Mania Grade: C+
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- Audio Rating: NA
- Video Rating: NA
- Packaging Rating: NA
- Menus Rating: NA
- Extras Rating: NA
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: The Anime Network
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Maid-Sama!
Maid-Sama! Episode #23-26
Maid-Sama! Episode #23-26 Anime Review
By G.B. Smith
December 17, 2010
Release Date: December 17, 2010
As Maid-Sama! comes to an end, we see the relationship between Misaki and Usui face a few more hurdles. Will they end the show together at last?
What They Say
From J.C. Staff comes the story of the most unlikely class president...ever! Ayuzawa Misaki is the hard-boiled, hard-nosed, boy-hating class president of a former all male school, recently turned co-ed. A beacon of hope to the female students as well as teachers, she rules over the boys with an iron fist and a heart of ice. When a popular male student stumbled on to her secret double life, she's forced to make a deal: spend some time with him, or have her hard earned reputation destroyed by revealing her embarrassing secret: working part-time as an upbeat and cheery waitress at a maid cafe!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Maid-Sama! should have been a rather light and fluffy confection, a sweet and sentimental journey into the realm of young love, though with a twist: the girl is a hard-charging take-no-prisoners type who is forced to hide the fact that in order to make financial ends meet for her family, she has to work as an obsequious maid-servant at a maid cafe. The boy is a specimen of perfection in every manner, but somehow the girl is not interested, or so she claims. While it does provide what is promised to a degree, a sweet romance, it has also done its level best to annoy the viewer on more than one occasion. Part of how it has achieved this is to make the heroine, Misaki Ayuzawa, denser than lead. Her denseness is probably capable of stopping cosmic rays from penetrating her thick skull. Another issue is Takumi Usui's (the male lead) flawless perfection that borders on godhood, as he effortlessly does whatever he feels like, except easily getting Misaki to like him, of course.
But the greatest of all irritants has been the other elements brought into play. The show has outdone itself in providing cringing and eye-rolling moments for the viewers by introducing rival suitors that are both irksome and/or loathsome to severe degrees. That in itself would not really be an issue, if it was the intention of the original creator for the audience not to root for these alternate choices for the love of our dense heroine. The problem is that the rival suitors presented have been such incredibly outlandish pastiches of overplayed stereotypes and worn-out tropes that they do not present real challenges for the "official couple," merely methods of injecting false drama and tension into a rather boring non-romance.
While the spoiled rich guy from the elite private school was the early annoyance, the last of the rival suitors, a childhood friend who has simian movements and a bottomless gullet that seems to match that of the homunculus Gluttony from the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, Shintani, offers the final source of displeasure. Of course, that bottomless stomach makes him the perfect means to provide potential drama when Maid Latte, the cafe where Misaki works, holds a cake eating contest. Misaki, in disguise, originally enters in order to help out one of her fellow maids, Erika, who does not want one of her regular customers, another entrant, to win, since she unthinkingly promised to go out on a date with him if he won, which is against the rules of employment for the maids working there. Of course, had Misaki known that Shintani would also be entering, she might never have put herself through the gut-busting tournament, which claimed many victims.
Unfortunately for Misaki, the winner of the contest, Shintani of course, gets a pile of prizes, including a photo with their favorite maid. Shintani does not have a favorite maid, since he is not a regular customer, coming only for the eating contest, so he chooses Misa from the list at random, because the name is similar to Misaki (with him being unaware, of course, that Misaki and Misa are one in the same). This sends Misaki into a panic, but the problem for her is that Shintani is one person she does not want to lie to, because of their childhood friendship. So, when it comes down to the final moment, where Misaki would have to reveal the truth that she works at Maid Latte, she decides to come out before Shintani not in disguise, but in her normal uniform, smile firmly in place. As I dreaded, but did expect, Shintani starts over-reacting, not in a bad way, but in an excessive way, since the word "excessive" is how I would describe him in many ways. His appetite is excessive. His stupidity is excessive. So it is no surprise that his reaction is excessive. Misaki asks him to calm down, as he's practically yelling "Misaki is a maid!" Usui, who has been around the whole time, now shows up, as usual, to help get Misaki out of the scene that Shintani is causing in the cafe, as he is making a public spectacle of the whole thing.
But that is not the end of this, since the writers have determined to mount the last major offensive against the official couple, using a full-court press to try to push the two together, so that they can share memories of their childhood and stress the connection between them. Usui has already recognized that Shintani's strongest card to play against him is the earlier connection that Misaki and Shintani have. To heighten the tension, and bring Misaki and Shintani together outside of Usui's knowledge, we have a replay of the broken grocery bag gimmick, used once before to show Usui where Misaki's house is. This time, it results in Shintani coming over to the Ayuzawa house before Misaki returns from work. Again, memories are shared, and Mrs. Ayuzawa and Suzuna both note that Shintani has always had a thing for Misaki.
