Monday, August 31, 2009
Maid Sama!, vol. 1
After hearing about this manga some time ago, I had the opportunity to read and review Maid Sama thanks to a giveaway by Sesho's Anime and Manga Reviews. If you haven't seen Sesho's site, I highly recommend it. He reviews a wide variety of anime, manga and related video games. Thanks for the free copy, Sesho!
The story: Misaki is a man-hating teenage girl who has worked her butt off to become president of her school, which was an all-boys' institution until recently. Since the girls are still outnumbered, Misaki has become their hero of sorts, all the while brow-beating any boys who stand in her way. But, Misaki's got a secret—she works at a maid cafe after school! Hating the contradictory nature of her work, she's horrified when one of the coolest boys in school, Takumi, finds out about her job. Thankfully, Takumi isn't one to gossip and instead takes to going to the cafe everyday to see Misaki. But, why is Takumi so interested in her?
Reaction: While so many manga have weak females, Misaki is tough as nails—she's physically strong, a good student and willing to do anything for her family. It's both refreshing and an interesting contrast to her job as a maid, constantly calling customers "master" and serving them despite her antipathy. Usui's a curious character, too, with his unexplained interest in Misaki along with his popularity among all the girls at school (and other schools, too, evidently). The situations that Misaki and Usui find themselves in are funny in their own right and teach Misaki some important lessons along the way.
Deep thoughts: The whole maid cafe thing is both hard and easy for me to understand—while I can understand how an otaku might get enjoyment from such a place, it's hard to believe that someone actually pays for that kind of service. Of course, it seems innocent enough, but I wouldn't want to deal with creepy customers on a regular basis. In a way, I think Misaki is perfectly suited to it because she doesn't take it too seriously (unlike her boss and co-workers) and does it for the right reasons—helping support her family.
Artwork: I don't know if it's the paper that Tokyopop used in this volume, but there's a newspaper-ish quality to the printing that seems to make the artwork look darker than intended. There's also a frenetic pace that's set up pretty quickly by Hiro Fujiwara, with lots of action and movement in the first two chapters. Otherwise, all of the main characters are appropriately good looking and there is a wide cast of side characters, from the other student council members to classmates at school to Misaki's co-workers. But, the costumes are the best part—from Misaki's various maid costumes to the outfits classmates wear during the school festival, Fujiwara does a finely detailed job.
The verdict: Highly recommended. Although it's pretty obvious at the end of the volume where this manga is going, Fujiwara has created a unique character in Misaki and put her in what is a fairly frustrating situation. Thankfully, Usui seems up to the challenge! Maid Sama is available in the U.S. from Tokyopop.
To learn more about Maid Sama!, check out Tokyopop's online preview below.