What They Say:
Misaki Ayuzawa has enough problems being the first female student council president of the formerly all-male Seika High School. When cool, aloof and oh-so-handsome Usui Takumi discovers that she’s also a waitress at a local maid cafe by night, things get very interesting, very quickly! Toss in an organized crime cartel, a handful of extremely annoying transfer students, and the inevitable trip to the hot springs and everyone is bound to end up in hot water one way or another. But Misaki isn’t going to let any of that stop her from maintaining order in the classroom and taking orders in the tea room.
The audio presentation for this release is certainly an improvement overall as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the new English language track, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. That said, Maid-Sama is a pretty straightforward romantic comedy type show where the mix is all about the dialogue and some of the wacky antics and over the top mayhem that happens so it pretty much dominates the forward soundstage with some minor moments of directionality. Mostly it’s meant to just be a big piece when it goes in that direction while the rest of the time it keeps to the usual play of dialogue between characters. There’s some placement to be had at times but there aren’t any surprises here nor are there any problems as we didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing starting in the spring of 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show runs for twenty-six full length episodes and a half length twenty-seventh episode which is spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format. The series isn’t one with a huge amount of detail or depth to it with the designs and backgrounds so what we get is a middle of the mark bit rate in general, which largely works for it in making things very solid in the color fields. The show has a pretty good color palette to it where it uses normal school style colors and some bright but not garish or overpowering in nature. The series is animated by J.C. Staff so it has a good look about it with solid designs, clean animation and plenty of fluid animation when required. It’s not a budget production but it works things smartly so it has the right amount of detail without looking cheap or over designed. It’s certainly an upgrade overall and is the best the show has looked in its North American release.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case where the first two discs are on a hinge and the third is against the back interior wall. The front cover goes for the obvious here with a shot of Misaki in her maid uniform looking all cute and sexy while trying not to overdo it too much so that it appeals to the right fetishes. It’s colorful in the right way with plenty of cute bits to it while laying out the show itself, the episode count and disc total, which can certainly influence a purchase. It also has a spot for highlighting that it has a new English language dub. The back cover is yet another angled piece with the basic layout from the front cover is replicated but the center has the summary, split into two columns no less, angled with a full length shot of Misaki breaking it up. There are some decent small shots through the middle strip while the bottom has the production information in black against pink and a clean technical grid done in black and white. It’s all very cleanly laid out and looks very good while being easy to read. No reversible cover is included nor are there any show related inserts included.
The menu design for this takes the background from the front cover of the package with the heart shaped doily and it has a bit more pop and vibrancy here that helps it stand out all the more. The foreground of each disc uses different character configurations and outfits, such as the first having a great image of Misaki and Usui together with her in the maid uniform serving a dessert with a great smile to her face. The navigation is the same style across all the discs with it being pink and white with a dash of blue for the cursor that highlights the episodes by number and title for easy browsing and viewing. It also works nicely as the pop-up menu during the show as it fits in with the theme well enough. There’s not much in the way of submenus here outside of the languages and extras, but it all works smoothly and without issue.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the shoujo manga by Hiro Fujiawara that’s literally translated as The President is a Maid!, Maid-Sama! is a twenty-six episode series by J.C. Staff that deals with some familiar themes but with a few changes to it that gives it some potential. The idea of a student body president that moonlights as a waitress at a maid cafe isn’t exactly fresh, nor that she basically has two personalities to it, but I liked that idea that it has in that the school was a boys only school up until the last couple of years and there’s still very few women. Because of that, Misaki has risen quickly and she’s putting all her efforts into recruiting more women to the school through things like the culture festivals and so forth. The disparity in the genders gives it something different to work with while not making it an entirely new situation like a school who just changed its policy.
Misaki is like a lot of strong female leads in that she has a personality that comes across as harsh at times, but she has softer moments as well. There are a lot of factors that go into why she is the way she is at school, especially when it comes to trying to attract more women to the school as she does her best to get the guys to walk the straight and narrow so as to learn some manners. Years and years of the school being one way and only a couple with it integrated has a lot of things to work through. And with her personality in that she takes on everything herself to get it done since others fall through, both boys and girls, and that has her working long hours and only getting more frustrated. To make matters even worse, she comes from a poor family in a home that’s quite literally falling apart so she ends up working a job in order to help make ends meet. But the only job she could really get was that of a waitress in a maid cosplay cafe the next town over. She’s managed to avoid having anyone from school see her, but that all changes when Usui ends up finding her there.
Usui being the kind of guy he is where he’s fairly cool and collected with an amusing confidence to him, he uses the situation to his advantage and just keeps the knowledge as a bargaining point for things. Not that he calls in on it a lot, such as having her wait on him hand and foot, but rather it’s just more fun on his part to play with her in this way. Usui has his own secrets, but they are only touched on in the lightest of ways here at the very end of this set. Usui has an interest in Misaki, but it’s more of a fun little project and plaything of sorts, though there’s an undercurrent that there’s something else to it. He ends up protecting her in a lot of ways with her secret and from those that try to give her grief, but he gives it to her in their place since he treats her as though she’s his very own and nobody else’s.
