Home > Episode Reviews, School President is a Maid > School President is a Maid Episode 19 – Unequal Partners

School President is a Maid Episode 19 – Unequal Partners

With the first part of the butler auditions over, Usui and Misaki have finally been paired together and should be ready to do their usual bang-up job, and they do. They easily pass a tea preparation and table setting test, thanks to Usui’s impeccable knowledge and taste, and are about to begin the last part (serving a sample customer) when disaster strikes.

Desperate to avoid Kanou and Yukimura for fear they would recognize her, Misaki darts out of their way only to lose her balance and fall off of the platform. As usual, Usui is instantly there to cushion her fall, but he manages to at least sprain his wrist and arm in the process. (It’s possible that something was broken too.) Last time this happened, Usui was forced to back out of his competition, but that was when he was opposing Misaki. Now he’s aiding her, and nothing will stand in his way.

The most over-the-top aspect of Usui's determination isn't that he's playing while in pain, but that it took a few minutes for it to show

When it comes time for Usui and Misaki to wait on a judge, it is of course Maki, who is outwardly polite but quite aware of everything that is going on. Misaki does her best to protect Usui, but after she takes care of several of Usui’s requested duties for him, Maki outright asks if she is covering for him. Before she can acknowledge it, Usui denies he is in any trouble, and volunteers to play the violin to prove it.

Although Usui keeps up with a perfect performance, Misaki knows he is only worsening his injury, and eventually admits the problem to Maki. Maki, politely, rebukes her for keeping Usui from doing his duties even though he clearly wanted to continue; she rebukes him in turn for acting like Usui’s own needs don’t matter. In a place like Maid Latte, others support you when you need it, just as you support them—it is the team who serves the customer, not the individual. This is enough to cause Maki to rethink his ideal, and his plans; he ultimately decides to spare the maid cafe. Everyone goes home happy, except Misaki, who has to go to Usui’s apartment to wait on the injured hero.

One thing this episode does right is reaffirm that Misaki is devoted to Maid Latte and her colleagues there, a fact Satsuki tearfully accepts

Arguably, since I liked the last episode of School President is a Maid as much as I did, I should like this one as well. It doesn’t deviate much from the themes presented then, clearly shows Misaki thawing in her relationship with Usui, provides them the moral victory they need, and provides some tantalizing hints about Usui’s backstory. All the right pieces seem to be in place.

And yet: The main crisis of this episode was precipitated not by Igarashi being dastardly but due to a random accident. Igarashi actually seems halfway decent in this episode, not just allowing Maki to back away from the forced takeover of the maid cafe, but providing an alternative set of land from his own company on which Maki can open his butler alternative. Igarashi is supposed to be a villain, dang it, one who has abused his subordinates in the past and—let’s not forget—tried to rape Misaki. Now is not the time to make him a nice guy.

Someone like Igarashi is not suddenly allowed to become all friendly and sentimental. At least, he shouldn't be

The crisis also mirrors the beach episode, confirming the idea that Usui’s only weakness is his own recklessness in defending Misaki from harm. And that goes into a lingering problem with the show that I was really hoping would be addressed by now: Usui’s seeming perfection. For all the lingering concern about his possibly tragic family past that forces him to live alone (in an ultra-expensive apartment), he basically can do anything, perfectly, and has money and looks to go with it.

Therein lies a major difference between romances directed at high school boys (shounen) and toward high school girls (shoujo). In shounen plots, the (male) protagonist is typically lackluster, ordinary at best, short and nerdy looking at worst, and with a bland, mildly nice personality. He is meant to be a projection for socially inept otaku. The women (and there’s always at least two, if not a full harem) are beautiful, intelligent, and graceful—or at least two out of the three. They often love the protagonist for no discernible reason, or for a single act of kindness that the lady blows completely out of proportion.

I'd like to think there's some plot significance to the fact that Usui managed to "perfectly" present the standard British tea set, but it is Usui we are talking about here

Shoujo stories are no less examples of wish fulfillment, but the difference is in the (female) protagonist. She is intelligent, pretty, and generally a high-achiever, but she is always one step behind the male lead. Said male lead aggressively, possessively pursues her, often against her immediate wishes and with a force more akin to intimidation than romance, completely dominating her in their relationship just as he dominates in everything else. In these shoujo plotlines, the girl can be good, even really good, but the guy is always better. And he never lets her forget it.

I’m certain long-time watchers can see how closely School President hems to this formula. I’ve alluded to it several times in the past. Usui has toned down some of his more sexual harassment-style advances (although it returns in full form a few times this episode), but he still doesn’t seem to see the difference between possessing Misaki and romancing her. He obviously cares about her as a woman and not just as a piece of property, and he has made incredible sacrifices on her behalf. But one has to wonder if the long delay of Misaki reciprocating his feelings could have been avoided if he had just tried asking her out on a date like a normal person, rather than make several stops in stalkerland.

Usui threatens (promises?) to "punish" Misaki if she overworks. Usui is as insistent as the show itself that he must be in the driver's seat

For this reason, I’ve always been happy when Misaki manages to unnerve or surprise Usui, just so I can see his bubble of invulnerability popped even slightly. But even here, when she waits on an injured Usui, she’s still put in a position of weakness, being too poor of a cook to serve him proper food. Usui graciously accepts it anyway, but it’s yet another situation of Misaki being indebted to him, rather than the other way around.

I get that being saved by a white knight is common fantasy, and at least shoujo stories make their heroines interesting, admirable people in their own right. But romantic relationships, all healthy relationships, are about give and take, about mutual support. Heck, that’s the moral Misaki delivers to Maki to convince him to back down. What does it say about the show that it can’t implement that in the most important relationship it has?

The episode is fine from a comedic standpoint, with Misaki being appropriate violent, Yukimura appropriately inept, etc.

This episode wasn’t a bad one, all things considered; the series has certainly had worse. But I think (and I’ve said this before) the ultimate worth of the series will be shown if it can successfully break out of its heretofore stereotypical mold and actually make Misaki Usui’s savior for once. It doesn’t need to happen tomorrow. But it does need to happen. And if the writers were paying attention to what they are having their characters say, they’d know that too.

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