Anime Review: Kaichou wa Maid-sama Episodes 16, 17, and 18

(Originally published on Livejournal on 9/2/10)

Anime Review:
Kaichou wa Maid-sama Episodes 16, 17, and 18

About The Series: Misaki is the tough-as-nails class president at a recently-gender-integrated high school, where she is working hard to protect the handful of female students while trying to turn the reputation of the school around. However, she also holds a secret: Misaki works at a maid cafe in a nearby town. If anyone at the school were to discover her secret, her personal reputation would be ruined! So, what happens when one of her classmates, the ever-cool Usui, discovers her part-time job?

ep.16 tl;dr review: Staff of the Maid Latte head to the beach; Special swimsuit edition of the maid cafe for a day.

Episode 16 Synopsis: It’s Summer, and the staff at the Maid Latte Cafe take a break to head on down to the beach to stay with the manager’s sister, Nagisa, for a few days. They arrive to find Nagisa along with Aoi (all dolled up in his cross-dressing gear), where she operates a beach house that isn’t doing so well due to its location. They get the brilliant idea to put on a one-day special swimsuit edition of their maid cafe as a way to drum up business, and everyone pitches in except for Misaki. Feeling guilty, she also decides to help out, but when she dons a skimpy outfit Takumi immediately plants a giant hickey on her back — so that she wouldn’t be able to show off her body and forcing her to wear a t-shirt. After a successful day, the crew goes out to a local hot springs to celebrate, but Misaki is angry at Takumi because she can’t go, lest the mark on her back is exposed.

ep.17 tl;dr review: Aoi-kun insists on being Aoi-chan; Aoi teams up with Misaki to win the volleyball tournament and his freedom.

Episode 17 Synopsis: Aoi is insistent that he wear his girlie outfits, but Nagisa is adamant that he dress up like a boy — after all, he was sent to the beach house over the Summer so that he could learn to be a bit more manly. As a compromise, Nagisa strike a deal with him: if he is able to win the big beach volleyball tournament, then Aoi can have his way, and he can even return back home if he wants. Misaki, realizing how important this is to him, offers to team up with Aoi. Takumi overhears, and makes his own decision to enter the tournament and force Misaki to lose, so that she wouldn’t get all the attention at the end of the tournament as “Queen of the Beach”. As expected, the tournament ends up with Aoi and Misaki versus Takumi and Erika. During a crucial moment, Misaki is heading for a big crash, and Takumi puts his body in the way to protect her, causing an injury to himself that forces his team to concede. Nagisa admits that Aoi did well, he ends up strutting at the end of the day as “Queen of the Beach”, Takumi and Misaki have a personal moment, and everyone ends their holiday vacation with fireworks.

ep.18 tl;dr review: Miyabigaoka’s VP wants to buy out the maid cafe; It’s all a thinly-veiled way for the class prez to taunt Misaki.

Episode 18 Synopsis: Kanade, the vice president of the Miyabigaoka Academy, waltzes in to the Maid Cafe and offers to buy them out. He’s the son of a major restaurant conglomerate, and wants to raze the building and create a butler cafe. But Misaki knows better: This is really just a way for the president, Tora, to twist the knife into her by attacking all of her friends. Tora explains there will be auditions for butlers at the end of the week, and all but hints that Misaki should try out as a way to prove her worth. Naturally, thickheaded Misaki falls for it, showing up disguised as a man along with Subaru to compete. Hundreds show up, but as a team Misaki and Subaru pass the first round. During an intense second round, Subaru is exposed as a woman and disqualified; and another mystery team is also uncovered: Takumi, paired up with Aoi who is also disqualified for being underage. Misaki, claiming she’s a man, ends up having to team up with Takumi to continue onwards, under the leery eye of Tora who assents to the pairing, with visions of torturing Misaki on his mind.