While the characters are a bit off from the usual that we get in these situations, and it is what carries it for much of it in this series, the stories themselves are pretty much standard fare. Sometimes they do tweak things just right though to give it its own edge. I would normally write a show off that runs a culture festival in its second episode, but it’s used here to show off the school to prospective female students and they work in a lot of things related to it so it feels like it has an actual purpose. Another story involves Misaki working late for a few nights at the cafe and there being problems in the area with people harassing wait staff, but it has a cute little hook to it, which is admittedly disturbing in real life, but it does some nice role reversal for Misaki as she deals with it. Add in a small but growing cast of characters that never dominate the core pairing and you have some fairly standard stories but what helps to set it apart is that it does keep primarily to these two with an array of friends around Misaki. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it by having other characters dominating and needing their own episodes. They have stories, but they’re the accents to it all.
As can be expected of a series of this nature, the second half brings in some new characters over the course of it. The first one introduced is Kanou, a somewhat quiet and reserved young man who doesn’t have much care for Misaki and ends up working a plan to hypnotize her. It turns into a curious game where he gets the drop on her but she has to resist by staying awake for twenty-four hours. What makes it amusing is that he believes she can’t do it, but since Usui isn’t affected by his hypnotism, he helps her survive it. And it’s one of those moments that brings the two together a bit more since she’s beyond exhausted at that point and has to rely on him. And make some questionable choices as well. Kanou’s an amusing character to some degree, but he lacks a real personality to make it work, even when he’s brought in after all of this to help out with an open house in the school.
Maid-Sama also runs with some time at the beach which isn’t a shock at all as they have Misaki and Usui join the Maid Latte crew at Satsuki’s sisters place on the beach. There’s plenty of frolicking on the beach here, though Misaki takes a step further by wearing her school swimsuit since it’s all she can afford and seems to think it’s stylish, as well as some maid time to be had. The girls all have fun and Usui definitely garners plenty of attention since he his an attractive young man. But what the show does is go with the familiar where they can’t spend too much time without having some maid stuff going on. With Nagisa’s beach house not doing good business because of location, the girls opt to help out on their own by wearing aprons over their swimsuits to do some work and attract customers. Usui is really hilarious here when Misaki does the same with a real swimsuit and he gives her a hickey on her back to stop her from doing so. He does have a jealous streak that manifests in comical ways.
The series does run some simple stories here and there in the mix that plays to the tropes well, such as having an anime themed day at the cafe where the girls get to dress up as magical girls. It certainly has some fun with how far Misaki goes for her job and the cosplay is utterly adorable. Aoi also gets some good material here that works through the way he has to deal with his cross dressing side and how he’s treated. This is also something that plays into a two part story involving the Maid Latte cafe being potentially up for sale to Yumemishi and a few of them try to go through the open auditions to be footmen in the new butler mansion restaurant they want to set up there. It’s not bad stuff, but it’s just simple and at times only moderately interesting at best.
Where things start to move forward a little is the introduction of a new catalyst character in the form of Shintani. Shintani’s an old childhood friend of Misaki’s that they two had some fun back in the day with some amusing quirks to it, especially since it changes it up with him saying he’d wait for her even though he was the one that left to go off to the country after his parents died. But he’s come back in order to find her and see if he can rekindle things since he never stopped being into her. He’s a little dense, a little oblivious and utterly and completely a nice guy which has him kind of all over the map at times. He gets into a bit of a rivalry with Usui who watches him in a way that’s really amusing since he doesn’t trust Shintani and knows what he’s after.
And therein lies the crux. For the bulk of the series, Usui has considered Misaki to be his but rarely really acted on it. They have a lot of moments where there’s movement on both sides about things, mostly a lot of denials from Misaki that are understandable but never really click well. Usui’s interest in her is obvious from the start and he takes an odd way of showing it, but that lessens over time and you see him more as an unusual protector more than anything else. Shintani’s arrival nudges all this forward, but it’s really not until the last main episode that they really get anywhere with it and even then it’s not exactly the most concrete thing. Even the epilogue episode, the half length episode twenty-seven, doesn’t address much of anything in the end.
Considering that it’s been almost four years since Sentai Filmworks first released this series on DVD, I have to admit I was surprised to see it getting an English language dub. A Blu-ray? Not so much since the heavy lifting had been done before outside of the new encoding. A dub of a twenty-seven episode series takes a lot more effort and commitment – and a belief in sales, which must be based on the existing sales in a big way. While the show is fairly straightforward overall, we do get some solid performances here. Monica Rial handles Misaki quite well and there is a lot of material here overall for her to sink her teeth into in bringing her to life. And she does it in the right way since there’s a healthy mix of quiet and outlandish scenes. David Matranga puts in a solid performance here as well, though Usui doesn’t have quite as much range to work with when you get down to it because of the character’s personality. They both do a solid job overall and the supporting cast is mostly on mark, though there wasn’t anything that stood out as exceptional or poor for me with it.
Maid-Sama has its fun throughout the whole run but there’s a certainly kind of sameness about it overall from start to finish once you get the basic setup and quirks out of the way. It’s not a show where you’re going to get a resolution but it’s also one that doesn’t really maximize its humor and what it can do. There are a lot of fun moments to be had and I like the cast and the fact it doesn’t really overdo the fanservice. What it comes down to is that Maid-Sama is the kind of show that scratches the surface but that’s about it. It has some good ideas and could have a lot of fun with what it has to offer, but it never really capitalizes on it. The humor makes you smile at best and the relationships are fun but they never really connect in a deep way. While some shows come right up to the edge and don’t quite make it, This Blu-ray edition certainly helps things in a number of ways for people interested in the show as it’s now accessible to those that prefer dubs and also to those that prefer their shows in high definition. Both are big positives and having it as a compact complete set is also a big plus..
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Running Time: 665 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.