Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Soredemo Machi wa Mawatte Iru Episodes 1 and 2 – Finding the Worst in People

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatte Iru Episodes 1 and 2 – Finding the Worst in People

Maids have long since passed the point of over-saturation in anime, being incorporated as servants to the almost-as-ubiquitous rich girl, a favored cosplay option, or through setting a scene (or a series) in a maid cafe. It’s through the latter that Soredemo tries to weave its particular brand of comedy. Given we just finished a comedy (albeit of a romantic variety) revolving around a maid cafe, it’s easy to see why another such show might be too soon. Nothing destroys humor like overuse.

In order to succeed, Soredemo will need to do something different, if not necessarily better, than what has come before. The surprise is that, at least for the first two episodes, it does.

Kazutoyo Arai runs the most un-maid-like maid cafe in the history of Japan, and Hotori is the perfect un-maid ...

Like Working!! (currently my pick for the best comedy-as-comedy series of the year) and the best of slice of life shows, Soredemo derives its humor from putting a cast of moderately to completely crazy characters into seemingly normal situations and letting them work off each other. This formula doesn’t always work—I defy anyone who says that K-On! was consistently funny—but with solid direction and clever enough scenarios, things can stay wacky enough to keep the laughs coming.

Soredemo’s main strength is to keep the character flaws of its cast on full display. “Heroine” Hotori Arashiyama is brash, unsophisticated, tomboyish, and not particularly bright, which might be one of the reasons why the cafe where she works doesn’t have much business. Another factor might be the elderly lady who runs the place, who also lacks for a pleasant personality, or a clear business plan. (She’s obviously voiced by a male actor.)

... a fact that drives Toshiko completely batty

Hotori’s friend Toshiko Tatsuno is intelligent, gregarious, and pretty—and also a closet otaku, it seems, for she seems personally offended when she sees that the “maid cafe” where Hotori works is just a dingy little dinner where the workers wear maid outfits on the owner’s whim. After trying to train Hotori in how to be a “proper” maid and failing (and with an eye to try to seduce classmate and regular customer Hiroyuki Sanada), she starts working there herself.

After the initial set-up, the first episode concerns the two high schoolers trying to convince their humorless homeroom teacher to let them work at the cafe despite school rules dictating otherwise; the second just lets Hotori cause havoc around town doing simple errands. Nearly all of the humor comes from the characters trying to do unethical or unwise things, and typically suffering for it. (Or causing others to. Or both.)

The show is very fond of showing scenes from the the floor's point of view. It hasn't led to anything being flashed yet, but the show thrives on the suggestion of it

Shaft is known for being fond of screwball comedies with unique art direction, and while this show is less bizarre in both setting and presentation—it’s not nearly as innovative in its visual style as some previous shows by the same studio—it still manages to look just different enough from anything else currently airing. In addition to unique and not particularly attractive character designs, it also relies heavily on unconventional camera angles and rapid transitions.

Puns and other language related humor abounds; it’s important to have a solid translation at your disposal or a really good grasp of the Japanese language in both written and spoken forms if you’re going to understand what’s going on. The humor, as noted above, is very misanthropic, even for a comedy show; if you want to watch something with likable characters, stay far away from this.

Harue Haribara is the show's closest excuse to a decent, ordinary person. That's probably why she's been made so absurdly ugly

That’s probably why I can’t recommend this show quite as much as Working!!, which managed to humanize its extremely quirky cast even while having great fun at their expense. It also means there’s nothing interesting or enjoyable about the show when it’s not being funny, which will be a problem should it ever decide to try a change in tone.

So far, Soredemo keeps enough of an edge to it to stay fresh and enjoyable. It’s also a show where you are laughing at and not with the characters. This isn’t a show where a deadpan snarker character gets to be the informal straight man, serving the role of the audience’s proxy amid the insanity. Despite the rather mundane nature of the events and setting, there is no sanity to be found here. Which is probably just as well.

Hotori treats her siblings even worse than she treats her customers. It's hard to say they don't deserve it at times

Whether it will be able to keep it up or not is an open question, one which will not be covered here. Pure comedy shows are just too hard to block in the antiotaku format. Based on the opening couple episodes, however, I’d say it’s worth watching to find out. So long as you don’t mind not liking people.

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