Kaichou wa Maid-Sama Series Review

Overview:

Misaki is the first female student council president at a school that used to be an all boys school but is now co-ed (with a very low female student population). She’s determined to reform the school and the boys in it and to encourage more female students to enroll. However, her family are quite poor so to help out she has a part time job working in a maid cafe and she does not want anyone from the school to know her secret. She’s managed to conceal it fairly flawlessly until Usui, one of the most popular boys in school, finds out.

Review:

This one is a fairly standard story with fairly standard characters and yet still manages to be a lot of fun (as long as you don’t think too much about any of it). We’re of course going well into cliché territory with the angry girl, the mysterious prince like guy, the maid cafe, the cross dresser, the delinquents, and pretty much any other stereotype you want to throw into the scenario, yet at least this show managed to cover them with a bit of vibrancy and energy which made you feel like they were trying rather then just marching out a by the numbers script.

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Probably the weakest part of the story is the relationship between Misaki and Usui. While they have some truly adorable moments Misaki is just far too dense and Usui is just far too perfect at everything. Plus he continuously puts up with Misaki’s violent outbursts and just keeps hanging around regardless. This creates a number of issues. Misaki is at first built up as a fairly capable and independent character but by a third of the way through we seldom see her deal with any conflict on her own. Usui (either directly or indirectly) is the one actually solving issues, supporting her, or saving the day. The fact that Misaki usually gets the last word doesn’t take away the fact that she’s essentially the damsel in distress for the vast majority of the story. Also, Usui himself is originally shown as someone being continuously confessed to but by a few episodes in this aspect kind of vanishes from the story as well. The two characters just kind of revolve around each and fall into the pattern of Misaki encounters trouble (either real or something blown way out of proportion), Usui offers to help and is refused, Misaki then either fails to solve the problem or gets stuck over working, Usui does something either in the background or overtly, problem solved.

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That isn’t to say that they aren’t fun to spend time with, but they lack depth and anything interesting about them in the beginning is kind of written out of the by the mid-way point. Fortunately the show finds new and novel ways to mess up Misaki’s view of the perfect world she’s trying to create and so at least it doesn’t get too dull or repetitive. But more development, or getting more of Usui’s backstory would definitely have helped this along. These are fun characters but they just don’t have enough going for them in the anime.

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I will point out that Usui is very big on contact and at times it feels like he’s really cornering Misaki. Then again, given she’s studied akido, she probably could extricate herself from most of his advances if she really wanted to. Still, you might find one or two scenes a little uncomfortable.

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The support cast are fine. The other girls and guys at school have very little in the way of distinguishing personalities (even the three idiots who end up frequenting the cafe), but they serve the purpose as a background to Misaki’s various problems. The other maids at the cafe are a little more distinct but are still decidedly one note. The students from the rival school are also one note but at least serve the purpose of making you hate them. Misaki’s family are odd and in a way that is never explained or explored which feels like wasted potential really. So fine, but fairly forgettable.

I do have issues with the opening. That song is really grating and loud. It might not be so bad for others but I really found myself reaching for the skip every time an episode started.

There isn’t much else to say. There’s some funny moments, some touching moments, and some moments that just fall flat. If you like a standard kind of rom-com with okay characters but good pace and reasonable writing you should find something to enjoy here but without a bit more depth and exploration it remains pretty much popcorn viewing.

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Karandi James
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Kiss Him, Not Me Episode 3

Review:

Let’s have a school festival and embrace all the clichés on the planet.

Maid cafe. Check.

No, a cosplay cafe. Check.

Class doing a play. Check.

Guy having to dress like a girl. Check.

Hand holding freak out. Check.

Sharing a meal freak out. Check.

Haunted house freak out. Check.

Girl getting unwanted attention from guys. Check.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s use a lot of heavy references to other anime and hope it passes for a punch line this week. I mean, we already have our characters dressed in some cosplay so we might as well. My personal favourite came from No Game, No Life when Kae declared that “Real life is just a shitty game”.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m being a little sarcastic. Even if I ignore the fact that I don’t much like the premise of this show, this episode gave me nothing else to hold onto, except a really cool Attack on Titan cosplay, but given it’s drawn rather than someone actually wearing the costume it kind of loses the impact.

