School President is a Maid Episode 26 – Love’s Trials
Well, when Erika acted as a writer mouthpiece and predicted that Usui and Misaki would need to overcome a serious obstacle in order to make a romance between them possible, I wasn’t expecting something as literal as what actually happened. I was thinking, “Oh, Usui will need to overcome whatever block forces him to dominate Misaki so much, and open himself up in a meaningful way to the vulnerability that comes with the intimacy of a relationship.” I was not thinking, “Oh, they are going to do an obstacle course.” Vague prophecy this was not.
While the overt aspect of it had the potential to be trite and hamfistedly moralizing, the show manages to avoid the trite groanfest this could have been. This episode, the finale of the show, doesn’t officially renounce Usui’s more aggressive manipulation techniques or dominating tendencies. But it does create a situation where those elements are naturally displaced by honesty, partnership, and indeed love.
Usui and Misaki had been left to their own devices at the end of last episode, which meant they had nothing better to do than wander around one of the most cleverly designed culture festivals in anime. Mistaken for being a couple, they are urged to enter a “Love Trial” test, which promises a special prize for those who can go through a set of obstacles. The catch is that they have to hold hands for the entire time.
Usui, seeing the connection to the prophecy, jumps at the chance to join, and successfully goads Misaki into it as well by appealing to her competitive nature. She’s a bit reluctant at first, but eventually grows enthusiastic, or at least determined, and together the two of them rip their way through the course in record time. It’s a reminder again of how strong they are as partners, and it’s telling that Misaki just as much as Usui is shown as contributing to their success. This isn’t a situation where Misaki has to be rescued.
Their success is basically assured, and by the end of the event they’ve acquired a crowd just watching their incredible performance. With their victory logged, they get a special prize for the evening, which winds up being fitted for costumes in the style of Romeo and Juliet for a date at the night’s fireworks show.
I think that, under normal circumstances, Misaki would have turned down the offer entirely. Particularly after making sure Sakura is alright, she technically doesn’t have any reason to stay around, save for actually spending time with Usui. But something changed over the course of the day; although Misaki doesn’t like to admit it aloud, she really wants to keep holding Usui’s hand.
Of course they wind up in a private place to watch the fireworks, and there both of them finally begin to let their guard down. Misaki, recalling her conversation with Kuuga, asks why Usui is bearing with her so much; Usui counters by asking what about him specifically bothers her so much. After Misaki’s immediate protests are dismissed as lies, she finally admits something resembling her affection for Usui; at the least, he’s the only one who can bother her so.
With that, Usui responds by listing all the ways in which Misaki inspires similar feelings for him—although he’s more honest that the feelings he has are romantic in nature—and finally kisses her, this time with her obvious consent. Afterward he again tells her he loves her, and this time it is clear that he’s not making it up as part of a perverted game. Misaki can’t quite express her feelings in the same way, but she walks back holding hands with him.
It’s a opening in their relationship we haven’t seen them reach since the sixth episode (still one of my favorites), and unlike the first time it is no longer unexpected or unreciprocated. It is based on the two of them overcoming their natural blocks on honest expression and approaching something resembling a true admission of how the feel. For Misaki and especially for Usui, it’s a remarkably open moment between them.
I shouldn’t say that Usui is completely open and fair-dealing this episode. Early on he turns on the charm (apparently by signaling one of the animators to make him more handsome) to acquire the attention of every single girl in his general vicinity, in an attempt to make Misaki jealous, for example. What’s notable about these attempts is that they don’t matter; the attempt to foster jealousy just fosters annoyance. What worked in building their relationship was the honest cooperation and effort of the two.
I’m also disappointed not just that Hinata’s role as a romantic rival was not sufficiently resolved; we don’t have the slightest idea what his reaction will be to Misaki’s recent breakthroughs with Usui. And on Usui’s side, we still don’t have the slightest understanding of his backstory. The ending credit sequence constantly teased us with the idea that he was born in affluence yet separated from (abandoned by?) his mother at a young age. Nothing of the sort has been discussed within the show.
So we are left with an ending, but not the ending. Usui and Misaki has crossed a point of no return in their relationship, but they are not necessarily even dating at this point, and Misaki is still unable to audibly admit her affections save in a very roundabout way. Usui has made some notable progress opening up and honestly portraying himself, but is still hiding some kernel of himself away. This episode leaves little doubt (not like there ever was any in the first place) what the end result will be, but we aren’t there yet.
Given the original manga is still ongoing, this is hardly a surprise; not only are the writers not going to destroy their changes at a second season, but anime original endings typically are poorly thought out and clumsily integrated anyway. (I can think of only one series where the anime wrote their own ending to the material and I was happy with it.) The stopping point they picked left a solid feeling of progression in their relationship.
Even thought it feels like at least some of the meat of the series has been left for future endeavors, the final run of School President is a Maid returned the show back to the level of its opening episodes, and left me with a reasonable sense of satisfaction. It’s not an immediate choice for best show of the year, but it accomplishes what it wants to accomplish and manages to end well. As the offerings this season have shown, that in itself can be a rarity.
Series Review: School President is a Maid had a long and very uneven middle section, which diminished my overall enthusiasm of the show. Where the first eight episodes (minus, say, episode five) and the last six episodes were very strong and well paced, the ones in between were occasionally good, and occasionally awful, but never great. Frankly, the show devoted too much time to incidental side plots that, while expectable in a padded-out manga series, should have been on the cutting room floor for an anime adaption.
Also, as mentioned above, the show can’t provide a truly proper ending, even though it presents a reasonable facsimile. There are too many loose ends, and one remaining plot (Hinata’s pursuit of Misaki) that is just too important to sweep under the rug—but that winds up happening anyway. No doubt when and if a second season is animated, we’ll have some of those issues addressed. Whether they all are depends on whether there will be a third.
Despite my complaints, School President is a Maid still manages to be one of the better romantic comedies released in the past year. Its basic concept is solid, its animation is lively and employed with a good sense of comedic visuals, and Misaki is a model for how to properly do tsundere characters right. It won’t win over anyone uninterested in its genre—the mark of a truly great show—but for those who like this sort of thing, School President is a solid, mid-level offering. Just feel free to skip over an episode here and there.