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Review: Maid Sama! Collection One

Seika High has little hope of shaking its boisterous reputation, even with the few girls who’ve dared to apply since its switch from being an all-boys’ school to a co-ed institution. All the female students have been trampled by the lads in their persistence in enforcing their supremacy. That is, save for Misaki Ayuzawa, the school’s first female student council president. Since her first day, juggling her part-time job and studies as her home falls into disrepair, she’s pushed herself towards that top spot in the student body, determined to use the status to make the school a supportive place for girls. Along the way, she’s made a name for herself as the man-hating “Demon President”. But she’s more worried her private life will spoil her reputation, as she works as a waitress at a maid café to fund her own tuition.

Perhaps the last boy she was concerned about, the supremely chilled-out and popular Takumi Usui, is the first to find out her secret. But he intends to indulge in keeping it to himself, becoming a regular at Maid Latte in a goading courtship display. So begins the hentai-boy meets tsundere-girl dance of advance and rebuff. While this is repeated and stretched out to the point of absurdity, their relationship and the focal settings of Seika High and Maid Latte open up some unexpected exploration of society’s defects, and more atypical angles of what it can mean to show or hide your true self.

To begin with, the story seems to be about Misaki coming to accept that the softer side she shows as her maid self isn’t going to put a blot on her presidential standing, but just a few episodes in, she learns to ease up on the boys and get them on her side in improving the school. There are some clever comments on sexual harassment and discrimination, while the well-paced reveals of the difficulties Misaki faces at home and at work further empower her successes, but apart from these notable points the series lacks focus, or a new main goal for Misaki to aspire to. In fact, she seems to be weighed down by pulling the show along on her own, as none of the other characters are developed any further than their starting points.

You get the feeling that Usui is concealing plenty of his own troubles, and that if you could only take a peek beyond his cool countenance, Maid Sama! would achieve a much-needed injection of intrigue. But by the final episode of this first cour, there’s the sense, or at least the hope, that this might just be on the horizon.

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