Kaichou wa Maid-sama! 1 shoujo manga review: Meido and misandry ~de arimasu

This is the rambling version of the review posted in Japanator.

My Sweet Kaicho 1 front cover

Kaichou wa Maid-sama! shoujo manga volume 1:
Meido and misandry ~de arimasu
Review by huamulan03 (Some rights reserved)

Contrary to what the front cover and the Kaichou wa Maid-sama! title lead you to expect, Ayuzawa Misaki (on the right) is *not* a meido ~de arimasu. At least, not in any classic moe sense.

Instead, she's the first female student council president of Seika High, a formerly exclusive boys' school, and from this achievement, we're supposed to get that Misaki's not your normal shōjo heroine. But that she's also a misandrist (man-hating to the rest of us), all-knowing (like some of us), and loathes seeing male students running in corridors shirt-less (not like the rest of us) means she's supposed to transcend genre limits—to blunder into authoritarianism, the likes of which we haven't encountered in a shōjo manga.

And if those swallowed the Disciplinary Committee rule book character tweaks still aren't enough to shove Misaki into scary-different territory, did I mention that she also part-times as a maid in a café? Sometimes, even with cat ears.

Hit the jump for more Now what, Goshujin-sama?! spoilage.

(BTW, the preceding quote is a paraphrase of scanlation group Aku Tenshi's What should we do Goshujin-sama!? tagline for this series.)

Imagine the much-feared, in-full-costume Misaki-chan's consternation when Seika idol Usui Takumi finds out what she gets up to after class. Horrors! This Big Secret- and meido-troped development sets up Fujiwara Hiro-sensei's Kaichou wa Maid-sama! (会長はメイド様!), one of the titles currently serialized in LaLa magazine. Four tankoubon have been released, with the fifth skedded to street May 2008. Retitled My Sweet Kaicho for the Indonesian market, the translated version I read went on sale last 1st April 2008.

To use cliché-ese, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! was a serendipitous find. I didn't even realize the series was an Hakusensha asset when I chose it over the first volume of Yamada Keiko-sensei's Limited Lovers (which also went on sale the same time); I only twigged after thinking that Usui overly resembled the character Motonari from Minami Sachi-sensei's Colorful Joker and that Misaki and Usui's dynamics have that Hikari x Kei from Special A feel. Comparisons aside, though, Kaichou wa Maid-sama! secures emotional investment on its own chikara.

Sed strength rests squarely on Misaki-kaichou, for what passes for plot in this first volume mainly consists of hunting down school delinquencies (earrings, bleached hair, unbuttoned blazers, ecchi magazines) and the usual school festival thingy. Misaki's working in Maid Café Latte, unlike Uru's part-time employment at Café Bonheur in Shiawase Kissa 3-chome, and her Maid-sama secret identity are not as pertinent to driving the narrative forward.

Despite the somewhat unflattering portrait with which I opened this review, Misaki is a surprisingly endearing, if bristling (like a threatened cat), character. Her hatred of men and consequent championing of female students' interests (at the expense of the male contingent's) stem from having a father up and disappear on her and her mom. Now I'm not saying her prejudice and reverse sexism are justifiable—just that they're credible. Furthermore, these "quirks" lay the foundation for future character growth. Anything but servile Misaki works at the maid café so that her remaining parent wouldn't overexert herself. Overexertion and compulsive perfectionism are Misaki's province.

My Sweet Kaicho 1 (ID) episode 4 title illustration

That there's more to Misaki than intolerance is what draws love interest Usui Takumi. Setting aside the fact that Usui apparently desires a personal maid, he's the first to realize that Misaki can only push herself, Miyazawa Yukino-like, so far and thus, sets himself up (very early) as her bodyguard. (That's probably why he's the first to uncover Misaki's secret.) He sometimes acts as her suppressed conscience, too. There's some overt chauvinism on Usui's part: Remember that you're just a girl, Misaki-chan, he tells the student council president he usually addresses as Kaichou in the requisite-someone's-stalking-meido-Misaki subplot, but thankfully, Misaki proves him wrong with a few, You go! aikido slams (of the stalkers, not of Usui).

As for Usui, much as I fangirl this bishounen, he comes across one-dimensional. Like all shoujo heroes, Usui's smart (he scores higher than Misaki in exams); he speaks Excuse me, another cup of coffee? English better than anyone in school; he's no wimp (he can kick down doors); and he flies (he jumps down from the school rooftop to retrieve an embarrassing (to Misaki) photograph of himself and the Kaichou in maid costume). The conformism to template is such that it wouldn't surprise me to discover that he's as rich as any of the Ouran boys, too.

The only time Usui went against norm was when he cosplayed an American soldier (instead of a Shinsengumi member) during the school festival. Additionally, he's not exactly shy when it comes to Making His Move; the occasions when Fujiwara Hiro-sensei ups the UST stakes between the two are pure heart-throb. Plus Usui confesses first! Kyaaaa!! *swoons* (hey, this is me; I gotta lapse into fangirlitis sometime.)

The art: The character design is classic Hakusensha shoujo visual styled—as hinted at earlier, you can even swap the lead male character with another series' hero. The action scenes (what there were of it, called for by Misaki's martial arts prowess and Usui's perforce keeping up) were mostly effective; my only quibble was Usui's flight - there wasn't enough detail to emphasize the jump, just an abbreviated aspect montage of trees and leaves. As for the leaning in, kissing, and kokuhaku scenes, especially with their suspenseful build-up, I have no complaints.

And for all that the series uses the meido trope to sell, there's no fan service.

Omake: What there is of, after the first four chapters of Kaichou wa Maid-sama!, is a one-shot: the more serious Dunia Tembus Pandang (Transparent World), which stars three characters who are not in a love triangle. The chara designs of Michiru, Takahashi, and Fujishiro are less boilerplate and their story, more angsty than Misaki's but still enjoyable for all the difference.

Another one-shot—Closing Time, Misaki's interview to become wait-staff at Maid Café Latte—closes the first volume.

All in all, I would say Kaichou wa Maid-sama! lived up to the hype (belatedly discovered) and is undoubtedly good value on any front. I look forward to collecting the series (much more so than Morinaga Ai-sensei's My Heavenly Hockey Club).

Rating Kaichou wa Maid-sama! vol. 1

7 of 10 blackmail-material photographs

~niki DBA 花木蘭03 who understands why m&c! chose to brand this series Sweet. It is. Awww-somely!

copyright information
Kaichou wa Maid-sama! is © Fujiwara Hiro. First published in Japan in 2006 by HAKUSENSHA, INC., Tokyo.
Indonesian translation rights in Indonesia arranged with HAKUSENSHA, INC. through ANIMATION INTERNATIONAL LTD. Indonesian copyright (2007) PT Gramedia.

, , , , , , , romance, comedy, school life

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Ligaya said...

Hey, this is awesome! The title is in English; are the contents of the Indonesian-market manga in English too, or in Indonesian? Who's the publisher? Sorry for all the questions but I would really like to get a hard-copy version of this awesome manga. Thanks. ^_^

huamulan03 said...

Hi and thanks for dropping by!

My Sweet Kaicho is in Indonesian. The series is published by Gramedia under the m&c! imprint. Gramedia apparently has this thing about retitling manga, manhua, manhwa in English (sometimes in Indonesian tho those are very, very rare).

And ITA that Maid-sama! is pure Awwwsomeness ^^

Anonymous said...

if u wantto see vol 7 go to www.mangafox.com or else www.onemanga.com

from foxblade2 usuixayuzawa 4ever!^¬^

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