Title: Maid-sama! - Story & Art by Hiro Fujiwara
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Maid-sama, licensed by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint, has been re-released in a special 2-in-1 edition. This version contains the first two volumes of the hit shojo series. It also happens to be my very first shojo read. For those who are unaware, shojo is manga geared towards a younger-female audience. So how was my very first shojo reading experience? It was actually quite good. Despite my initial hesitance due to its name and my iffy feelings about the romance genre, I thoroughly enjoyed Maid-sama. Maid-sama is a fluffy, comedic romance whose two main characters are Seika High School’s student council president Misaki Ayuzawa and school heartthrob Takumi Usui.
Misaki fits the definition of a hard worker and an overachiever quite perfectly. Misaki is Seika High’s first ever female council president, as the school is 80% male; the school just recently shifted to co-ed status. Misaki has a keen disdain towards males as a whole and has made it her mission to shift Seika’s bad reputation around to an excellent one; her dislike towards men stems from her father who abandoned her and her mother, leaving them drowning in debt and in a state of constant struggle. To make ends meet, Misaki works at a local maid café that makes her cosplay as an actual maid and refer to customers as “master”. Misaki keeps her job secret and does not want anyone finding out, cue the introduction of Misaki’s love interest Takumi Usui who does find out Misaki’s secret within the first couple pages. First and foremost, Usui is hands down the pillar of Maid-sama! His teasing and protective nature sparked my inner romantic and had me swooning with each turn of the page. Usui is popular and dashing yet he’s also highly intelligent, strong and doesn’t seem to care much about his popularity. He doesn’t even seem to be aware that his fellow classmates hold him in such high regards.
Misaki is bothered by Usui’s presence and seems to think he’ll blurt out her secret at any given moment. Usui proves her wrong and instead spends the first two volumes looking out for her and becoming a regular at the café she works, simply because he likes her. Misaki faces a lot of obstacles within the first two volumes, most of them are created by her. First she overworks herself and doesn’t accept help from other members of the council, leading to her passing out from exhaustion and sickness with Usui by her side; Usui, in a sense, serves as Misaki’s conscience and knight in shining armor, always there when she’s in trouble. When Misaki recovers, she discovers the counsel did her share of the work and proved their reliability.
Misaki grudgingly thanks Usui and reveals her reasons for disliking him: he’s always proven to be better than her. Misaki considers Usui her rival because he’s constantly excelling at everything he does, leaving her behind in 2nd place. I viewed Misaki’s reasoning for disliking Usui quite weak considering he’s an all-around nice guy to her. Sure, he constantly teases her on-campus and at her work, but he also looks out for her and keeps her secret. Her dislike can be chalked up to her competitive nature; a nature I can’t fully comprehend because I’m not a competitive individual thus making it an unfounded reason for disliking someone.
Misaki’s next dilemma comes in the form of the school festival. Organizing the festival with an iron-clad fist, Misaki is readily rejecting the boys input while thoroughly catering to the 20% of females present at the school by voting to have a café for the festival which leads to Usui warning her about her actions: if this continues, the boys’ attitudes towards her will become hostile. Misaki doesn’t seem to care, claiming she hates boys anyways and couldn't care less about how they feel about her. Throughout the two volumes of Maid-sama, Misaki’s dislike for men shifts from hate to like quite unpredictably. For the most part she dislikes them, yet at certain moments her opinion shifts only to lead back to square one. Misaki’s tirades about men became quite tiring and redundant, making me cringe whenever she resorts to violence when dealing with the boys of the school. Usui’s warning rings true when the boys become angry at Misaki when she yells at them for trying to contribute to the café theme leading Misaki to realize the error of her ways. The café theme turns out to be a smash hit and Misaki feels truly happy amongst her classmates. Misaki’s feelings for Usui become conflicted as she recognizes his helpfulness and his ability to make her have some “stuff to think about.” Misaki is slowly (very slowly), but surely changing because of Usui and his mindset.
The next two arcs of the first volume deal with Misaki’s run-in with two molesters and Misaki taking on 5 apprentices’. The plot with the sexual harassers was quite comedic because Usui sets out to save Misaki from two regulars at the café only to have Misaki beat them down within a second. Usui even broke through a window for dramatic effect, but Misaki had it all covered by the time he arrived. This incident coincides with Usui’s lecture to Misaki a couple pages earlier. Usui tries to get Misaki to recognize that she can’t always be the stronger one in a fight and that she is indeed a girl; a girl that needs to be more aware of her surroundings and be able to tell when she needs help. Misaki proves Usui wrong by being able to defend herself without breaking a sweat. The storyline with Misaki’s apprentices proves to be quite an important one because Usui confesses to liking Misaki and he actually kisses her. This development seems to progress their love story with Misaki viewing Usui in a more positive light after he jumps off the school roof to recover a photo taken of her in her maid outfit. Misaki reveals her reasons for wanting to keep her job a secret: she doesn’t want everyone to start viewing her as a maid and start to look down on her because of her job. She doesn’t want to disappoint the individuals that look up to her which leads to Usui stating she’ll never disappoint him no matter what.
