Can You Keep My Secret: Maid Sama

At school she takes orders from no one.

At work she serves all with a smile.

At long last I finished watching Maid Sama, or Maid Sama! if you’re being particular, or Kaichō wa Maid-sama! if you want to be precise (translation: The President is a Maid!). While I wrote a rather glowing First Impressions review of episode one, my adoration for this particular shoujo waned a bit throughout the many weeks it took to finish this anime. But before we get into that, I’ll provide a brief overview of the series:

Misaki: she works hard for the money, so you better treat her right.

Misaki Ayuzawa is the class president of unruly Seika High, which was, until recently, an all-boys school. She has taken it upon herself to rule with an iron fist and whip the slovenly boys who dominate the school into shape in order to make the female students feel more welcome. This is all well and good, and she does manage to command respect from students of all genders. However, due to money troubles at home, Misaki has secretly taken up an after school job at a maid café called Maid Latte. If you’re unfamiliar with a maid café, it’s where cute girls wait on patrons while wearing costumes, call them “Master,” and generally provide subservient fantasies to anyone with enough money to purchase a dish of ice cream or a cup of coffee. Misaki knows that her reputation and respect would be ruined if anyone at her high school found out where she works. So, naturally, the most popular boy at Seika High discovers her secret part-time job. All other girls bore Takumi Usui, but something about Misaki’s deceptive double-nature intrigues him, so he begins hanging out at her place of employment, teasingly flirting with her in a dominating manner whenever he’s around. The rest of the series is pretty much Misaki dealing with her double life while trying to sort out her confused feelings about Usui.

Misaki and domineering Usui: sexy or chauvinistic? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What was a cute concept for the first half of the season became stale and slightly boring around the middle of the anime. The formula goes something like this: Misaki gets into trouble of some kind, usually via some jerk threatening her friends, her work, or her school, Usui swoops in to save her, but Misaki ends up saving herself. Even so, Usui leans in and says something flirty and domineering, then Misaki blushes and calls him a pervert before the credits roll. While some have criticized this series as suggesting that all strong women secretly want to be dominated, I don’t feel that’s a fair judgement. Misaki makes a good female lead; she’s smart, ambitious, and overall a pretty decent role model for a shoujo story. If it was all an act and she was just a damsel in distress waiting for Usui to save her, then it would be super lame. Her saving grace is, of course, the fact that she does usually pull herself out of the jams that she gets in, be it through her physical strength or her forceful words. I don’t have a problem with her carrying on a flirtation with a dominant male, especially as Usui is never violent or seriously threatening to Misaki in any way. He was playful and teased her, but if she ever actually got freaked out he backed off. She’s a strong character, so it makes sense that she would be drawn to a strong love interest.

Hey there, new love interest! Too bad you didn’t show up a little sooner. Oh Hinata, we hardly knew ye.

My main problem was with the formulaic episodes that began to blur together around episode twelve or so. My interest was piqued again when a former childhood friend of Misaki’s appears as a love interest as well as foil to Usui, but I felt that he was introduced far too late into the show to add any lasting spice to the story. Also, like so many anime series before, Maid Sama just kind of…ends. There is some resolution, but not enough to be very satisfying. Speaking of which, the only character we get a full backstory on is Misaki, which is disappointing because Usui was interesting but a little too mysterious. I wanted to know more about him but never got much more info than what is shared in episode one.

“Don’t call me Nyan Cat, I hate that freakin’ video! Besides, do I look like I fart rainbows?!? Huh? Yeah, didn’t think so!”

Overall, it was fun to watch, especially if you enjoy shoujo, but I don’t see a lot of rewatch value for me personally. The art was typical with nothing really new there, and the music was the same. The subtitles go by rather fast in this one, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the constant added words in the background as well as explanations of Japanese culture at the top of the screen. There was a lot of rewinding and pausing in order to read everything, and that got to be a bit of a headache at times. I was a little shocked at a couple of episodes in the beginning that seemed to casually suggest that Misaki was in danger of being sexually assaulted (though luckily nothing of the sort occurred) and those instances remained jarring even when the rest of the show devolved into fluff storylines. But all in all, I’m glad that I watched this series. It was a pleasant shoujo with some unexpectedly sexy moments, and I bet that the manga is even better than the anime. It’s not my favourite series by any stretch of the imagination, but you could do far worse than spending some time in the world of Maid Sama.

Rating: ★★★ Definitely check this out if you enjoy shoujo, but don’t expect to be blown away.

First Impressions: Maid Sama

Bossing guys by day, serving guys by night.

How will she keep this secret?

Hello and happy December, fellow otakus! In case you couldn’t tell by my late hour posting this, I’m finally back in real-time, now that NaNoWriMo is over. If you’re super curious you can read all about how my first year of participation went in tomorrow’s Procrastinator’s Project Journal, but the long and short of it is: I won! Huzzah for me! But enough about that. Now it’s time for a short and sweet first impression on episode one of a popular shoujo called Maid Sama.

Misaki: Fake it 'til ya make it. Personally I'd hate the job, but love the outfit.

Misaki Ayuzawa is the hard-working class president of a high school that was, until recently, an all-boys school. She’s a tough prez because the boys have been slovenly, gross, and disrespectful of the new female students, so she works very hard to keep them in line as well as be a model student. Matter of fact, Misaki admits that she pretty much hates guys. When she returns to her dilapidated house we learn why: her father up and left one day, leaving her mother, sister, and herself in a mountain of debt. The house is falling apart and her mother is ill, so to help make ends meet Misaki works in a maid café in the next town over called Maid Latte. She would be embarrassed if any of the boys whom she bosses around at school found out that she has to go to work in a cute maid outfit and call patrons “Master.” So of course…

Takumi the masochist only likes the girls who hate him. He's in for a world of hurt.

Takumi Usui is one of the cutest and most popular boys at Misaki’s school. Girls regularly confess their love for him, but because this happens so frequently he’s lost interest in girls. Misaki catches him breaking one girl’s heart and states that she hates him, as well as all boys who make girls cry. One night as she’s taking the trash out back at Maid Latte, Takumi walks by and spots her. After work he’s still waiting to confirm that he really saw her, so she explains her situation to him. Over the next few days she’s positive that he must have told everyone at school her secret, but thankfully, he didn’t. Instead he keeps coming back to Maid Latte, ordering coffee, and staring at Misaki, which she hates. Fast forward to another night on the job, and Misaki is sick but doesn’t want to take time off of work. She takes out the trash again, only this time three thuggish boys from her school see her. They start to harass her, but Misaki is too weak to fight back. Luckily Takumi steps in and saves the day. The episode ends with Misaki thanking Takumi and asking how she can repay him. He requests that she become his personal maid for one day.

Misaki's pals discuss Takumi: Y'know ladies, there's actually no such thing as "too popular to like girls." Usually that just means he's... oh never mind, they'll find out in college.

This is another excellent shoujo anime, one which I’ve had recommended to me several times but never had the chance to check out before now. I’m very glad that I finally have the chance! Misaki is strong and pretty, yet relatable, which makes her an excellent heroine. Takumi, while cool, never comes off as a total dick. I love that this episode jumps right into the good stuff from the get-go: already we have a love connection at work, as well as a dreamy rescue scene, and several hilarious parts. The scene in which Misaki is walking down the hall and keeps imagining that everyone is saying “maid” cracked me up, and I can tell from the preview for the next episode that it will be chock-full of laughs and romance as well. So far there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Maid Sama, but it is an excellent example of classic shoujo, and I very much look forward to watching the rest of the series.

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