Life isn't easy for Student Council President Misaki Ayuzawa. Not only does she have to deal with horny and disruptive boys at Seika High School, she also has to work a part-time job to help her family meet their bills. Her job? Working in a maid cafe, having to serve men with a smile. And then things get worse, when one of her male classmates discovers her double life. Does romance and comedy ensue? We shall find out.
What They Say
It's only been a few years since Seika High School became co-ed, and the student population is still 80% male. Misaki Ayuzawa, the current -- and first female -- student council president, and she rules her school with an iron first. But she has a secret: She actually works part-time in a maid café! Misaki has managed to keep her extracurricular activities under wraps, but one day she's discovered by Takumi Usui, the most popular (and handsome) guy in the school. What will become of Misaki's double life now?!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally starting back in the Spring, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! ("The Student Council President is a Maid!"), is an adaptation from the manga by Hiro Fujiwara, centering on the life of Misaki Ayuzawa, the student council president of Seika High School. In June, The Anime Network announced that they would start streaming it, and there are currently seven episodes (the Japanese broadcast is several episodes ahead) available for subscribers to TAN, with only the first episode available for free viewing.
Originally a school for boys, the student population of Seika High is still 80% male and Misaki is the first ever female student council president. Having a personal reason to dislike males (her father got deeply into debt and then skipped out on his family), Misaki rules over the boys with an iron fist, trying to rein them in and control their typical male adolescent behavior. She is forced, however, to take a part-time job in order to help her family to make ends meet. Since her student council duties take up so much time, the only job with hours flexible enough to fit her busy schedule ends up being that of a server at a maid cafe. Yes, those establishments where pretty girls dress in French maid costumes and fawn over their mostly male clientele. While it's obvious that the job is somewhat repugnant to her personally, the pay is good and the place she works is in the next town over, so it is unlikely that anyone in her hometown will learn what she does in her off hours. While she lords it over most of the boys, one boy is something of a nemesis for her, Takumi Usui, the most popular and handsome boy in the school, who seems phased by nothing and impressed by nothing, even the overbearing student council president.
So, of course, while Misaki tries her best to hide her secret, the last person on earth she would wish to find out, that very same Takumi Usui, is the one to discover that Misaki is leading something of a double life. She frets about it for most of the first episode after the revelation, but Usui is not the type to make dastardly use of this information. Not that he is above taking advantage of his knowledge of her secret, but simply because he has no desire to do her harm. The word that best describes him is phlegmatic. Usui is not particularly interested in anything, and displays no interest in anything. The stated reason he gives Misaki for not revealing her secret is that he simply wants to enjoy the situation himself, privately, with no one else involved. While a few other male students do eventually learn of Misaki's "secret life," instead of trying to embarrass her, they respect Usui's wish to enjoy the secret, and themselves become fans of Misaki in her maid mode.
Having established the characters, the second episode puts Misaki into a tense situation, as she has to deal with running the School Festival (it wouldn't be a high school show without a school festival episode. They seem to be getting theirs out of the way early). As if it weren't already stressful enough for her (unlike American high schools, Japanese ones have some school-wide events run entirely by the students, even if student autonomy is exaggerated in most anime), she is having trouble with the boys of Class 2-2 (Class 2 of the Second Year students). The boys there are particularly resistant to Misaki's overbearing nature, and so they try to get their revenge on her by sabotaging their participation in the School Festival. When Misaki orders them by fiat to run a coffee shop, they intend to get their own back at her by subverting the rather restrained coffee shop planned by the girls, invading it by dressing up in various military uniforms and turning it into a Manly Cosplay Coffee Shop. Misaki, who comes by to check up on Class 2-2, is obviously displeased and blows up at the boys. They, in turn walk out, which leaves the few girls of Class 2-2 to run the shop entirely by themselves. Faced with a crisis of her own making, Misaki tries to placate the boys to convince them to come back and help, but her attempt at reconciliation is a little too little too late, and she is instead forced to help the girls of Class 2-2 herself. Usui had tried to warn her that her antagonistic attitude towards men might cause her trouble in the future, and only now does she reap what she has sown.
Of course, Misaki knows all about cafe service, so she is a natural at it, flawlessly attending to the customers until...she reflexively calls a male customer "master," a term you generally only hear from maids in maid cafes in this type of situation. Misaki is flustered, but Usui suddenly comes to the rescue, acting as if he is a butler, and thus smoothing over Misaki's embarrassment about almost giving up her secret. The boys of the class, impressed by the "fun" that Usui seems to be having, come back and help out, this time much more gently and gracefully. In addition, Misaki seems to have learned a lesson about relations between the sexes, a lesson taught by Usui.
In the third episode, Misaki has a rather difficult, for her, task at work: she has to get into character for a special event at Maid Latte. This special event is a "little sister" day, where the maids will act as if they are the customers' little sisters, yet another real and strange otaku fetish and obsession. In order to develop a "little sister" act, Misaki starts by trying to observe her own little sister, Suzuna, but it's a failure, since Suzuna is very mature and dependable for her age (she looks to be in middle school), nothing at all like the caricature that makes some males swoon. Sadly for Misaki, even the tips given to her by her co-workers at the cafe are of little help, since Misaki's personality is simply not cut out for acting cute and vulnerable. So, being the hard worker that she is, she studies hard to try to master the role, both trying to ask others about their younger sisters, and by reading various books and magazines about the standard stereotypes popular among the fans. Usui instead urges her to just be herself and not try to put on an act. The day of the little sister event comes, and Misaki has it all scripted out, playing a cute little sister type fairly well (even her one co-worker who dislikes her, Honoka, admits that it is a fairly good routine that Misaki has planned out)...until Usui shows up and acts in a manner that exasperates Misaki. She practically loses her composure, blowing up at Usui, leading him to get up to leave. Faced with the apparent failure of her act (a failure forced by Usui's unwillingness to play along), Misaki calms down and tells Usui that he could come again another time. The sudden change from angry to remorseful plays into yet another stereotype, the little sister who runs hot and cold, which makes the other customers in the cafe swoon. This was not exactly planned by Misaki, but it works entirely to her advantage. Yet again, it seems that Usui has saved the day for Misaki.
Maid-Sama! gets off to a fairly good start, even if it does make use of several of the tried and true (and sometimes tiresome) tropes of shoujo manga. Takami Usui, the lead male, is much too "perfect" a character. He is not only handsome and smart (he regularly ranks at or near the top of the school exams), but underneath his mask of unemotional aloofness, he seems to genuinely have feelings for Misaki Ayuzawa, and does his best to try to help her out. Misaki herself is the more interesting character, as she is not some helpless heroine who is hoping that someday her prince will come to rescue her. No, Misaki is very much a believer in self-help, and does her best to work hard and succeed on her own terms. It's sad that, to a certain extent, that forceful personality and her accomplishments are somewhat undermined in the second and third episodes by the unmistakeable fact that Usui is, for the moment, being set up as a wiser and more capable character, who is actually helping Misaki to keep her head above water in a situation that she is not able to handle on her own without Usui's superior wisdom and sage advice. Don't antagonize the boys. Just be yourself. Simple lessons that one would think that a person of Misaki's abilities would be able to figure out for herself. Still, as shoujo high school romantic comedies go, this one is so far quite entertaining, and is notable for presenting a very capable female lead who is neither an emotional wreck nor a weakling who needs a strong man to cling to.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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