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The guys still don’t get the girl and she’s just going along with them even though she has no interest. I still haven’t worked out why she just doesn’t tell them she’s not interested.

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The previous two episodes had moments of humour and kind of worked as episodes even with my criticisms of the overall setup. This episode feels longer than it is. The few jokes and amusing references to other material aside, there’s just not substance here at all.

Despite all of that criticism, I’m still going to keep watching this. Part of me wants to see if Kae can actually develop something resembling a spine and the other part of me wants to see if the guys in this can ever rise above being designated plot points. I’m not holding out much hope of that happening, but if it did that would be kind of cool.

Kiss Him, Not Me is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Heavy Object Series Review

Overview:

In the future, warfare has been revolutionized by the invention of mechanical weapons called “Objects.” These Objects are overwhelmingly powerful, rendering traditional weapons like guns, tanks and fighter jets completely useless. Qwenthur is an un-athletic, but smart soldier who aims to work as an Object mechanic. Stationed at an Alaskan Object base, he meets Milinda, a stoic but beautiful Elite Soldier who pilots her own Object. As they learn to support each other in battle, Qwenthur begins to uncover the grim secret behind the Heavy Objects.

Sorry about the copy and paste synopsis but I really couldn’t actually think of a better way to explain this without being just a little bit sarcastic so I borrowed.

Review:

I previously wrote up my first impressions after watching episode 1 of this series. It was relatively scathing (and that was the toned down version after I’d slept on it) and to be honest I didn’t see me getting through the 24 episodes. I did finish the series and it actually surprised me by how into it I was by the end, even thinking I wouldn’t mind if it continued, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still fairly critical of this series as a whole.

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To that end, I’m going with a plus/minus review. It’s been awhile since I’ve done one and to be honest, it’s the best way to cover the main points I’d like to raise about Heavy Object.

Plus +

The last 12 episodes. After a relatively ordinary to terrible beginning (depending on how critical you would like to be) the second half of this series finally figures out what it wants to be. The over the top fixation on groping and staring at the female anatomy by our main protagonists gets toned right down (though not removed because it is a core part of their friendship by that point) and the story focusses more on building credible relationships and the action. From that point on (if you make it that far) it’s actually a relatively solid if overly generic action piece. The last three missions in particular really drew me in despite some gaping holes in the plot (but if that was going to be the deal breaker I would never have made it that far). The end result is you walk away feeling that you watched a much better series than you did.

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Minus –

The entire first half of the series which has no idea what it is trying to accomplish. We meet Havia and Qwenthur (what is with the names in this show) shovelling snow and then they rescue the Princess (Elite trained to pilot the object) and then they get medals before being sent to another war zone. We go from snow to water to forest back to snow as they bounce our reluctant ‘heroes’ around the globe and their outfits change colours to match the setting. In between action scenes we see them slacking off, flirting, swapping dirty magazines, occasionally being sexually harassed (or sexually harassing) their superior officer (it’s hard to tell who is the harassed and who is doing the harassment at times), a whole pile of characters come and go, and we blow up a bunch of objects (which makes it difficult to believe that these things are really all that bad given how flawed some of their designs are). The bottom line is that there is no focus other than constant jabs at the cost of war and the stupidity of some of the orders being given by the higher ups. While an anti-war / humans are terrible theme can work fairly well in a mecha series, it kind of needs to be given a bit more thought than just repeated whining from the cast about how bad it sucks to be a paid soldier (or student working in a military unit in Qwenthur’s case – and who the hell sends a student to the front line of a battle with bombs but no gun?).

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Plus +

Havia, Qwenthur and Milinda build a fairly solid bond of trust that after you get over their individual character quirks is quite believable. Also, while the bulk of the focus goes to Qwenthur for their achievements he never actually does anything on his own so at least they aren’t setting him up as some kind of superman (which is a shame because that would make the final episode a little more believable). I like that Havia get’s dragged along, and even though he clearly would prefer to walk away his ties with Qwenthur don’t allow it. I like that Milinda doesn’t defy military orders but she’ll take ‘advice’ from Qwenthur in the middle of a battle. There are times when the buddy act gets a bit thick but mostly these characters are quite enjoyable to watch interact. Though, Qwenthur really needs to not be so incredibly dense when it comes to Milinda. While it’s a standard trope for the guy to be oblivious in this case it is so over the top and by the second half the of series you genuinely cannot believe he still doesn’t get it.

