Maid-Sama!, orKaichō wa Maid-Sama! translated My President is a Maid, is currently serialized in Lala magazine in Japan. Brought to America by Tokyopop, this hilarious rom-com is a title that will be sadly missed by shojo readers here in the states. Maid-Sama! entertains with its strong-willed protagonists and ridiculous scenarios that keep the reader in stitches.
The Gist: Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president at a high school recently turned co-ed. She’s known as the demon president by the mostly male student body, as she coerces the boys to behave more civilized in order to improve the school’s reputation and protect the few female students. But she has a secret – her part time job is as a waitress at a maid cafe. If any of the male student body were to discover this then her reputation as president might be tarnished. Unfortunately, just that scenario happens when Usui Takumi runs into Misaki during work one day. Misaki prepares herself for harassment at school, but confusingly, Usui doesn’t tell anyone. What could Usui’s motive be, and what will Misaki do when Usui continues to show up at her job everyday?
The Characters/Romance: Misaki is a tsundere character – she comes across as strong and mean to most of the students, but she really has a protective, sensitive side. She desires to be heroic and always triumph over others. I think the contrast between her leadership role of student body president, and the servitude role of the waitress at the maid cafe, make for an interesting character dynamic. She is a natural leader, but is also able to play the disinterested servant. This is what attracts Usui in the beginning. Also, she has a dislike for boys ever since her father deserted their family. Due to this she is quite naive when dealing with members of the opposite sex, and sees any feminine reactions to them as a weakness. When she begins having feelings towards Usui, she denies them to herself and Usui, although it is evident to others how she feels.
Usui is the mystery man in the story. Misaki calls him a “perverted space alien” as he seems to unrealistically be talented at everything, and is always sexually teasing her. He can usually be found by Misaki’s side and often comes to her rescue. I found Usui to be a very flat character in the beginning of the series, as he seemed like a convenient male puppet, one who was there to rescue when needed, and sexually harass to keep the story interesting. I think Fujiwara’s Japanese readers got the same impression. Readers wrote in to Fujiwara questioning why Usui was so perfect, and if he had any faults. Usui doesn’t get much development until the fifth book of the series, when the readers discover that Usui has a “time bomb” over his head. That is a very late development, and even by book eight, the last volume from Tokyopop, we still don’t know Usui’s story. I find this a weakness in Fujiwara’s story development. Usui could have been a more well-rounded character if the hints about his background had started earlier on in the series.
Despite Fujiwara’s short-sightedness on that point, I still think interactions between Misaki and Usui are humorous and interesting. Although Misaki is very dense about Usui, he is still able to provoke her reactions. There were several times I found myself laughing out loud during crazy escapades by the two protagonists. The story is very entertaining and a fun read.
The Art: Fujiwara fills the story with a ton of dialogue, so it’s no surprise that the panels seem crowded. Fujiwara’s strengths are her character designs and costuming. The sentimental scenes are well drawn, and she has talent for expressing emotions visually.
The Audience: The story is a high school rom-com, and is appropriate for tweens and teens. A few kisses are exchanged, and there is some cross dressing, but all to ignite laughs or sentimental reactions.
The Media: Maid -Sama! is available in the states from Tokyopop up to volume 8. I really wish Tokyopop had done a better job on this series, as I found many editing mistakes in various volumes as I read. It was disheartening. I don’t know if someone else can pick up the license, but this series is well liked by shoujo fans as evidenced by several volumes making the New York Times manga best seller list. In April 2010, the series was produced into a 26 episode anime. The anime is being released by Section23Films in an English subtitled-only version this month. Copies of the subtitled version can be found online and at retail video stores.
Better character development and a tighter story line are needed to make this story an essential read for shoujo fans. But if you’re looking for funny and entertaining, this series serves up a generous helping.