The second incarnation of Hanaukyo Maid Team reached the west ahead of its predecessor, which was a damned shame. La Verite is a retelling rather than a sequel, so we’re not missing anything story-wise, while the fanservice level has been raised a bit. Can Taro Hanaukyo survive the attentions of his new army of maids..?
What They Say
With the death of his mother, nerdy third-year middle school student Taro Hanaukyo traveled to Tokyo to meet his grandfather. What Taro found there was a huge estate so immense he couldn’t see from one end to the other – as well as countless numbers of beautiful maids.
Taro was the grandson of Hokusai Hanaukyo, who amassed the Hanaukyo Family’s fortune single-handedly. However, Hokusai was absent from the estate and, all of a sudden, Taro was handed the family’s inheritance and ended up being the head of household for the Hanaukyo Family – a family so wealthy that it even has the power to divide the country of Japan.
The maids Taro ends up living with are such characters as Mariel, the head of the maids; Konoe Tsurugi of the Security Department; Ikuyo Suzuki of the Technology Department; and Grace, the computer expert. Each of those characters possesses a unique talent and they comprise a group of maids with different expertise called the “Hanaukyo Maid Team.” Taro spends his days at the mercy of those maids’ antics, whose top and only priority is to “serve the head of household, Master Taro!”
The second incarnation of Hanaukyo Maid Team reaches the west ahead of its predecessor – unfortunately, the first HMT series was never licensed, which to me is a damned shame. On the other hand, La Verite is a retelling rather than a sequel, so we’re not missing anything story-wise, while the fanservice level has been raised a bit. Can Taro Hanaukyo survive the attentions of his new army of maids..?
Audio is presented in both Japanese and English 2.0 stereo and I listened to the Japanese track for this review. This series is quite heavy on the talking scenes, so there’s not much opportunity for the speakers to be given a real workout – the only really ‘loud’ moments are when the maids are fawning over Taro en masse, or when Ryuka’s spouting off. Background effects do make some use of direction, but overall this is a simple but effective soundtrack. There were no obvious problems.
Originally aired in 2004, Hanaukyo Maid Team is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format. Good use is made of colour and detail to flesh out Taro’s world, while the quality of the animation is generally very good, making this a series that really looks the part. There were no apparent problems with the encode.
The box for this set is a sturdy chipboard piece, with an image of Mariel on once side, and a group piece of the other major girls on the other. The group pic is repeated on the spine. The discs themselves are the same as for the individual releases – Taro and Mariel on discs 1 & 3, Konoe & Sanae on disc 2. The back of each keepcase has the usual screenshots, promotional blurb and technical information for that disc. Each cover is fully reversible – Cynthia & Grace feature on disc 1, Ikuyo & Ryuka on disc 2, and Mariel and her younger self on disc 3
Some of the original individual discs included limited-edition pencilboards – since this set is just a box filled with the individual releases, there’s a chance you’ll get some of these (2 of the 3 discs in my set had them), but don’t count on it.
Menus on each disc follow the same basic pattern – an image of one of the girls, with a simple animated background and the show’s opening theme playing. Mariel features on disc 1, Konoe on disc two and elder & younger Mariel on disc 3. Submenus are provided for language setup, extras a, d scene access – these are all static screens featuring artwork of the girls. There are no transition animations, so it’s all quick and easy to use.
Very little in the way of extras across the three discs, unfortunately, clean versions of the opening & closing credits and final series ending, and the original Japanese credit sequences.
After the death of his mother, young Taro Hanaukyo goes to live at his grandfather’s home – and as soon as he arrives, he finds it’s going to be a life-changing experience for him. For a start, his grandfather is enormously rich – and he’s just signed his fortune over to Taro. Add in the estate’s veritable army of maids, specially trained to look after their master’s every need (and I do mean, every need), and all semblance of a normal life for Taro is about to head out the window.
Taro quickly becomes enamoured by the head maid, Mariel – she soon becomes a regular feature of his dreams, usually with her featuring somewhat less than her usual covering of clothes. Hoping to learn more about her, Taro begins questioning the other maids, trying to dig up some information on what she’s really like. Before he can make much progress, though, a giant airship arrives at the mansion, carrying the beautiful yet arrogant Ryuka Jihioh. While her family are the greatest rivals to the Hanaukyo’s, an arrangement between the two families means that she and Taro are destined to marry, so she’s come to meet her future husband – and she’s not at all happy with what she finds.
Taro’s grandfather was clearly a bit of a perv – you realise this as soon as the personal service maids (triplets Lemon, Melon and Maron, for that added spice) appear. He’s not actually living at the mansion any more – Taro has the place (and maids) all to himself, and with the initial exception of Konoe and Sanae they love him to pieces – enough that the poor guy soon can’t take much more attention. All this love and affection is served up with large doses of underwear and flesh on display, so fanservice junkies will feel right at home here – but that does mean there isn’t much room for real story, at least in the early stages.
While there are 1,001 girls on show here, there are only a few who really play major parts. Mariel is top of the list – beautiful and devoted, she’s also pretty much devoid of any real personality. Her prime purpose is to serve Taro, and she’s going to do that to the best of her ability, regardless of her personal feelings. The extent of her devotion becomes a major part of the story in the second half of the series – there’s a reason behind it, and without wanting to give too much away it turns out to be a struggle for Taro to deal with.
Ryuka, on the other hand, is great fun – despite her terminally annoying ojou-sama laugh. If you look past the loud and brash exterior, there are signs there’s actually quite a sweet girl underneath – she’s just driven by a sense of duty to her family, and if they say she has to marry Taro, she’s going to do the best damn job possible of making him like her. It’s just a shame her methods are a little ill-conceived. The way Taro deals with her also gives the first indication of what Hanaukyo Maid Team is really all about, beyond the laughs – young Taro, with his kind and caring personality, taking all the dysfunctional girls around him (and trust me, they’re all dysfunctional in one way or another) and in his own way straightening them out.
Most of the rest of the girls who make regular appearances fill the role of comic relief. Iyuko is the tech genius who lurks in the basement, making a string of unlikely gadgets that alternatively help Taro or wreak havoc on the mansion; Cynthia is the shy young girl with a troubled past, whose alternate personality Grace emerges every so often to run the mansion’s computer system; stern and serious Konoe runs the security department and keeps a check on Taro’s activities, while her sidekick Sanae seems to spend most of her time lusting over her boss.
As the series progresses, a more serious twist is added to the storyline – this seems to be almost a requirement for comedies, and it isn’t always pulled off, but here it works quite well as it ties into Mariel’s backstory and helps explain why she’s as devoted and compliant as she is. For an episode or two, it almost turns into an action series – very out-of-character given the tone of most of the series, but it serves a purpose and works into the flow of the story well.
Hanaukyo Maid Team has a decent mix of slapstick comedy, fanservice and touching moments as Taro gets to know his maids. It all fits together quite well, and the end result is a show that’s really quite shallow but is also enjoyable to watch. It’s far from perfect, but there’s plenty here that’s worth watching if comedy fluff is your thing. The more emotional side of the story doesn’t work quite as well as the humorous side, but with no aspects that you could call bad, the show overall is well worth a look.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Creditless Opening & Closing Sequences, Creditless Series Ending, Original Japanese Opening & Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: July 18th, 2006
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28″ widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.