School President is a Maid Episode 1 – Better than it sounds
A good name can make something merely good seem great. Something that perfectly captures the essence of what you’re trying to name without bogging it down in description can tantalize, and evoke feelings more powerful than those actually on display in the work. It’s more difficult than it seems, though. The perfect name has to combine brevity and lyricality, and it’s something that some writers agonize over, endlessly searching for the perfect two or three words that can, by themselves, point to the essence of what the entire work tries to evoke.
(For reference, I came up with antiotaku in about 2 minutes after the WordPress name prompt threw me into a panic.)
“The School President is a Maid” (Kaichou wa Maid-sama for you purists) is not a good title. It brings to mind 50s science fiction B-movies, or the salacious headlines of supermarket tabloids. I’m sure manga writer Hiro Fujiwara gave as much thought to her manga series’s title as I did to my blog.
Such careless titling should be emblematic of equally lazy writing, but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case. At the very least, it’s not any lazier than your typical girl’s comedy show. That’s kind of damning with faint praise, I know, but this show really has a lot going for it.
Misaki Ayuzawa is an aggressive, hard-nosed girl, the first female Student Council President at the recently-made co-ed Seika High School. She’s made it her mission to rid the school of the churlish schoolboy attitude and behavior she sees in the male student body, and takes an extremely hard line when any of the male students falls out of line.
Needless to say, she’s an image of fear and scorn throughout the school. But Misaki has a secret: ever since her father left, when she was in middle school, her family has been thrust into horrible poverty. As a result, she’s had to take a part-time job working at a maid cafe. She lives in constant fear that someone at the school will discover her secret, until Takumi Usui, the most popular boy at Seika High and the show’s resident pretty boy, finds out.
Takumi seems unusually reticent to spill the beans on Misaki, but are his intentions honorable? Is it because of a secret crush on Misaki, because he wants to blackmail her, or both? I’m sure we’ll find out over the rest of the series.
You could poke plenty of holes in Maid-sama’s premise. Did Misaki ever reasonably think she could keep people from finding out she worked at a maid cafe? Why not just take one of the many less-embarrassing part-time jobs available to high schoolers (does it really pay that much better than anything else)? In the end, it doesn’t matter, because this is a comedy show, and everything about the show makes it very clear that at no point is it meant to be taken seriously.
Still, there’s a lot to like about Maid-sama. For one, Misaki is a unique and likable female protagonist. The uptight, hard-nosed female School President character type has never appealed to me in general in anime, but Misaki is an exception. The awfulness of her situation makes her easy to feel sorry for, whether its her ridiculous poverty or the flippant chauvinism of her peers. The bold, defiant attitude she maintains makes her pretty endearing.
Also, the direction is top-notch. Comedic timing is hard to get right in anime, but J.C. Staff have done a respectable job. The visuals sell jokes that the writing alone can’t pull off, and the cartoony style and tendency to go super-deformed at the slightest provocation are the perfect fit stylistically for this kind of show.
Unfortunately, the characters that aren’t Misaki just don’t have the same flair that she does. Everyone seems pretty generic, especially apathetic but pretty bad boy Takumi. The show has hinted at further depth, so maybe he’ll work a bit better after being fleshed out, but as it stands he doesn’t hold up as a lead.
I’m also worried from Misaki’s dire backstory that the show is going to try to get serious too fast. Don’t get me wrong; there’s room in this show for pathos, but it’s going to have to develop its characters a little more before it can pull off anything but jokes.