Review for Maid Sama Collection
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I don’t know why I bought a title on Blu-ray, but that is certainly the case with Maid Sama. I reviewed the two part DVD release back in 2015/16, but in the three years since, the show has pretty much slipped my mind, except for superficial details. Either the show was good, prompting me to shell out for an HD upgrade, or it was in a bargain bucket sale that I opportunistically took advantage of. Regardless, my wafer thin memory of the show means that I get to rediscover it all over again with my first re-watch of the series; and that’s always a good thing in my book.
Misaki Ayuzawa is a hard working high school student, the first female student council president in her school’s history, which is understandable given that until recently when it went co-ed, it was a boy’s school, and even now the girls are outnumbered by the boys by five to one. However it was a degree of misandry that motivated her to get elected, so that she could crack down on perverted boys, and protect the girls in her school. It didn’t hurt that the rest of the student council are ineffectual, so even if she has to do most of the hard work, it does mean that she does earn her reputation as a strict disciplinarian, able to turn even the toughest boys to quivering messes.
You’d think that she’d be riding high, but her home life is a lot more difficult, skirting poverty thanks to a father that skipped out on her mother, her, and her sister Suzuna, leaving them saddled with debt. So Misaki works a part time job in a maid cafe, playing the ideal subservient maid to otaku clientele. It’s a personality that is directly opposed to the front that she shows at school, which is why she made sure that the cafe was in the next town over. It was all going so well, until Takumi Usui walked into the shop, a particularly annoying playboy from school who she has marked down as a menace to fawning girls. Now that he knows her secret, her life is about to get a whole lot more difficult, if interesting.
Maid Sama’s original 2 part DVD release came over 6 discs, but the Blu-ray release had the same content on just 3 dual layer BDs as follows. Incidentally, the complete series on DVD has only just been released by MVM this May (2019).
1. Misa is a Maid Sama!
2. Maid Sama at the School Festival
3. What Color is Misaki? Natural Color?
4. Net Idol Aoi
5. First Time Minding the Shop
6. Men and the Ayuzawa Cram School!
7. Enter the Student Council President of Miyabigaoka
8. Misaki Goes to Miyabigaoka
9. Maid Sama Does Momotaro
10. Sakura’s Indie Label Love
11. The Secret of Takumi Usui Approaches
12. Maid Sama and the Sports Festival
13. Idiots and Juveniles and Heroes and...
14. Soutarou Kanou of Class 1-7
15. Bespectacled Rabbit at the Open Campus
16. Maid Latte at the Beach House
17. Usui Becomes the Enemy
18. Maid Sama is a Footman
19. Footmen Through a Change of Pairs
20. The Vice President is a Prince?! Aoi and Her Fun Companions
21. Usui’s Rival?! Hinata Shintani
22. Tag at the Forest School
23. Maid Latte and a Whole Bunch of Sweets
24. Lovey-Dovey Through Latte Magic
25. Hinata and Misaki and Usui
26. Too-Cruel Ayuzawa and Usui the Idiot!
27. Omake dayo
Maid Sama gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. It’s a pleasing presentation on disc, clear and sharp throughout, with a minimum of visible compression, and as you might expect from a comedy romance, replete with bright, primary colours. The character designs are agreeable if generic, the animation is fluid, but comparatively simplistic, and you get the usual comedy tropes of deformed characters to emphasise jokes. With this genre, the bright colourful artwork and the simpler art, it means that while the show doesn’t push the limits of the Blu-ray format, you don’t have to worry about niggles like banding. This show also has a fair bit of on screen text, almost like manga sound effects, to explain character motivation and the like, and it’s all translated in the subtitles.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs. For this release the subtitles are locked during playback, although the audio isn’t. You can’t have the show without a subtitle/signs stream, but you can in effect have any combination of audio and subtitles. I went with the original language and the dialogue was clear throughout, the comedy action presented well through the stereo, with some agreeable music supporting the story. It’s fine and unproblematic just as you would expect from an anime release these days. The subtitles are accurately timed, and are free of typographical error, and this is a show with a whole lot of on-screen text to translate, although you won’t need to press pause too often to read it.
The discs present their content with static menus. Each episode is followed by a translated English credit scroll.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Golden Time, and also offers trailers for Outbreak Company, Engaged to the Unidentified, The World God Only Knows: Goddesses, and Golden Time from the menu screen.
Finally, you’ll find the textless credits on disc 3, one opening and three endings. Omake dayo, the 27th episode is essentially a bonus episode after the end of the series proper, and short at just 14 minutes.
Blu-ray usually makes things better. You get richer, more vibrant audio, and you get clearer, more colourful images. Of course no added resolution or bitrate is going to have an effect on the actual content, and for my second viewing of Maid Sama, the whole experience felt flat to me. The first time there was the novelty of watching something new, experiencing the comedy for the first time, and getting the ‘laugh track’ turned up to ten. The jokes aren’t as fresh the second time around, and there is that prior familiarity with the story, fleeting though it is. This time, my enjoyment of the series is more reliant on the characterisations and the story, and it’s here that the show begins to falter.