My Thoughts: Two “Summer break” episodes, followed by the first part of a multi-story arc against Misaki’s biggest “villain”. The best thing about the two-part beach trip is that the insipid Moron Trio were sidelined (although they had to take a minute to show them pitifully sitting outside the cafe like lost dogs). Also, for some reason they took a moment to show Misaki’s autistic sister at home eating watermelon she won in a contest. No point, just sitting there…eating watermelon…

Anyway, Back to the Beach (No no no, not the postmodern spoof with Frankie and Annette and Pee-Wee Herman and Dick Dale from the Eighties, silly!), is it really any surprise that the Cafe Latte Crew ends up doing a beach-ified version of their maid service? I guess the only real surprise was how much of a total dick that Takumi ended up being, first by forcing her to the sidelines with his big wet hickey of a kiss, and then by taking his teasing over her fear of ghosts too far. And then the next day, he takes on the role as spoiler in the volleyball tournament, opposing Misaki for his own selfish reasons even though he knows that it will crush Aoi.

Y’know, the more this show goes on, the more Usui Takumi is turning from the knight in shining armor into a Grade-A Asshole. At first, it started out as a joke, “I’m Misaki’s stalker, ha-ha-ha”, then a few episodes later he says it it only half-jokingly with Misaki looking on with consternation, and now he really *is* acting like a stalker. He grabs and put his personal mark on Misaki’s back (and she just TAKES it, sheesh!), because he can’t STAND the idea that other people would be looking at her in her skimpy outfit. Never mind that this impairs her ability to help her friends supporting the beach house (more mentally than physically, really), and never mind that this ruins her ONLY chance to go to the hot springs with everyone on her first vacation in god knows how long. Then he teases her half out of her wits with ghost stories (poking fun at her weakness), then running up silently to her in the dark, terrifying her, then putting on his “coming to the rescue” act to comfort her. What an ass!

But wait, that’s not all! The very next day, his unquenchable possessive streak strikes again, when he enters the volleyball tournament to stop Misaki from winning. Why? Because if she wins, she would be the top woman on the Beach and admired by everyone, and oh no that could never happen, he’s the only one that can have her! Never mind that it ruins the very reason she’s in the tournament to begin with, which is to help Aoi. In a moment of extreme frustration, Misaki even blurts out how much she hates that Takumi *has* to be her opponent. And, of course, he gets the opportunity to come the rescue once again to save her from injury, playing the role of savior. Stalker, or Knight in Shining Armor? Perhaps a little of both.

I suppose that Takumi has always been a stalker asshole, but the beach episodes really put the cherry on top. Even more disappointing to me is how much Misaki has come to accept it, and subconsciously fall for him. Why do some women always fall for jerks? (Rhetorical question, natch.)

But then again, Mr. Savior does serve a useful purpose: When he’s not saving Misaki from problems he causes, he’s also saving Misaki from herself. Her ultra-rich cross-town rival strike again, using his vice president as a pawn to try to get his claws into the maid cafe. Misaki can tell it’s really just a way for him to get back at her, and Takumi realizes it as well. And yet, Misaki still manages to fall for his plan hook, line and sinker by goading her into entering the butler tryouts. Now we have Misaki desperately running around in competition with Tora looking on with that rich-guy sneer on his face, salivating over his opportunity to ridicule and belittle her. Takumi is also there; Misaki may think he’s competing against her, but he’s really there to save her from her inevitable downfall. Whether you think it’s protective, or possessive, it’s clear that Misaki is not as independent as she thinks, and does need someone there to support her. I just with it was support (as an equal) instead of protection (as a kindly parent or caretaker).

Hmm, ultimately I guess that’s where my frustration is growing with this show — the relationship that is evolving between Misaki and Takumi is not one between equals. Never really was, I suppose, looking back. But I would have hoped that the series would be as much about Takumi helping and changing Misaki, as it would be about Misaki helping and changing Takumi. Well, Misaki is not the same person she was at the beginning, but Takumi remains just as pompous. And it’s not like there’s much time left in the series for any real growth or development on his part.

The Verdict:

Up Next: Senkou no Night Raid, Ookami-san, Highschool of the Dead, The Occult Academy

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