会長はメイド様! (Kaichou wa Maid-sama!)
Shoujo – Comedy, romance
9 Omnibuses (complete)
Misaki is known as the man-hating Demon President of Seika High. But this “demon” has a secret: she works at a maid café! What will happen to her now that the only person who can match — and surpass — Misaki’s brains and brawn discovers her secret?
A quick aside: while most search engines are smart enough to catch the difference, the anime and the original TOKYOPOP version went by Maid Sama!, but VIZ Media uses Maid-sama! as the title. While I prefer the latter, TOKYOPOP had a much cooler logo and nicer volume covers:
Ok, now that that’s out of the way…
For me, I think it’s hard to analyze Maid-sama! without discussing the topic of gender. Specifically, the stereotypical behaviors of males versus females. Gender studies really is a fascinating topic, and I could easily do a critical analysis of the manga. Misaki is accused of being soft on the girls and hard on the boys, an accusation I would agree with. She is often called manly because of her strength. Later, middle schooler Aoi is revealed to be a cross-dresser, but he also tends to rant about Misaki’s unwomanly behavior and attire. Throw in the whole subject of a restaurant where girls dress up in short skirts and an engaged-to-a-male lesbian, and I could host a long analysis on gender relations and identity in Maid-sama! and whether they are accurate or inaccurate, positive or negative representations. It’s not as simple as Ouran High School Host Club‘s “male or female, doesn’t matter” outlook from the heroine, although I’m sure parallels have been made.
Of course, I’m sure most of you just want to know whether or not Maid-sama! is an enjoyable manga, not about sexism, sexual identity, and the like. After all, Maid-sama! is a comedy manga, not a psychological one.
Much of the manga, of course, is about how Misaki is trying to keep her identity as “Misa-chan” a secret. Well, I should say, secret from anybody else. Right from the first chapter, four boys find out. Three of them turn out to be gag characters whom the narration (and the author) refer to as the “Idiot Trio” (and barely get any time not in super-deformed apperance), but the fourth happens to be the one guy at school who can challenge and surpass Misaki. That’s because Takumi doesn’t take much of an interest in anything because he can do anything. Seriously, anything. Passing tests, cooking, translating, and did I mention jumping off roofs and surviving?
Misaki starts off viewing Takumi as an annoying perverted space alien, even kissing a guy so that Misaki will stop stressing out about him kissing her. It’s obvious to readers Takumi truly is drawn to Misaki’s hard work and determination, and he always senses when she’s about to get herself into trouble. Misaki faces off against an elite school, tries to raise Seika’s reputation, and deals with all kinds of shenanigans at Maid Latte. The heroine doesn’t know much about otaku culture, and the manga often has her trying to figure out what the heck all stuff like tsundere and imouto actually mean. Between her two lives, Misaki takes on some weird challenges like entering a dress-up race or serving as a cross-dressing butler. Much of the comedy comes from the insane ideas someone has and Misaki’s steadfast stubbornness to back down from a challenge.
About half-way through, though, the manga follows a similar path to other series like Ouran High School Host Club and SA; Special A. Misaki stops furiously denying that she has no romantic interest in Takumi, his home life becomes increasingly important and the center of attention, and other characters start pairing off as they inch toward graduation. But unlike some of its contemporaries, Maid-sama! always stays true to its comedic roots. Sure, Misaki may set off on what should be a dramatic rescue mission, but she still ends up in her maid uniform.
Quite frankly, shoujo fans have very little to not like about Maid-sama! Hot, devoted guy, plenty of laughs, a proactive heroine who isn’t all sugar and sunshine, and a couple who gets together well before the ending. If you want a shoujo comedy, you will get a shoujo comedy. As often the case in humor-heavy series, you can easily skip a volume or two and continue on without much difficulty. For some, this may be a negative since this means the overall narrative is light, but this also means you could grab any volume off the shelf and have a good time.
Character growth isn’t as significant as in many other manga. Misaki becomes more fair as a leader, Takumi starts opening up more, and even Aoi finds he wants to do things for others instead of just himself. But the protagonist still calls the male lead a perverted space alien as he makes suggestive comments. It’s more realistic that everyone just grows up a bit instead of changing personalities a la A Christmas Carol. But these types of stories also lack that feeling of accomplishment, of following along a tough-but-necessary journey. Maid-sama! ends with a short epilogue showing the cast 10 years later, and despite the professional and personal developments in their lives, everyone is the same.
