School President is a Maid Episode 23 – Rooting for the Underdog
It’s difficult to understate what a game changer Hinata’s introduction has been to the series. Not only has his appearance started the first and only real multi-episode arc (even Igarashi only could justify a couple paired episodes), but simply by existing he calls into question the equilibrium that the series has cultivated until now.
This is episode is on the surface a repeat of one that has occurred on several occasions, with Misaki trying to conceal her work as a maid from her admirers and/or enemies, with Usui stepping in to help because, well, he’s Usui. But it’s completely different in tone than the prior events, and leaves with a very different feeling.
A comparison to the Inuyama quintuplets way back when is instructive. There, Usui helps Misaki avoid detection, and ultimately risks life and limb to preserve her secret. He then produces a lie that defuses the problem, and everyone goes home happy—particularly Usui, who stole a kiss in the process.
Arguably, this was the summit of their relationship; shortly thereafter Usui began to deliberately cultivate his pervert persona, in order to protect Misaki from her confused feelings on the matter, and that put their relationship in the holding pattern at which it has occasionally hinted at leaving, but until now has been unable to. It certainly marks one of the last times I was unequivocally enthusiastic about the series.
Yet it is clearly not enough to just replicate that this far down the storyline, and the writers seem to understand that. Boyish, unguarded enthusiasm aside, Hinata is not comparable to the Inuyamas. He wants to be a serious contender for Misaki’s affections, and he finds this role by being the anti-Usui.
Usui and Misaki, by this point, have a relationship based mostly on lies. Usui pretends to be universally perverted, rather than deeply devoted to just her; Misaki pretends even to herself to be uninterested in his advances, even though a part of her clearly is; and so they dance around each other with only occasional admittance from either what it is they truly want.
If I wanted to be favorable to the source material, I could say that this is a natural response to the classic male lead of this genre (possessive, manipulative, and omni-competent) being paired with a woman who actually possesses self-respect and a firm regard for the integrity of her own person. There are few heroines as driven and accomplished as Misaki, and she naturally—and appropriately—bristles at being treated as property, or even as a prize to be won.
(A less favorable reading is that the source material is just trying to milk its storyline for as long as possible, by inserting continual setbacks in the leads’ relationship to keep them from coming together. But no tv show, Japanese or American, has ever done that.)
Hinata, however, is not someone who lies; unlike the Inuyamas, he’s not someone easily deceived either. Not because he isn’t as trusting as them: he is, even if he’s also more observant. But Misaki has a history with Hinata, back from the days when she was just a principled girl, before her father abandoned her family. Back then, she would never contemplate lying, and Hinata brings her back to that time.
So, when Misaki is finally given a choice between continuing her deception—and relying on Usui to help—or coming clean, she chooses the latter. She chooses to trust in Hinata not to abuse this knowledge, and trusting in other people, even Usui, has never been something she’s freely chosen before. And, true to form, Hinata finds her maid work just as cool as he finds everything else she does, and possibly a bit sexy too.
Usui is perfectly aware of what such actions mean, which means he goes into full-blown possessive mode, threatening violence (in a cordial way) on Hinata if he touches Misaki, marking her as his own personal property. As odd as it sounds, this is Usui’s method of expressing affection: He’s showing that he values Misaki as well, and thus isn’t willing to share her romantic attention.
That doesn’t make it seem any less creepy than it actually is, and again makes me wish that Hinata actually had a hope of wooing Misaki, rather than being the obvious also-ran candidate who exists only to force Usui and Misaki to grow more honest with each other. And I do hope that his actions cast an unfavorable light on Usui’s by comparison, leading the latter to reform himself just a little bit. Whether we can get that in the three episodes remaining for this show is an open question.
I’ve talked before about the tendency of this genre to idolize bad boys and unhealthy relationships, and the best of School President is a Maid has always provided some counter to that tendency, even as it embraces it as a whole. Never before has there been a greater excuse to present some serious development of Usui away from his wastrel ways, and the success or failure of the show, I think, will lie in how well it can take advantage of this.