The last anime series I watched that fell into the high school romance category was probably Ouran High School Host Club – a good 10 years ago. I like to think that 25-year-old Sophie is a bit more ‘mature’ and has permanently moved on to stories that are much more complicated and psychologically complex (that goes not only for anime but books and films too). My mum certainly likes to think I’ve ‘grown out of anime’ but I think that day’s a long way off yet. Before you think I’m bashing a much-loved genre in the anime world, Maid-Sama has rekindled my love for the ‘love’ genre.
It’s fair to say I’m not a natural fan of the often cliché high school romance genre (although I loved Ouran High School and would happily watch it again) but when I saw that MVM Entertainment was releasing Maid-Sama I quickly put it on my ‘to watch’ list. The animation looked sharp, it came from Sentai Filmworks (who have produced too many great anime series to list) and I actually wanted to watch something light-hearted and cheery to watch in the dark winter months.
Maid-Sama is set in Seika High School, a former boys’ school turned coed where testosterone-fuelled, wild boys have one thing on their mind – girls (obviously). But there’s one young woman on a mission to turn the school around, Misaki Ayuzawa – the first-ever female president – saviour to the girls and tyrant to the boys. However, she’s not all she appears to be. After her father walked out on her family and they are struggling to make ends meet, she took a job at the Maid Latte cafe in secret. Of course, this is an anime, so someone’s going to discover her secret – and that person is the aloof and handsome Usui Takumi, who Misaki dismisses as a womaniser and a pervert. Yeah, you can see where this is going…
At first glance, Maid-Sama is as stereotypical as you can get and I can draw a number of parallels between a number of other series of this genre: tough tomboy girl who prefers bathing suits over bikinis, a handsome blonde young man and my favourite ever line – “It’s not that I like you or anything… baka!” A lot of the episodes are well-visited in the anime world: the beach episode, the school festival episode and so on, but what is particularly refreshing is that the characters are genuinely likeable and there is no shortage of laughs. There was never a point where I thought “this is going nowhere”.
My only real complaint about Maid-Sama is that, with 26 episodes under its belt, it could have developed its story a lot more. Usui’s ‘dramatic love confession’ comes early on in the series but Misaki maintains the ‘I like him but no I don’t oh wait I’m not sure argh he’s such a pervert oh actually maybe I do kind of like him’ thing for pretty much the rest of the series. Just kiss, please! The majority of the series is a slice-of-life highschool series, interspersed with plenty of almost-romantic scenes, but it still feels like the series is rolling nicely along. Maid-Sama is based on a manga series and, having consulted Google, it looks like the actual story of Misaki and Usui’s relationship really develops after the anime ends. For me, this is a shame as I think some of the episodes could have been condensed to make way for the manga’s original ending.
In terms of characters, I get why Usui is such a heartthrob (the man can cook, for one) but is a bit too possessive for my liking. If a guy who isn’t even your boyfriend doesn’t like you dressing pretty or wearing a bikini in front of other men, you might want to have a chat with him. That said, he provides most of the series’ best jokes, and chibi-Usui is super cute. Misaki is a well-rounded character who is not just your tomboyish highschool president but also a leader, friend and in-character maid when she has to be. Of course, loads of other guys have the hots for her because this is a high school romance. The rest of the cast encompasses Misaki’s friends, some rebellious boys from her school who start to frequent Maid Latte, the other Maid Latte maids, Misaki’s sweepstake-obsessed little sister and a crossdresser. Misaki and Usui were my favourite characters throughout, which is just as well as they get the most screen time.
Overall, Maid-Sama does what it says on the tin and it does it very well. Just because something looks a bit cliché certainly doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all before. If you’re looking for a series that will provide you with lots of laughs, Maid-Sama is for you. I’ll certainly be distributing it to my girlfriends, so it gets a tasty 8.5/10!