Maid Sama! Collection 2 (Episodes 15-26)(Cert 15)
3 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 322 minutes approx.
Despite being labelled Collection 2 this is in fact a continuation from the first volume of Maid Sama!, concerning titular maid Misaki Ayuzawa trying to be the best student council president at Seika High School, while dealing with the usual struggles that blight a teen girl’s life.
Well, I say “usual” but this is anime so perhaps “usual for an anime teen girl” would be more accurate. Anyway, Misakai’s busy life continues to be spent between home, school and her secret job at Maid Latte which too many people seem to know about to render the secrecy aspect redundant. First and foremost is Takumi Usui, who now works part time at the same café and continues to pursue Misaki in a romantic capacity.
However, and perhaps long overdue for a story of this nature, there is a rival for Misaki’s affections in the form of – who else – an old childhood friend, the needy and permanently hungry Hinata Shintani. Arriving as a transfer student (natch) Hinata has returned to the neighbourhood to reconnect with his first love Misaki, although chances of that happening are slim and none. But a boy in love, no matter how socially inept and gluttonous, is not easily discouraged.
In truth I feel a bit deceitful because the above storyline isn’t the major earth shaker it should be nor is a prominent one, popping up whenever the other fatuous story ideas have been dispensed with. Hinata doesn’t appear until episode 21 and while five episodes should be enough for him to create a wedge Misaki and Takumi, Hinata is such a goofy character that he is as much a threat as a toilet paper elephant.
Prior to Hinata’s arrival we are treated to a duo of non-fan service beach episodes, which turn out to be a busman’s holiday for the maids as they save an ailing beach café, while cross dressing idol Aoi tries to earn the right to dress as girl by winning a sports contest. Staying with this theme, Misaki is again forced to dress up as a man to win a different contest run by a company who wishes to purchase Maid Latte and turn it into a butler café.
Quite what creator Hiro Fujiwara’s fascination is with cross-dressing but there are already two male characters who indulge in this (one unwillingly) with Misaki forced into this situation on more than one occasion. Whatever laughs or fetish points are supposed to be scored from this are diluted by the frequency and silliness of the scenarios in which they appear.
As mentioned in the previous review, Misaki is portrayed a superwoman who overcomes any odds and enriches the lives of others in the process. In the opening episode in this set – which concludes a story that began at the end of the first one – Misaki has to contend with Soutarou Kano, a boy who is afraid of girls and tries to hypnotise Misaki so she won’t enrol any more girls into the school.
It is this kind of esoteric yet absurd plotting which makes Misaki such a hard character to truly support and sympathise with, since she prevails over any situation, sometimes with the help of her friends, and if she can’t the she just puts on the maid outfit and has people drooling at her feet. This is purely subjective but she is drawn as a particularly attractive girl and her personality is as brash as it is generous so the attraction is bemusing at best.
Takumi is similarly evasive in his character being easily defined; he is a vain lothario who enjoys dismissing candid attention from the girls but finds Misaki a challenge, yet is never devious in his tactics. He also has a secret side which is rarely explored but hinted at enough to suggest his romantic persona is a mask for his own loneliness and social shortcomings.
In that respect is it easy to see how Maid Sama! would capture the attention and loyalty of avid shoujo anime fans as buried beneath the manic comedy and gregarious adherence to the genre conventions is a romantic story, even if one half of the principal players doesn’t know it. Granted the thrill is often in the chase but too often in this series the chase is rarely on, with the comic diversions proving too forceful for their own good.
And therein lays the problem of this show for this writer – the lack of focus and identity. It has been proven that comedy and romance can work together (Kimi ni Todoke, Toradora, etc) but the veering from one side to the other in this series works against it. In essence there is a decent single cour rom-com or whacky comedy to be found here but we instead are treated to eked out concept across twenty-six episodes of bludgeoning mayhem presumable designed to obfuscate the lack of storytelling ability on Fujiwara’s part.
If the manga resolves these issues then it befalls to series director Hiroaki Sakurai to explain what he was going for. Contrary to the critical tone of this review I did want to like this show as whacky anime can often be very rewarding and for a while it seemed this would be the same. However one can have too much of a good thing and the relentless barrage of absurdities which obscure the story can have a deleterious effect (especially when marathon watched).
Notwithstanding the structural flaws of the narrative and the lack of commitment to a single idea, Maid-sama! is not the worst show one can find in this mould and its popularity is not that much of a mystery. Perhaps the secret to its enjoyment is to watch it in small doses and not be worn down by its boundless energy.
Should the first volume have won you over then prepare for another hefty serving of colourful confection and inane, unfettered frippery in this concluding release.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 3 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black