It’s a show about the potential romantic relationship between two, and only two people. Shocking! I’m being facetious of course, and anime does do monogamy in its rom-coms quite often, most notably Toradora. Maid Sama is no Toradora, but it is still watchable. But yes, two people. There’s the Maid Sama in question, Seika High School’s Student Council President, Misaki Ayuzawa, and her eternal bugbear Takumi Usui. Misaki is the protagonist of the show, a girl who burns the candle at both ends.
Her family being abandoned by her father may have made her distrustful of males, but going to a boys’ school recently turned co-ed (because it was affordable) seals the deal on her opinion of men. She wants the school to be a nice environment for girls, which isn’t easy to accomplish in a school mostly full of hormonal males. It’s that which causes her to run for and become Student Council President, so that she can lay down some law and protect her fellow sisters. It doesn’t hurt that the mostly male student council is incompetent, but it does mean that she does the burden of the work. On top of that, to help her family make ends meet, she has that part time job in a maid cafe, where she has to show a diametrically opposite side of her normally rambunctious (and occasionally violent) personality, that of a subservient and fawning maid. Naturally no one from school must know about the job, which causes all manner of mayhem when Usui finds out.
Misaki has Usui pegged as a player; as he gets a whole lot of female attention in school, only to ‘callously’ shoot the confessing girls down. She thinks he’s merely toying with their affections when the truth is that he’s just not interested. He does become interested in Misaki when he finds out her secret, but rather than blab it to the school, he keeps it quiet, although she thinks he’s doing so just to torment her. That he has the kind of personality that teases people, the kind of boy who’d pull a girl’s pigtails just to show he likes her, confuses the issue. In this case, he becomes a regular at the cafe just to get Misaki’s personal service.
Of course it would be a pretty thin anime with just two characters, but there is a broad supporting cast as well. Misaki’s home life includes her mother, and her frugal sister (she loves entering prize draws), while at school her best friends are the outgoing Sakura, and the quieter Shizuko. The student council is mostly anonymous, except for poor Yukimura, who gets utterly confused by Usui’s behaviour, and starts on a path of cross-dressing as a result. There’s more personality in Misaki’s co-workers at the cafe, particularly her boss Satsuki, and the confrontational Honoka. Then there are the three idiots, three delinquent boys who Misaki confronted in school, and then who looked to turn into bullies when they discovered her maid secret, only to be shown the error of their ways when Usui did his knight in shining armour thing (something he does often in this series). Thereafter they become fans of Misaki as maid, and spend even more time at the cafe than Usui, saving up their hard earned yen for the special service, only to be disappointed each time.
The series plays heavily on the comedy side of the rom-com, with Misaki and Usui’s relationship occasionally sparking when the two are usually arguing or annoying each other, and one of them says or does something that gives them pause to contemplate, or just blush. It’s very much the ‘will they won’t they’ phase of the relationship as they slowly edge closer to becoming a couple. Otherwise the show splits its mostly episodic stories between school and the cafe, with episodes focussing on Misaki’s student council duties, working the school festivals, dealing with boys, trying to make the school more amenable to girls, and episodes dealing with the cafe theme days, worrisome customers, a cross-dressing relative of the manager and so on.
The problem with the show, made all the more apparent this second time is down to Usui, the supposed romantic lead in the show. His sole character trait is that he teases Misaki, driving her distracted with his attentions. Through this series, Usui remains a stick to poke the sleeping bear that is Misaki, other than the odd moments that he might actually react to something, such as a potential rival boyfriend.
As it is, the Usui Misaki pairing is about as emotionally effective, has as much chemistry as Tenma and Karasuma in School Rumble. The climax of the show tries to get heavy on the emotions, and where I should have been getting a little misty-eyed, I instead realised that it was Misaki carrying the emotional weight of the moment, and that she could have been playing to a plank for all the difference that it made. Maid Sama also gets predictable in the way it introduces the rival for Misaki’s affections, Hinata Shintani. This could be problematic given that he actually has a personality, gets character development and we learn more about him in half an episode than we do about Usui through the whole series. You might actually start thinking that he’d be a better match for Misaki. As it is, he’s annoying, clingy, has been nursing a crush on Misaki since infancy, and very much sees her as a nurturing replacement mother.
Maid Sama is another of those series that end on the optimistically open note, hoping in vain for a Season 2, leaving fans seeking out the manga to see what happens next. But it’s really not worth it. This time I just didn’t find the characters interesting enough to engage with, and for a long term appreciation of a show, you need more than just the comedy to hook you. Maid Sama is a show that is good enough to watch, pleasant enough as background noise, but just not good enough to emotionally invest in.