Anime Review | Maid-Sama! Collection 1 & 2 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 06.03.2016

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Maid-Sama (UK Rating: 12)

Seika High was once an all boys school, so understandably the guys there got used to certain things - going topless when it was hot, making rude jokes, reading gravure magazines, and just generally resorting to terrible "laddish" behaviour. Therefore, when the school goes co-ed and some girls are added to the classes, they don't really fit into the environment. Worse still, they are very much in the minority, so they are constantly downtrodden and ignored, desperately needing someone to stand up for them and to try to encourage equality.

In steps Misaki Ayuzawa, sick of having to deal with all the daily nonsense she and her fellow female classmates have to endure. Misaki undergoes some intense training and becomes the first ever female Student President. She plans to rule with an iron fist, to bring the entire school up to standard, and does so with great success - the guys at school are terrified of her and her word is seen as law. This is the setting of Maid-Sama!, the latest from MVM Entertainment, released now across the UK in two parts: Collection 1 containing episodes 1-14, and Collection 2 having the rest, 15-26. Both collections come with clean opening and closing animations, along with dual audio options.

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The story picks up a few years after Misaki became president and, while the school is improving, there are still plenty of problems that she has to fight hard, day after day. Misaki is a fantastically developed character. Her father walked out on her mother, leaving behind a massive debt and vanishing… Misaki and her younger sister now live with their mother in relative poverty, just about scraping by. This has left her with an innate distrust of men, something quite evident in her personality. These money issues cause Misaki to need to get a part-time job, but with the student presidency taking up so much of her time and energy - not to mention having to keep her grades up - the job choices are fairly slim. She ends up - as the Japanese title "Kaichou wa Maid-Sama" or "The President is a Maid!" gives away - working as a maid in one of the iconic Japanese maid cafes. The staffers in these cafes have to act as the quintessential Victorian maid, in full costume, referring to customers as "Master," and mastering the act of the demure lady. It's quite the break away from her normal personality, and her character of the no-nonsense arse-kicking president, and a role she understandably keeps secret from the other students.

Typically, the one guy she has the most trouble with at school is the one who bumps into her in front of her workplace… in her maid uniform. The guy is Usui Takumi, the most popular guy at school, although enigmatic with a very odd personality. The series follows the growing romance between the two, while also looking at all the difficulty Misaki has in attempting to establish her school as a place that women would be happy attending. There are a few other side-plots that develop over the course of the series, thanks to a decently expanded cast, and these make for enjoyable diversions, along with battles with elite schools, plenty of sexist idiots to beat some sense into, the quintessential hot springs visit, and many, many more elements.

The romance is very much the focal point of the story over the course of the series, but it takes a long time for it to really develop. Most of the episodes act very much as standalone stories without really advancing the overall plot. There are numerous pacing problems with this where it seems much of the progress Misaki has made, both in the school and in her relationship with Usui, which is frustrating considering by the series' end there seems to still be plenty more to tell, and yet many episodes feel so much like cut-able filler.

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This may be a Shoujo and aimed at a female audience, but it's one of those that everyone can enjoy. A romantic comedy at heart, the comedy of the series really is top-tier, with some superbly funny moments, helped by the comic art style throughout, which uses devices like the manga-style visible sound effects on-screen, and extremely exaggerated reactions.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
What this romantic comedy has over the many other very similar series out there is the strength of the two protagonists. Misaki is such a great break away from the usual Shoujo ladies - strong and confident, and happy to call people on their nonsense, while Usui's enigmatic, and often chaotic, nature makes for a great original character that really keeps the audience guessing. There are some issues with pacing and, at times, the repeated sexual harassment as a plot device gets old but, regardless, this is a fantastic Shoujo and well worth a watch.

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