I rather enjoyed the first episode of Working!!, but I could see how others might not have cared for it, and having read the 16 currently translated chapters, I can tell exactly why. As a manga, there are some major differences from the anime, but I will clarify upfront that both versions have definite advantages, and I recommend both, especially if the show reconciles some of the differences as it continues (only ep so far, after all.) That said, I think that if the anime seems alright to you but just doesn’t quite cut it, you may enjoy the manga much more.
The first blatant difference between the manga and anime is the art style, which has been revamped to enhance the simplistic style of the 4-koma into something more suitable for highly energetic animation. And the change works – Taneshima is way more adorable in the anime, though the other characters haven’t left enough impression to say either way. That is, except for the manager, Shirafuji Kyoko. I’ve written already about how her disappointing character design and voice belie her potentially fun personality, and looking at the manga has me scratching my head. Kyoko looks worlds better in the manga, especially because her outfit isn’t inexplicably and hideously blue, and she doesn’t look like she’s put on weight.
There are merits to both styles that are only evident in practice. As mentioned, the anime is very energetic, so the designs work to further that end. Meanwhile, the manga designs work well with the 4-koma layout to help produce jokes. One of the most frequent series jokes is about Taneshima’s height, and it is made ubiquitous by the fact that often only the very top of her head and her eyes are visible in the panel. Whenever she talks, she is drawn from a perspective that you are looking down at her, and in these ways the art improves on the comedy for greater lulz.
The next noticeable difference is that the anime changes around the order of events and the overall pace to create a more cohesive episode, and I think this is actually where the show fails. For instance, the opening scene, which is not included in the manga, just takes a look around at the characters to briefly introduce them. In the manga, we learn about characters one by one in separate chapters, and actually one of the guys in those opening moments hasn’t even shown up yet in the first 16 chapters, which explains his lack of dialog, but makes me wonder how he was there so early. Then in the last moments of the show, there is an attempt at dramatic pacing when we know the guy and the girl who’s afraid of guys are about to meet.
This scene falls very flat, and both scenes are detrimental to the pace because they seem to make it erratic. Splicing slower-paced scenes into a show that mostly moves quite fast feels awkward, and makes it confusing as to whether we should think of the episode as a whole story, or a bunch of small ones (which it actually is.) The manga, meanwhile, always moves at a quick pace. Scenes like the somewhat lengthy explanation of how Taneshima was hired and the aforementioned ending scene are actually just a single four-frame strip apiece. This fast pace works better for the humor, and keeps the manga entertaining – I read all 16 chapters at once without really intending to do so, as I quickly got into it.
I, for one, would dismiss neither, because while I think the manga does the comedy better, I also love Taneshima’s design in the anime, the animation style, and the voice performances for Taneshima and Takahashi. There is also, once again, a chance that the anime will improve to the level of the manga in coming episodes. However, if you see the series’ potential and want to know whether or not it’s really worth your time, try out the manga instead. There are apparently 6 volumes out in Japan, but the group translating it has burned through 16 chapters in under a month, so I expect it won’t take too long for it all to be available.