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Minus –

The objects themselves. This is mankinds latest war achievement? Really? Cumbersome, difficult to maintain, hopelessly fragile machines that are limited to a small group of people that can actually operate them, that are economically draining to build in the first place? They need fairly clear paths to get anywhere, ongoing maintenance so a base has to be built near the combat zone, the outer parts (i.e. the weapons) are not protected by the ridiculously thick armour that covers the rest so are susceptible to strikes, and the pilots only have a thin amount of control because so many systems are automated and even the pilot struggles to cancel some of those systems (such as the self-destruct). All and all, these objects are a failure of an invention and no self-respecting military would bother. With that, the entire foundation upon which Heavy Object’s world is built comes crumbling down and every conflict around the Objects just becomes ludicrous.

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Plus +

While there are factions within the military and between the great powers of the world, not every single person is either a moron or evil. There are real people in positions of power. Some are a little overly ambitious, naive, or separated from the reality of the battlefronts, but we only meet about three genuinely crazy people in this entire series. And no one out for revenge because of some long forgotten tragedy in their childhood. For a series that hit so many other cliché plot points, the absence of this was actually kind of refreshing. Sure, people had tragic backgrounds, but they didn’t use that as an excuse to do nothing but sit around and brood and laugh hysterically at slaughter.

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Minus –

Why does everyone become obsessed with Qwenthur? Particularly every girl. And why are there maids? I know I said the second half of the series got better but the group of ‘mercenaries’ that Qwenthur hires (after they try to take him and Havia prisoner) running around in the snow dressed as maids really just makes you want to roll your eyes and then bang your head against the desk. It’s obvious from the beginning that Milinda has a thing for Qwenthur, his superior isn’t actually after him but certainly has a soft spot for him and Havia, the ‘ohoho’ girl who pilots the object from the other guys has a thing for him, the maids like him, the disciplinary lady, and so on and so forth. They all like Qwenthur. And all the higher ups and plotters are all focussed on Qwenthur. Why not just take out his superior so he no longer has free reign? Why not discontinue his student whatever he is doing? Why not post him and Havia in different locations? For that matter, why not focus on Havia given without him Qwenthur would have been dead about twenty times over? Okay, it’s kind of nice for the smart guy to be the centre of attention but this is an excessive amount of fixation on a guy who hasn’t figured out that a 90’s haircut is probably not the best suited style when running around a battlefield.

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Alright, I’m not going to heavily recommend Heavy Object to watch because it just doesn’t do enough to warrant it. If you’re after something light, where stuff goes boom a lot, girls are regularly put into a fanservice role, the plot makes enough sense on the surface but can’t handle any closer scrutiny, and has reasonable music (except for one karaoke in the cockpit scene) then Heavy Object is entertaining enough and if you survive the first few episodes actually gets better.

Final complaint: Who has emergency battlefield surgery (including having to have their heart restarted) and manages in the same day (same afternoon even) to return to battle?

Strange+ Episode 1

I recently came across this series while using the random episode button on Crunchyroll. I’ve only watched episode 1, and I won’t be watching anymore.

Review:

This 3 minute episode manages to cram in a lot of different gags. Expect an ugly treasure, a traitor maid, a series of traps that manage to hit every cliché even while managing to reach new lows, and a dysfunctional cast that you do not have time to get to know or care about. I’m certain there is an audience out there for this, comedy being highly subjective and all, but this didn’t make me laugh or even smile. Mostly I just wondered if they were planning on getting to a point.

If you do want to check it out, it is available on Crunchyroll.

Shonen Maid Episode 4

I won’t be writing the overview anymore. If you want, you can read a brief overview from my review of episode 3.

Review:

This episode is split into two distinct parts. The first focuses on Chihiro cleaning Madoka’s room and learning a lesson about forcing his values on others. The second part focuses on Keiichiro and Miyako and Miyako’s ongoing pudding assault. It’s a good combination and brings a few smiles and a general sweetness to the episode, but there isn’t as much emotional impact as previous episodes and mostly its all very forgettable.

Shonen Maid is available on Anime Lab.