Servant × Service
Seinen – 4-koma, comedy, romance, slice-of-life
4 Volumes / 2 Omnibuses (complete)
The health and welfare department has three unusual new hires. One is a flirty layabout, one doesn’t like to reveal her name, and the other is a senior citizen magnet. Throw in a cosplaying temp, an insecure supervisor, and a mysterious section chief, and you have to wonder: are these employees working hard or hardly working?
Servant × Service is a comedy that is really lacking in comedy.
“Pointless” was a word I considered using, but I don’t think that accurately describes my grievances with Servant × Service. So why didn’t I care for this manga?
- Too safe.
- When it goes bizarre, doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story.
- Doesn’t use the setting effectively.
- Too much focus on romance.
Let’s start with #1. Most good realistic comedies focus on taking the everyday and stretch them into borderline absurdity. My Neighbor Seki has the kid in class who never gets caught goofing off and has him doing elaborate activities. Lucky Star has an anime otaku who loves pointing out tropes in real life. Azumanga Daioh pairs up a child genius, a random idiot, a self-centered teacher, and other characters at school. Even something like Skip Beat! gets a lot of laughs thanks to hilarious images like little devils representing the main character’s dark side. Servant × Service has… um, slightly oddball characters?
So who are these eccentric people? Lucy hates her name and has no romantic experience, Yutaka is a flirt, slacker, and a genius (in that order), Saya has a hard time being assertive without being cruel, Megumi wants to have time off for her hobbies, and Taishi has a hard time balancing his personal and professional relationships. Meanwhile, their boss hates showing his face, Taishi’s little sister is the tsundere imouto to end all tsundere imouto, the chief’s daughter thinks nothing of her eccentric father, and an elderly woman and her grandson can’t take a hint.
That’s everyone. If none of these characters sound like a barrel of laughs, that’s because they aren’t. They are all eccentric, but their characteristics generally aren’t exaggerated enough to make readers laugh. Saya, for instance, can be protective of Lucy, but her dark side doesn’t strike fear into the heart of the people she insults. Touko is a one-trick
pony character since she is such a brocon. Lucy’s true love seems to be books, but we don’t really see her reading during her breaks or babbling about the latest novel she’s read. I don’t think it’s ever revealed what she actually reads, and she’s the main character!
Which leads me into #2. Take the protagonist Lucy. Although she seems like she would be the team tsukkomi, she is often called an idiot. That’s because she has zero romantic experience which leads to zero common sense. When her coworker Yutaka helps her out, she agrees to tell him her bra size.
Yes, this is the same woman who was throwing books at Yutaka for using her name.
The strangest person in the story is probably Yutaka’s old “friend” — and the grandson a customer is trying to set up Saya with — is Jouji. He wants to apologize to Yutaka because… something about regrets and wants to defeat his rival in anything. But he also tends to babble and can be pretty insulting, but he doesn’t mind when Saya is blunt to him either. His stupidity just sticks out because he’s weird on multiple levels, unlike the rest of the cast. Then this turns what could have been a funny one-sided rivalry a la Guy/Kakashi from Naruto or the always-second Niida from Beauty Pop into a dumb subplot involving a very annoying character.
As for #3, only in the first volume do we get some workplace humor, like Lucy wondering what her window is for since they just seem to send visitors to every other department. The fact that they are all civil servants is pretty irrelevant, so we don’t get much of the “servant” part of the title. A bank, a toy store, even a school could have been the setting. I mean, I wasn’t expecting some dumb customer stories like, I don’t know, asking for care stipends meant for children on pets, but some more jokes about them being bossed around by both the government and the general public would have been nice.
Instead, much of the story is actually a romcom instead of a workplace comedy. Lucy doesn’t fully (sometimes doesn’t even partially) understand Yutaka’s interest in her, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. One of the running jokes is that he keeps forgetting to ask Lucy for her phone number. Meanwhile, Megumi and Taishi struggle to tell Touko about their relationship. The manga turns Servant × Service into Coworker × Coworker. While I wouldn’t have mind some light romance, Yutaka’s transformation from flirt to man in love and Lucy’s developing feelings take up way too much time.
On the bright side, the characters themselves are the kind of people you can’t help but relate to and/or root for. Lucy is the type of person who would rather buy books than food. (I can’t relate to her. Nope. Not at all. Now please excuse me as I eat some cookies that had a “best by” date of over a year ago as I open my latest manga purchase.) Yutaka also realizes his carefree nature may have come back to bite him as Lucy works hard and doesn’t take his confession seriously. Megumi is a big anime fan who keeps trying to form her perfect cosplay group. She’s also not a jealous girlfriend; she cares about both the Ichimiya siblings, and that’s what makes it hard for her to confess she’s being secretly seeing Taishi for a year. Kanon, a minor character, proves to be a good friend to Touko as the latter struggles to decide between working and going to college. Yes, the characters themselves probably save this manga from being totally boring.
The art didn’t leave a good first impression. Later I realized it’s because Takatsu’s art just doesn’t translate well from color to black and white. The panels all look way too dark. The first chapter (as often happens) doesn’t have the character designs nailed down yet, so the monochrome images make the characters look flat. In the second omnibus, Yutaka’s face almost fades into the solid black background. Fortunately, this isn’t a major concern, but the manga doesn’t start off strong after the color inserts.
Beyond that, as in most 4-koma, the art is on the simple side. Heck, Megumi’s face is pretty much stuck in permanent unimpressed or dazed mode. Most of the visual gags either come from the boss’ “workplace attire” or Lucy’s hair antenna functioning much like a dog’s tail. Lucy’s chest is also the butt of many jokes, but her chest size is easy to forget about when many panels only feature the characters from the shoulders up. I do like Lucy’s sharp upturned corner of her eyes; the thickness reminds me a bit of CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth era. I guess the author had to give her some flair considering one of the running jokes is that all of Lucy’s outfits look the same. All in all, the art really isn’t a huge problem in Servant × Service compared to the story.
Honorifics are used. Lots of translator’s notes are included in the first omnibus to explain things like the childbirth allowance. There wasn’t anything I was confused about in the second omnibus, but I did find it strange that there wasn’t one note included in a 300 page book. (I don’t know how the notes are divided up in the digital versions.)
Since the majority of dialogue is of the workers talking to each other, there’s not much switching between formal and informal Japanese. As is often done, Kanon’s “Papa” is changed to “Daddy”. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure Touko always calls her brother “Aniki”, but the term is never used in English.
Whether you want a 4-koma or not, you can find better manga to make you smile and laugh. Servant × Service doesn’t really have a niche. On the main parts (playboy falling in love, naïve female lead, workers who you wonder got the job, etc.), there are other manga that just plain do it better.
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