Maid-sama!, Vols. 1 & 2

By Hiro Fujiwara. Released in Japan as “Kaichō wa Maid-sama!” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Viz Media.

It’s hard when things that you enjoyed in the past suddenly seem more problematic to you. That hilarious maid from the old sitcom turns out to be a pretty bad stereotype. The running gag in the old British radio show is basically sexist as hell. That heartwarming childhood movie is teaching messages that are disempowering and stultifying. And yes, it even applies to license rescues, as Maid-sama!, the portrait of a gung-ho Type-A high school girl and the stalkerish guy who loves her and keeps saving her from various types of sexual assault… isn’t as funny as it used to be.

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To be fair, looking back over my past reviews of this title back when Tokyopop was releasing it, I wasn’t too wild about Usui then either. But in six short years he’s gotten less tolerable, mostly because the narrative frames him as correct all the time. Part of this is the comedic conceit that he’s perfect at everything – to the point where Misaki begins to wonder if he’s actually human. But part of this is because the narrative enjoys having Misaki be strong, smart and try to rescue herself from danger but also can’t help put her in danger all the time in order to get rescued by the guy who likes her. It simply can’t avoid the standard cliches, and they’re not cliches for a good reason (and yes, there will be more sexual assault attempts as the series goes on.)

Luckily, the title has one big plus going for it, and that is Misaki herself. She’s loud, angry all the time, and can’t understand why boys exist, but at her core is a good heart and a girl who wants to help everyone – which is why she became Student Council President. She’s of a type I personally am very fond of, one that comes up often in Hakusensha titles – see also Special A and I Hate You More Than Anyone. And I do agree with Usui on one thing – teasing her and seeing her blush is adorable, and we will be seeing more and more of that blush as the series goes on. She’s stubborn as a mule (the “keep my job secret” thing isn’t even due to the traditional “no part time jobs” school rule – they’re allowed, she’s just embarrassed), but that’s also presented as a positive.

As for the rest of the cast, we still haven’t seen enough of them to really get an impression. Misaki’s trio of lovestruck idiots are pure comic relief, and the less said about the arrogant rich rapist from the rival school the better. I seem to recall when I first read the series that I liked it more when it was telling stories revolving around the maid cafe more than the school, so I look forward to reminding myself why – particularly Honoka. In the meantime, I am pleased that Viz picked this up, as I do want to see how it ends. But man, Usui is a lot harder to take in 2015 than he was in 2009 – particularly when the author agrees with him.

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Comments

  1. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only person who hated Usui. We seem to agree on most of the same points – Misaki is awesome, Usui is annoying because we’re expected to think he’s perfect and right, and that there are too many damn rape attempts.

  2. themooninautumn says

    I’ve always found Usui super-obnoxious, as well, but I was sort of withholding final judgement until we got more backstory on him, so I could figure out what he meant by all of his “Remember you’re a girl” comments. I mean, it’s possible he’s just being a sexist jerk, but I used to read on in hopes that there was something else there (something explanatory, if not redemptive) that wasn’t boring sexism. And then it ended, and I never found out. Now maybe I will! (And I hope it was worth wading through all of his annoyingness.) And Misaki is still awesome. And the Idiot Trio. So I agree that there were things that kept me reading aside from hoping to happily resolve the mystery of Usui the Unbearable. : )

  3. I watched the Maid-sama anime and thought of checking out the manga to see what happens to Usui and Misaki later on in the series. I guess I never was that attached to the series, but I’m glad to see it make a comeback. But I have to say, I have exactly the opposite opinion of you about Misaki: I find her to be a more troublesome character than Usui. Usui is is one of a dozen in the long line of perfect-in-every way, controlling shojo manga love interests, and I don’t find him to be nearly as offensive as many other shojo manga boyfriends (Kyo from Black Bird, anyone?). Meanwhile, Misaki came across to me as unevenly written at best, and outright sexist at worst. I wrote about my problems with Misaki’s character, and other ‘no-nonsense’ shojo heroines here: https://shojocorner.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/the-pseudo-feminist-shojo-lead/ I also love series that explore friendship, and Maid-sama really doesn’t have any interesting or memorable characters outside of its main couple. But I am still curious to see how the series proceeds [SPOILER] after the main couple gets together.


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