Though not so fast. For even though Shintani is getting plenty of time to try to play the childhood friend card, it seems that the appearance of the first real rival for Misaki's hand has stirred Usui to action from his usual lethargy. And so in episode 24, he takes a real and unmistakable step to making it abundantly clear to the incredibly dense Misaki that his feelings for her are deep and strong. While she still has trouble expressing herself, it is also becoming clear that it is starting to dawn upon her, finally, that she too loves him. The scene where they hold each other behind Maid Latte was well done and well executed, as it was rather subtle and subdued, in sharp contrast to a lot of how this show has often gone about things.
Of course, things are never that simple. So, we spend the beginning of the next to last episode in something of an extended flashback into Shintani's life. After which we return to the present and the war between Usui and Shintani. But first, some fortune telling from Erika, one of the maids at Maid Latte (one of the many strange events that Satsuki the owner thinks up from time to time). The messages she sends to the two contenders, as most predictions of the future are, provide room for both hope and worry. So the war continues, including a skirmish after school while Misaki is trying to clean up one of the many messes left by the unruly boys of her school, which results in Usui walking off with Misaki, while Shintani is left behind in rage and frustration.
The finale for the anime seems to be set for the Yumesaki Cultural Festival, the school festival at a neighboring high school that apparently is known for its extravagance (much more than Seika High could ever manage). While Misaki originally came with her friends Sakura and Shizuko, with Usui only tagging along, Misaki finds herself alone with Usui for most of the festival. While wandering around the festival, the pair get roped into a contest for couples, a trial of how strong the bonds are that bind two people. The result, of course, is to begin to bring the two a little closer. Whether they truly have gotten any closer is left for the final scene at the cultural festival.
With the end credits, we get what is to be expected: the manga is still ongoing, so the anime ends at what is an accepting ending point, but gives us at the end some hints of the continuation of life after the final main scene plays out.
Looking back at the twenty six episodes of Maid-Sama!, one can feel equal amounts of pleasure and displeasure. One the one hand, the character of Misaki Ayuzawa, flawed as she is, manages to be compelling in many ways. Not some wallflower, not a damsel in distress in need of rescuing, at least in attitude, Misaki is strong-willed and pig-headed at times, but she is not above accepting help when she realizes that she needs it. She does not just blindly plunge ahead all the time. Her energy and strength are somewhat refreshing in a landscape where girls are often merely cute, and prized for being so with not much else going for them. The boy that she is matched up with, the demi-god Takumi Usui, who is not only handsome and apparently rich (though the show never really gets into that), but also, it seems, able to perform just about any task, no matter how unusual or unexpected, would seem to be the last person she would really need: Misaki can take care of herself, while Usui seems suited to taking care of someone else completely.
And that leads into some of the negative aspects of the show. First, it often requires the manufacturing of ludicrous situations that place Misaki in peril, whether it be bodily harm or mere embarrassment, that result in her needing to be saved by Usui, who is on top of everything else nearly indestructible, as a leap off of a tall building shows (he does get injured, but a real person might not be so fortunate). And how do we get into these ridiculous situations? By the introduction of other potential suitors for Misaki's love. That in itself is to be expected, nay, required. But these suitors do not present real rivals for Misaki's hand, for they are so unrealistically put together, being tangled morasses of cliche and annoyance, that they never, ever present a real challenge to the official couple. It would seem that the original author and the anime writers recognize that themselves, for the real obstacle to Misaki and Usui getting together is not the appearance of rivals for her hand, but the thick-headedness of Misaki, who refuses to take Usui's professions of love seriously, and is completely incapable of admitting her own true feelings about him to herself, let alone to him. Usui does not help matters, since his entire personality, laid back and phlegmatic to the extreme, does little to assure Misaki of the true strength of his feelings.
In the final arc, the episodes here and just before this last group, there is the appearance of the first real rival: Hinata Shintani, a childhood friend of Misaki who moved away for some time, but has come back to try to win Misaki's love. The bonds formed when they were children are something that Usui's perfection cannot easily overcome, a fact of which Usui himself seems aware. But instead of forming a realistic and powerful love triangle dynamic, Shintani's appearance merely raises the irritation level of the audience, for Shintani is so annoying, with his excessive appetite, excessive mannerisms, and excessive naivete, that he does little to excite sympathy or credence from the audience. Only in the very last two episodes, where it is already a little too late, do the writers manage to show Shintani in a slightly sympathetic light, as we look into his past and how strong his feelings for Misaki are. But it is too little, too late. The show has run out of time, spending too much of the time introducing him by fixating on his constant eating of bread crusts during school, when they could have spent time making him into a sympathetic, and credible, rival to Usui for Misaki's heart. That might have made for some real drama and tension, compared to the engineered, and for that reason empty and vapid, drama that occurred so often during this show's run.
In sum, Maid-Sama! was a show that had a potentially interesting premise, but one that squandered its opportunities by wallowing in cliched characters and manufactured drama that had nothing compelling about it at all.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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