In addition, one major character transfers schools, and then they transfer back a short time later only to end up going somewhere else. At the other school, the manga wastes time introducing new characters, and even though they serve a purpose, the story could have easily written been written around them. (Plus, the manga already names and introduces unimportant characters.) This makes the manga feel like it’s just a couple of volumes too long.
The art gets a bit cleaner as the series goes on, but the one who looks most significantly different later on is Takumi. Fujiwara later starts drawing eyes without so much darkness in them. This makes Misaki and the gang look more like typical shoujo characters, but the shift really changes the aura around Takumi. The brightness in his eyes ironically makes him appear a bit younger, but at least it complements his inner changes. Otherwise, the style of Maid-sama! should be very familiar if you’re a fan of manga like Gakuen Alice and Ouran High School Host Club. Lots of characters with text introductions, angry faces, and random outfits to party in. The series tends to be text-heavy and a bit jam-packed to make room for all the jokes (which often involve breaking the fourth wall, especially in regards to the Idiot Trio’s chibi forms).
One thing I have to remark is Yukimura’s character design. Friends and total strangers remark on his feminine appearance. He looks young, certainly, but like a girl?
Well, in this image, I guess I can kind of see a tomboy-like countenance, but isn’t the whole “looks like a tomboy” about looking like a guy? Is this the face of someone whom everyone thinks looks really good in a skirt? I know this is early on in Fujiwara’s career, but considering 90% of his screentime involves cross-dressing or at least harassment. The manga already has a character who cross-dresses for pleasure, and even Misaki dons a suit in an emergency. I think Yukimura should have had feminine eyelashes or something to really make thinking he was a girl more natural and believable. He is often paired up with the younger but physically bigger Kanou, but considering the latter often hides behind glasses and a hoodie, the contrast isn’t accentuated as much as it could have been.
Maid-sama! was originally licensed by TOKYOPOP, and they didn’t quite reach the halfway point before shutting down. Since the series was not picked up right away, the series was retranslated when VIZ Media announced their 2-in-1 version.
From what I’ve seen, the differences aren’t that significant. TOKYOPOP’s may have Misaki being a bit more harsh, but it fits when she’s on a rampage. Otherwise, going by the first chapter, here’s some items of note 9all are TOKYOPOP first, VIZ Media second):
- “I knew I should’ve quit this stupid job!!” vs “I knew I shouldn’t have taken this job.”
- punching bag vs sandbag
- Shorinji kenpo (with a footnote) vs Shaolin kung fu
- “And while we’re at it, why are you still dressed like that? Didn’t I tell you to follow the dress code?” vs “And I already told you guys… …to follow the dress code!”
- “That concerned expression in his eyes– it’s just so adorable!” vs “He looks worried about you. It’s so sweet.”
- “You won’t even let us read manga because there are girls in bikinis in them!” vs “You won’t even allow comics cuz some of ’em have centerfolds!”
- “Let go of me! I don’t need help… …from someone like you!!” vs “Just stay… …away from me! I don’t need your help!”
- “So you were having fun at my expense.” vs “So it’s a pleasure for you?”
The omnibuses also replace the sound effects with English text, and they are more likely to use a different font for shouts and loud expressions. TOKYOPOP also goes with “Miss President” versus just “President”. So some differences, but I don’t think the TOKYOPOP versions are more than fine if you come across them or already own them.
However, one thing I was disappointed by was the fact that VIZ Media did not include the original covers as an insert or on the back/side of the volumes. Each volume is opened up with an image of how the cover was “shot” or the immediate aftermath. (In Volume 1‘s case, Misaki drops that parfait that is teetering on her platter.) the after-cover images make little sense if the original covers aren’t included! Why weren’t they on the back at least?
The gender roles and stereotypes may be a little much for some people, but otherwise, Maid-sama! is a solid choice for almost any shoujo fan.
Sentai Filmworks has released the anime.