Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Manga Review: Maid-Sama! (volume one)

Got this one out of the local library but I have read a few volumes of Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! (The (student body) President is a Maid!) online before the anime aired last spring and I liked the series enough to try the anime. I watched about half-way through the series before Sentai licensed it and, since their simulcasts weren't free, I decided to stop watching the show (fansubs included) and that sounds like it was a good idea, I've seen a number of manga readers unhappy with how the stories were moved around/changed for the anime. Which is a shame if it's true since I do like this manga pretty well and I hate to see nice things get bad adaptations (but who doesn't feel that way?).

Maid-Sama! by Hiro Fujiwara

Summary: Until recently, the moderately priced Sekai High School was an all boys high school and still has a high male to female ratio and most of the boys, while not bad people, are less than considerate of the girls. Man-hater Misaki has stepped up to the challenge of being the student council president of this unruly high school and when she isn't working herself to the bone there she's working part time at a maid cafe to earn money for her family, two aspects of her life that she really doesn't want to mix. But as life would have it one of her classmates, the attractive Usui, finds out about her secret and is fond of teasing her about what everyone else would think about their president being a maid....

The Good: Misaki is a pretty cool and fun character who, even in just this volume alone, has some character development as she begins to get along with and respect the guys around her. Sometimes it takes Usui to appeal to her more moderate and fair side but, when it's pointed out to her that she's favoring the girls more than the boys (such as when she confiscates all the guy's magazines but none of the girl's) she's quick to act and see if she needs to revise her statements. And the maid cafe she works at doesn't come off feeling like a gimmick to make people read the series, it really does feel like a cafe that simply has a maid theme, nothing sleazy about it. Finally, it's nice to have a female character who can physically kick ass every now and then if she needs to, it's just fun to watch.

The Bad: Like many other shojo series that have been reviewed here, this one uses a roughly 30 page short story to fill out the volume which is a bit frustrating. There's nothing wrong with the story story* but it is frustrating to pick up a manga, expect it to have 150-180 pages about the main storyline and then find a good chunk of the book is devoted to something else, do the editors in Japan just want to stretch out the number of volumes in books that aren't epic length, shonen series? As for the story itself, Masaki has already had a good bit of character development in this volume alone but this is still an on-going series, 12 volumes currently, can the material really go that long without feeling forced and stretched? It's no fun to read a series that starts off great and then becomes mediocre as it goes on and this one starts out so fun that this might be the case. Judging from the page over on tvtropes, it sounds like the story is in fact winding down just can it really maintain this level of fun without getting repetitive?

The Art: While the art has a shojo feel to it it's not nearly as stylized as many other series are. There are plenty of big eyes on the guys and girls and Misaki has a round, cute looking face but the art doesn't scream shojo, it says it in a conversational tone instead. Actually, the art in this book is probably similar to what most people think of when they think of "manga style art" and it reminds me of why I was attracted to manga in the first place, cuter, simpler designs than found in American comic books where every thing looks attractive.

Drat, when I was reading this I suddenly remembered that this was published by TokyoPop so this is technically an out of print manga (they published 8 volumes before they collapsed) and, if I want to avoid high prices later, I need to buy this now. But the thing is I'm just not sure if I'll like the rest of the series as much as I enjoyed this installment, decisions decisions....

*in fact, I would love to have a hardcover, ominibus sized volume just of the various short stories you find in the back of shojo manga since I have come across a number of sweet yet interesting ones.