School President is a Maid Episode 2 – Maid to Master
I realized I wrote an entire article about last week’s episode without explaining what a maid cafe is. Oh well, I think both the people who read this know what one is, and if not, it’s not hard to guess. A maid cafe is a cafe where people go to order drinks from waitresses who dress and act like maids.
It originated as an otaku thing, catering to the fetish of complete female subservience that runs as an subtext to most otaku culture, but they’ve apparently become slightly more mainstream. Whether that invalidates my previous assumptions about otaku or means they are a part of the broader Japanese culture is outside the scope of this article.
Being slightly mainstream doesn’t mean that working at a maid cafe wouldn’t be embarrassing, especially for someone with as hardcore a reputation as Misaki has. But then again, the tension of the show is her trying to cover this up, so you can probably guess that.
Anyway, that’s enough on maid cafes, because I now have to describe another unfamiliar part of Japanese culture. Man!
This episode centers around school festivals. I have no idea if these occur in actual Japanese high schools, but in anime, these are yearly events where each class and club makes their own booth or event, and then invites the public into the school to check them out. It’s kind of like a carnival put on by students.
In anime, these usually begin with a class trying to come up with an idea more original than the old standbys of cafe and haunted house, and usually failing, then working hard trying to make their ideas a reality, leaving them no time to develop relationships. The actual festival itself usually turns into wacky hijinks or character development, depending on whether it’s a show of primarily wacky hijinks or character development. Afterwards, there’s some weird folk dance around a bonfire where couples get together and the real character development happens.
These pop up in just about every anime which focus on high schoolers, or 90% of all anime. And it follows the same pattern in just about every one. You’ll see it in the next B Gata H Kei, as a matter of fact.
Anyway, sticking tightly to convention, this episode begins with Class 2-2 trying to come up with ideas, all of which are being vetoed. What makes this funny is that it’s a class full of rambunctious, masculine high school students, and they’re all being shot down by Misaki, misandrous as usual. With such gems as “Strip Rock Paper Scissors Tournament”, “Mixed Gender Mock Cavalry Battle” and “Girls-only Sumo Wrestling”, it’s hard to see why Misaki is shooting them all down. She wants something to reflect a girl-friendly image for the festival, and they want to pick something they’ll enjoy. It’s the kind of thing that underscores the gender issues at the heart of these first few episodes: neither side is willing to admit that the other side might have a point.
It’s also really funny. J.C. Staff nail the kind of timing that escalating ridiculousness like this requires. The over the top, super-deformed art helps, too.
This is the episode that convinced me the show was worth watching. The first episode was more of a setup than anything; it didn’t have enough time to build the kind of energy a show like this requires. The second episode, however, gets everything it needed to right. The comedy is funny, the art works perfectly with the style of the show, and the plot seems to be moving right along.
This is a pretty standard TV show plot. Misaki browbeats the boys into doing what she wants, until they finally get fed up and revolt. They invade the girly cafe the girls in the class were building wearing military costumes, turning it into a battle cafe and scaring the female customers. Then Misaki learns her lesson to work together with them, rather than bossing them around, and everything is okay. Mostly.
The thing that makes it work, other than the direction and art, is the characters. Misaki’s stern and unforgiving school persona, when combined with her forced-cute maid person and actually cute super-deformed internal monologue, make for a interesting character. There’s interesting interplay between all three of these aspects of her. Even though she started working at the maid cafe for money, she likes the people there, and feels bad about them thinking she hates the whole thing. When working at her class’s cafe during the festival, her maid persona comes out, showing that it’s becoming more ingrained than she’d perhaps like.
And when Usui tells her he wants to keep her secret all to himself, there’s a vulnerability to her reaction (before she gets pissed) that’s kind of sweet. Maybe she really doesn’t want to be a tough guy. Or maybe she secretly wants someone to dominate her, to give up the control she’s spent her life grabbing a hold of, if only for a moment. Or maybe she just wants to let someone inside the facade she’s carefully constructed around her, someone to be cute and pretty for.
Usui, for his part, seems pretty willing to take control. He’s too aloof to be a part of the rowdy bunch in Class 2-2, but since he’s the heroic badass of the class, he does serve as their advocate. He’s the one who delivers this week’s moral to Misaki, and he’s the one who manages to keep the rest of the guys in line and deliver the happy ending (his military costume is a U.S. Navy Captain).
His confession, if you can call it that, is pretty aggressive, too. At the dance after the festival (naturally), he grabs Misaki and holds her to a tree, telling her that she is his maid only.
So, School President is a Maid is getting pretty edgy, while still being pretty funny. Most shows like this tread a fine line between humor and seriousness, and Maid-sama is doing a pretty good job of it. It’s funny, but its characters and the dynamics of their relationship are interesting enough that it can get away with being serious for only a few moments and still feel satisfying.