I’ve really been digging the recent string of hits from J.C. Staff so I was a little disappointed that neither of their new offerings for the spring 2010 season looked interesting to me. I was hoping for more Shana or Hayate or something serious like Aoi Hana or something funny like First Love, Limited but it wasn’t to be. The thought of going a whole season without watching one of their shows depressed me so I decided to give the better sounding one a try and that one was Kaichou wa Maid-sama.
Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 9/12 A-
Anticipation Level: 3/5 Average to Medium
Misaki Ayuzawa is pretty, smart, strong, and her school’s student council president. On the surface it looks like the perfect life for this high school student but scratch the surface a bit and it becomes apparent that she has plenty of trials and tribulations. Her, apparently fatherless, family is poor and they struggle to make ends meet; the sickly mom paints knick-knacks, Misaki’s younger sister knows how to stretch every yen to the absolute maximum, and Misaki works at a maid café in the next town because of the high hourly rate allows her to work a few less hours so she can do her homework and be the student council president. The high school she attends recently went from being an all-boys school to a coed school and it was cheap for her to go but the huge disparity between boys and girls means that Misaki spends much of her school time protecting the girls from the smelly, lecherous boys that abound in this school. She lives in fear that someone from her school will find out that she’s working as a maid because it’ll destroy her commanding persona that she’s built up to allow her to be an effective student council president. This day of reckoning finally seems to be here when Takumi Usui, the coolest guy in school, discovers her secret.
The Fine Print
The genre of Kaichou wa Maid-sama initially kept me away because I’m very hit’n’miss with shoujo shows (being very far from the target demography could have something to do about that 😉 ). For every good one like Kobato there’s a dozen others that I can’t get more then a few episodes in. So, with not very high hopes, I started watching Kaichou-wa Maid-sama and wasn’t surprised to be immediately inundated by it’s obvious shoujo-ness. As I ticked off the clichés in the first couple episodes, my desire to continue watching waned but it didn’t quite fall to zero so I continued watching. This was, after all, a J.C. Staff production so it had the typical high quality animation and I liked some of the side characters and there’s tons of great seiyuu performances. Ayumi Fujimura and Nobuhiko Okamoto have great chemistry together as the main characters and Misaki’s friends need more screen time because Yu Kobayashi and Kana Hanazawa do their voices.
A funny thing happened as I watched more episodes. I discovered that, in spite of the clichés, I was starting to like the characters. Takumi’s perfect awesomeness wasn’t annoying like I first thought it was going to be and Misaki’s earnest, hard-working effort to better herself and help those around her won me over. Characters alone wouldn’t save this show, though. Kimi no Todoke was a shoujo anime that had the production values and the great characters but the story was so artificially drawn out and devoid of interest that I couldn’t stand watching it.
To adequately judge the story I had to wait a few more episodes and struck pay dirt after episodes 6 and 7. One of the problems I had with the story to Kimi no Todoke was both the guy and girl liked each other and there was never a real reason why they couldn’t end the show after a few episodes with the “And they lived happily ever after. The End” ending. This is not the case with Kaichou wa Maid-sama. While it’s obvious to us, the viewers, that Takumi likes Misaki, he goes the route of annoying her to show his affection and Misaki is so overworked that I can easily understand why she’s never entertained the idea that Takumi likes her or even thought about finding a boyfriend. The plausible, more believable set-up makes the clichés, when they pop-up, less annoying and makes the inevitable ending more palatable because the journey there is interesting.
I normally don’t like to reveal major plot points but I reference episode 6 and 7 above because something happened at the end of episode 6 that they way it was resolved in episode 7 really illustrates the point and might convince some people to give this show a shot. If you don’t want spoiled stop here and head to after the next picture. … What happened at the end of episode 6, quite unexpectantly, Takumi proclaimed his love for Misaki and kissed her on the lips. This should have been game-over, queue the montage of them falling love as the credits roll. Obviously there’s still plenty of show left so I wanted to see what they were going to next. I wasn’t surprised to see that Takumi, essentially, took the kiss back but he did it in a very plausible manner that fit with the story and didn’t feel artificial. Takumi, being very observant, realizes that the kiss bothers Misaki because she doesn’t know what it means (he’s only ever acted as her tormentor) and she just doesn’t have the time to think about it. Worse, the kiss messes with her concentration and she’s barely able to keep her life together under the best of circumstances so he takes one for the team and kisses a boy in front of her (hilariously mosaiced to the viewers) to make her think that him kissing her didn’t mean anything. This tells me, among other things, that the people behind this show know how to tell a story and I can rest easy about the rest of series.
Another good thing that waiting these few extra episodes before writing this accomplished is that I can say that the creators have done a great job with keeping the show feeling fresh and unrepetitive. One episode might focus on Misaki’s attempt to create a little sister persona for Little Sister Day at the maid café that she works at and the next might focus on defending her school’s reputation and pride against some punks from a rich and snobbish private school. And whatever the situation, the creators let the characters act in a way that’s realistic for that character. Just the other day, I was remembering how I stopped watching Heroes because I got fed up with the creators making the characters act stupidly and against their characters to advance the story and plot of the show. That’s not the case with Kaichou wa Maid-sama.
With characters and a story that succeed at raising above mere cliché into being genuinely good and very good production values, Kaichou wa Maid-sama has done what it needs to do to succeed, not just as a shoujo anime but as a general anime series. As long as it keeps doing what it’s doing now (which I think it will), I predict that I’ll end up liking this series even more then I do at this point.
If you’re a fan of shoujo series, I think this is a much watch series. If you’re not really a fan of shoujo but enjoy good characters and a story that raises above the cliché then I’d suggest giving this a 3-4 episode test, you might be surprised how well you like it. If, however, you’re just looking for a brainless fan-service show then don’t bother; yes there is a maid café involved and they show plenty of maids and the different events there like Little Sister Day and Glasses Day but this is still a shoujo series we’re talking about.