Maid-sama then takes a break from its plotline by presenting us a one-shot manga Fujiwara wrote before Maid-sama and I must admit: it made me cry. A Transparent World tells a much more gentle and sad story about a young girl's love for a deceased classmate. Michiru Kisaragi is a friendless, shy and awkward high-schooler with a long standing crush on classmate Makoto Takahashi; a kind, but sick boy who compliments a photograph taken by Michiru. Makoto dies after his heart gives out leaving his classmates in a state of mourning. Michiru regrets gazing at Makoto from afar instead of taking a chance to get to know him. She approaches a nearby lake with regret and wishes she could have taken Makoto’s picture with the gentle backdrop of the lake behind him. She soon encounters Makoto’s best friend Fujishiro and surprisingly Makoto who’s now a restless ghost. Makoto plans on sticking around for his birthday which is in 5 days. Michiru uses those 5 days to get to know Makoto and spend time with him every moment she can. Makoto teaches Michiru to be more open with her feelings and to the idea of getting friends. Before Makoto disappears, Michiru is able to confess her feelings and move forward in the direction Makoto wanted her to take. I absolutely loved this story! It was brief yet beautiful and had me scrambling for a tissue. This sweet and gentle one-shot was a highlight in Maid-sama.
Maid-sama’s 2nd volume essentially introduces us to the manga’s first real antagonist, Tora Igarashi; he’s the student counsel president of a rival school who seems to have zero respect for women and makes it his goal to transfer Misaki over to his school simply because she amuses him. He seems to view others as chess-pieces and is great at putting on a kinder façade. Other than the arrival of Tora, volume 2 deals with the fallout of Usui kissing Misaki, Misaki cross-dressing for the café and the beginning of a sports festival at the end of the 2nd volume.
Misaki is flustered by Usui’s kiss and can’t seem to do anything right leading to Usui kissing fellow council member Yukimura. This kiss assures a relived Misaki that Usui simply behaves this way with everyone and she’s no exception. In this same arc, Misaki and Usui head over to a rival school in which hilarity ensues. Usui proves he’s a champ at chess and Misaki has no plans of transferring to Tora’s school because she’s perfectly content where she is. Misaki’s character further developed in this arc as she acknowledges she’s attached to her male and female classmates and can’t leave them in a state of disarray.
Misaki’s cross-dressing arc had some humorous moments, but overall it wasn’t my favorite arc of the volumes. Misaki spends the entire arc loving her cosplay as a boy and sprouting sonnets about how much she loves females. Usui seems daunted by her words and a bit hesitant in his teasing. He’s trying to tell her how much he likes her with his actions yet she remains blissfully unaware of his feelings, but not unaware of what his presence does to her. She’s close to falling, but she hasn’t arrived at that point quite yet.
Tora discovers Misaki’s secret and tries to use it against her, but she remains diligent and refuses to accept his offer of a transfer. Usui comes to Misaki’s rescue and makes it clear to Tora he can’t ever miss with Misaki ever again. Is this the last we see of Tora? I highly doubt that. I’m hoping his character is further developed and that he’s not just viewed in a negative light. Could a possible love interest straighten this bad boy out? I sure as hell hope so.
The final arc of volume 2 is Seika High’s sports festival which happens to be the school’s most popular festival because there are tons of prizes on the line. Misaki, of course, joins and wins every competition, stealing the prizes from the boys and awarding them to the girls. These moments are initially funny until you realize Misaki’s character growth has essentially regressed. Misaki overexerts herself to the point where Usui has to step in to win the competition against a classmate who used dirty tricks to slow Misaki down. Usui obviously wins and his prize is a kiss from one of the school’s prettiest girls; he causally refuses the prize, instead handing it over to Misaki. The sports festival has just gotten started, but the volume concludes with the end of that particular competition.
Overall, I did enjoy Maid-sama despite my initial judgement. However that doesn’t mean Maid-sama is without its flaws; it certainly has tons of them. The manga can often come across as sexist and spends a good amount of time fulfilling and defying gender roles. Misaki’s attitude took some getting used to since her yelling and strong opinions towards men often came across as unfair and too harsh. Misaki mellows out in the 2nd volume and she proves herself to be a strong female protagonist who’s perfectly capable of holding her own. Also, the 1st volume abruptly places you in the plot, with Usui finding out Misaki’s secret within four pages of the volume. It seemed rushed and clunky. The series redeeming qualities, however, definitely lie with Usui and the manga’s obvious humor. I found myself laughing more often than not and cheering on the budding romance between Usui and Misaki.
Maid-sama volumes 1 & 2 get a 7/10! Readers who enjoyed works such as Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club and Kamisama Kiss are sure to enjoy Maid-sama. Maid-sama (2-in-1) is set to come out on August 4th, 2015!
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