Maid-sama! Volumes 1 and 2 by Hiro Fujiwara
It has been some time since I’ve read this series. I think I read around 4 or 5 volumes or so of the Tokyopop release, so the new omnibus from Viz provided a good excuse to give the series a second try. I totally understand why Maid-sama! would be a strong title to re-release since it has an anime adaptation too. However, a tiny part of me will still hope in vain for some reissues of some of the other less commercial series that got cut off when Toykopop went under.
The maid in this title is Misaki Ayuzawa, a high achieving girl who has become president of a school that has only recently gone co-ed. She’s uncomfortable around boys and has made it her mission to clean up the school and abolish delinquent behaviors in order to protect the small female population. She’s super stern and has great physical prowess when it comes to beating up her fellow students. While she’s a perfect student at school, Misaki has to make ends meet by working as a waitress at a maid cafe as her part-time job. In the first few pages of the manga, Misaki’s secret is discovered by Takumi Usui, a popular and somewhat cynical boy who attends her school. He promptly decides to hold Misaki’s secret over her head and begins to pop up now and then whenever something might go wrong.
Misaki navigates issues with student-council relations, dealing with a rival school, and navigating random cross-dressing events at her part-time job. Aside from the relationship between Misaki and Usui, the manga is pretty entertaining, as Misaki’s outsize reactions to everything gradually begin to mellow out a bit as she begins to relate to all the students at her school as human beings, not just the girls. I had also totally forgotten about the idiot trio, a group of background characters that also discover Misaki’s secret identity as a maid and mostly function to gaze at her adoringly and act occasionally like a slapstick Greek chorus. Fujiwara’s art is clear and easy to follow, and very dynamic when Misaki is leaping into action to defend womanhood or juggling a ton of customers at her part-time job.
The part of this manga that bugs me and I think contributed to my decision to stop reading it before, is that Usui is utterly unappealing as a shoujo male lead to me. His general mode of interaction is to randomly show up, invade Misaki’s space, and make her feel confused and flustered. He also keeps forcing physical affection on Misaki when she’s not a willing participant, as some sort of power game. Also, Fujiwara goes to great length to demonstrate Misaki’s physical prowess when her being strong is funny or over the top, but Misaki suddenly becomes weak and incapable when it serves the purpose of the plot to have Usui rescue her from herself. He’s also constantly reminding Misaki that she’s a girl who needs help, and it only serves to make it appear like the main message of this manga is that a girl with strong type A tendencies needs a man to help her out. For folks who aren’t put off by this relationship dynamic, I do think that Maid-sama! is plenty entertaining. I just find series like Oresama Teacher or My Love Story! much more amusing if I’m looking for something fun to read in the shoujo comedy genre.