Working!!’s Weaker Izaya

I’m watching the first season of Working!! in preparation for the upcoming sequel, and as I look at the character Souma Hiroomi, I can’t help but think of Durarara!!’s Orihara Izaya. As a matter of fact, I’m wondering if Kamiya Hiroshi’s performance as that manipulative bastard landed him the role in Working (which started during Durarara’s second cour).

The primary similarity between these characters is that both have extensive information on everyone in the story and use this knowledge to their advantage, often by way of exploiting others’ misfortune. That’s a pretty definitive connection, considering that Souma is from a comedy wherein each character has just one or two defining traits. Not to mention they’re both voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi (and both of their shows have two exclamation points, but that’s far less relevant here!!) (Aside: If they make a second season of Durarara, I’ll kill someone if they call it Durarara’!!)

When I say that Souma is weaker than Izaya, I don’t mean in terms of characterization, though that’s definitely true—the natures of their shows ensure it. However, what I mean to say is that in the context of the series that feature them, Souma is a less-powerful character, whereas Izaya is abnormally powerful.

Most “anime-like” shows, especially comedies or shows with comedic elements, have a power structure that instructs the workings of humor and drama. I’m not referring to the tsukkomi–boke system that’s present in most anime comedies, but of a more strictly narrative system wherein a character is 99% of the time able to victimize certain others. Think of it as an unbalanced rock-paper-scissors system—sample: Takanashi is able to victimize Poplar, Poplar is able to victimize Inami, and Inami and Takanashi are both able to victimize one-another. In most shows that feature such a power structure, there’s at least one character who is nigh-indestructible, being able to victimize everyone and almost never become a victim themselves. There’s often only one character in the show that can knock them down a peg.

Here is a victimization chart for Working!! based on my observation of eight episodes:

Adding to this, the characters can be categorized as natural victims, natural victimizers, and/or neutral victimizers. Takanashi is a natural victim because being the main character allows anyone and everyone to victimize him. However, in a rare twist, he’s also the most powerful victimizer, being the strongest tsukkomi character in the show. Takanashi is the one who comes closest to victimizing Kyouko by pointing out her faults, but Kyouko easily bounces back and victimizes him twofold.

Poplar is a natural victim. The only person she ever victimizes is Inami by way of breast size, which is an infrequent and not very damaging attack.

Inami is a natural victimizer by way of her intense physical violence towards all men. The only person who holds this against her is Takanashi, hence his ability to victimize her.

Yachiyo, Souta, and Yamada are all neutral victimizers. A neutral victimizer is a step down from being nigh-untouchable—it means that the character is rarely a victim or victimizer, but is capable of intensely becoming one because of another character. Otoo-san (too minor of a character to really be categorized) is capable of turning Yachiyo into both a strong victim and victimizer. Yachiyo has the same effect on Souta, except Souta takes out his vengeance on Poplar. Yamada doesn’t tend to get strongly involved in the victimization process, but she can fall into pretty much any slot.

This leaves us with Souma, who is by all means a natural victimizer. He has information on all of the cast members, which he uses to manipulate them, making anyone a victim to some extent. The only one who’s almost completely safe from him is Inami, who tends to punch him out before he can say anything to her. Still, there’s at least one instance wherein Souma finds a chance to victimize her.

But here’s the thing: while Souma has incredible powers of victimization, the series makes him pay for it by frequently becoming a victim. This is primarily the job of Inami and Satou, though Yamada seems to be capable of it as well. This makes Souma significantly less powerful, especially because he never manages to victimize anyone with the same intensity that they do one-another. Satou, Yachiyo, and Kyouko are more powerful than him, and Inami has power over him.

Compare this against Orihara Izaya, who’s very damn near untouchable. This is a significant accomplishment in Durarara, whose cast contains no shortage of badasses. Izaya’s power is best displayed through Heiwajima Shizuo, who is the most physically powerful character in the series (capable of throwing cars and tearing lamp posts out of the ground to use as clubs). Shizuo is unimaginably badass and usually considered “the strongest man in Ikebukuro,” but no matter how much he tries, he can’t manage to kill Izaya. He can’t even lay a finger on the slippery bastard.

