires self-control to stop when you start losing interest. The character-based developments help with this issue once the series gets firmly into “who’s dating whom?” territory.
It’s weirdly entertaining to sink into this world for a while. Particularly if you’re interested in everyday Japanese culture. (The publisher provided a review copy.)