What They Say:
Despite the oddities of his uncle and the many people who come to visit them, Chihiro finds himself connecting to a family he never even knew existed, and even finds himself connected to his mother more than he could ever imagine. A clean home is a happy home, but a home filled with love, laughter, and family is an even better one.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo alongside the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that’s mostly dialogue based with a few wild reaction pieces in that arena from time to time so it’s not the most expressive of mixes. There’s a simple design to it but it achieves what it sets out to do and feels appropriate for the nature of the show. There’s directionality from time to time when the antics are up a bit more and we get some decent placement within the dialogue during the quieter scenes with some of the interactions. It’s a good mix that’s right for the show and it comes across clean and clear throughout with some good warmth and richness in the opening and closing sequences along with some of the other instrumental bits.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode series is spread across two discs in an eight/four format due to the episodes being a couple of minutes longer through both story and separate English translated credits. Animated by the 8-Bit studio, the series has a really good design to it with its animation through the color palette, the detail of the characters and backgrounds, and some really nicely fluid moments. A lot of what we get is fairly standard sitting around talking kind of pieces so the focus is on the facial expressions, which is where they do some really good things. But costume design is handled very well with its detail and the encoding captures all of these things in a great way. Colors are solid and rich throughout while the darker areas maintain well and there are no problems to be had with breakup or noise nor anything with gradients of note.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with hinges to hold the four discs inside for the two formats. The first pressing also comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork, just with a brighter look to the colors that definitely helps it comes alive a bit more. The front cover is the familiar key visual of the main cast together with lots of smiles as they’re set against the mansion in the background. Bringing in some natural elements with the flowers helps a good bit but it’s really the bright and happy faces that sells it here. The back cover keeps it simple in a way with just a good sized strip of shows along the right as most of what we get is some nice doily elements where the summary of the premise is kept. It covers the basics well while also running through the extras. The background behind it is just some of the mansion interior material but it’s mostly obscured. The rest of the cover has the technical grid that breaks down both formats cleanly and clearly. While there are no show related inserts we do get a reversible cover where the left side has the episodes by number and title and the right has some cute kid maid material.
The menu design keeps it very simple here as it uses the key visual from the packaging cover as its main piece, just with an expanded background so that it can spread across the whole screen, and it does it for both discs. It’s a good piece to work with as it’s bright and cheery and the additional outdoor space brings in more natural colors that enhances it. They do use it for both discs so there’s nothing different on the second disc. The navigation strip is a basic oversized block along the bottom that works well both during regular playback and as a pop-up menu with no issues in setting up language options or navigating the episodes or extras.
The extras for this release are kept minimal and simple with just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Ototachibana of the same name, Shonen Maid is a twelve episode series that aired during the spring 2016 season and ran for twelve episodes. Animated by studio 8-Bit, it’s a bright and fun series that has some good material to work from. The original manga ran for nine volumes, ending just about a year after the anime began airing, so the show covered a good bit of ground overall. The series is certainly one that will make you cringe a bit just in its name and the concept you think it’ll be about but it instead really does charm and work far better than it should. Honestly, a lot of my preconceptions and things I had to shake off while watching it stem from this situation being a standard in boys-love material more than elsewhere, and that’s not what this show is about.
The series revolves around a fourth-grade elementary school student named Chihiro, a pretty good kid that has grown up on the somewhat poorer side of things but with one of those mothers that just makes it an experience. Sadly, his mother has passed away and he’s found himself completely without family and uncertain about his future at this point since so many things are up in the air. What he discovers, however, is that he does have family that he wasn’t aware of when a mysterious uncle named Madoka shows up and brings him home to his mansion. Madoka has that lightness of wealth in a way because of how he’s presented, though some of it is just him trying to bring a smile to Chihiro’s face and find a way to ease his anxiety. But there’s just something about Madoka that makes it clear he has little else to worry about other than Chihiro.
The problems that the two have early on are fairly familiar material where we get Chihiro not wanting to be a burden and really just unsure of this mysterious new uncle. Particularly since his mother had left this family for reasons when she was younger and he’s not sure he wants to be a part of them and accept what they’re offering. And while it is entirely anime trope material, Madoka’s offer for him to work his way to earn what he’s being given is something that fits in with who Chihiro is. Yes, he plays the role of a maid but as a fourth grader it’s shown as him doing cleaning chores and handling other things that most kids can. He doesn’t really go over the top with it as you see in some other shows. And his work there helps grow his skill set and it plays well against him earning the room and board as well as staying in school with those fees being covered. It’s win/win for both sides with a degree of dignity and respect earned for Chihiro.
Part of the struggle is in that Madoka really wants to be a lot closer with Chihiro in a really strong family way. Again, this is an area where you have to shake off those boys-love things that may color your view because Madoka really just wants to help ease him and make him smile like his mother did, someone that Madoka knew quite well for a long time obviously. It takes time for the two to really work their relationship in the right way but as it progresses through a series of very simple and non-threatening little stories we see them bond together and be something more. There’s a slow but steady family bonding thing here that works and it really does become the central focus that makes you smile. Yes, the antics and silliness are all fun, but this is the real heart of things and the payoff is there throughout, right down to the “high stakes” ending episode where Chihiro takes care of an ill Madoka.
The show also works well because it doesn’t focus exclusively on this or the mansion setting. We do have some fun there with another adult in Keiichiro, who serves as Madoka’s secretary, and is basically the all-business side of things with some hilarious quirks and silliness of his own. We also get the introduction of Kazusa, an older woman who befriends Chihiro and bonds with him in a different way that has an obvious reveal toward the end. But for me, the real win is just in seeing Chihiro’s friends from school in both the school setting and in the mansion along with bringing in some others from the family of different ages that adds a little color to it all. There’s still a sense that the really big dark secrets of the family are kept out of the spotlight but that works in the shows favor here because that’s not the focus or something used to really forge the bonds.
Shonen Maid is easy to pass over because of the preconceptions of what it’ll be about based on far too many other shows having worked this realm before. But Shonen Maid separates itself because it’s more about family and heart than pervy material, and the animators know that because it’s not full of cringe inducing fanservice. It’s a charming little show that lets the characters grow a really nice bond that’s engaging to watch while mixing it with silliness and goofiness that comes from the hard period of becoming a family with strangers. Funimation’s release is a solid one with a great looking and sound discs in a good package with a fun dub that hits all the right notes. Fans of the show will be very happy to own this and it’s the kind of series worth taking a chance on.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Running Time: 325 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.