Come to think of it, Satou kind of looks like Shizuo... and they're both voiced by Ono Daisuke...

This is precisely what makes Izaya such a menacing, frustrating, and love/hatable big bad—no matter how amazing the forces opposite him, they just can’t win. The only moment of comeuppance that Izaya receives is getting clocked by crouching-minor-character hidden-badass Simon, who decks him out precisely to show him that someone could do it.

With her nigh-untouchable nature, Kyouko is about as difficult to victimize as Izaya. However, unlike him, she rarely victimizes anyone, whereas he victimizes everyone. Souma kind of wishes that he had Izaya’s status, but isn’t badass enough to pull it off—which isn’t a bad thing, especially with his being a comedy character. There are other characters like Izaya in other comedy shows, as well as many others like Kyouko, but I think it’s a bit rare to find one as trapped in the middle as Souma.

On that note, I recommend that all Izaya haters watch Working and pretend that Souma is him.

9 thoughts on “Working!!’s Weaker Izaya

  1. On the subject of casting I believe both Daisuke Ono and Kamiya Hiroshi were cast as they were because of Izaya and Shizuo. If you look at the types of roles that these two were getting prior to Durarara neither career really lends themselves to the roles they play in DRR and Working. Daisuke Ono has been known to play a badass type of character before but generally not due to sheer physicality. Likewise Shizuo and Satou both come off as slightly more vulnerable (or in your parlance more easily victimized) than characters such as Sebastian from Kuroshitsuji or Itsuki Koizumi. Kamiya Hiroshi meanwhile prior to Izaya is a harder case because his versatility was already being recognized with the near-constant manic victimization of Zetsubou-sensei vs. the quiet lack of any variety of victimization comic or otherwise present in Natsume Yuujin-cho. To me both are playing characters reminiscent of their DRR characters however whether this is a turn in the way casting directors began reviewing their respective voices or a deliberate reference to the series is the hard part. As far as I know there has not been any direct call out to DRR in any way by the creators of the show.

    With that in mind however I know that anime loves it’s seiyuu in jokes, more than I probably get. Think every time a Horie Yui or Kikuko Inoue voiced character pops up talking about their age (17) or some casting decisions that arguably have to be some kind of casting joke i.e. casting Satou Rina (Misaka) and Satomi Arai (Kuroko) as members of some kind of cast binary. I have a hefty feeling that is what happened here.

    How Working!! managed to attract 3 of the top male seiyuu currently working is anyone’s guess.

    Also I really like examining the victimization dynamic within a show. Baka-Raptor would approve I think.

    • Oh definitely seiyuu jokes are big and great. I swear, there’s no way to truly appreciate a Tamura Yukari role without having seen several of her other roles. I mean OreImo asdklajhflkah.

      I want to believe you’re totally right about the casting decision. I don’t know how early casting happens, but I have gotten the impression before some shows do it pretty close to the show’s airing so it wouldn’t be too surprising… I mean the similarities are seriously fucking glaring.

      Thanks, the victimization thing has sort of been a post waiting to happen (though before I was just looking at the untouchable characters, which I still might do for the sake of showing more of them). I think untouchable characters are usually either one of the best or worst in a show.

      • It was an interesting tool for action and comedy but to me fell flat for use with drama or slice of life without major comedy elements. Clannad, yes. Clannad After Story? Not so much. It’s just hard to think about character dynamics as victimization in those types of show.

  2. wow, that was rather enlightening. i never thought about it that way. now, i can finaly put a finger on why i find most comedies annoying. not on a grand scale, i just noticed 1 or 2 victimizing chars, but didn’t know they had a SYSTEM. but i’d disagree with taka a little. it would be an interesting tool for me, if it was not used so frequently.

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