When I started reading Maid Sama!, it was with the goal of catching up on the series so that I could cover the review copies I received of volumes five and six. I planned to give my personal copies of volumes one and two—as far as I ever got in actually buying the series—to my (awesome) local library when finished. Volume one went into the to-donate box as planned, but somewhere in the middle of volume two I fell not quite in love, but at least in profound like (and removed volume one from the box).
The premise of Maid Sama! is this: Seika High School was formerly an all-boys school, and despite the introduction of female students still remains 80% male. Misaki Ayuzawa ends up attending Seika because of its reasonable tuition but is determined to make the school a more pleasant place for the girls. She works hard to earn the position of Student Council President, and makes it her mission to whip the rambunctious boys into shape. Little do they know that when the “demon president” leaves school she heads to her part-time job at a maid café.
Most of the boys obey Misaki, if unwillingly, but handsome Takumi Usui is the exception. It’s no exaggeration to say that Usui can do anything and do it well, and one of his special talents is convincing Misaki to consider the boys’ perspective when arguments arise. He quickly learns about her secret job and thereafter always shows up at the right time to protect her from dangers like overzealous fanboy patrons and scheming students from a rival school. This forms the basic plot structure of Maid Sama!. Something wacky happens, Usui whips out some previously unknown talent, and the day is saved. Alas, most of these scenarios are uninspired, some painfully.
The most egregious example of plot lameness occurs in volume four. The staff of the café takes a group vacation to the beach, whereupon their hostess proclaims that her nephew can crossdress to his heart’s content if only he wins a random beach volleyball tournament. I’m pretty sure I groaned aloud when I got to that part. Still, I found myself remembering a comment from Melinda Beasi, the basic gist of which was that she can forgive shoddy plotting if the character relationships are compelling. Indeed, it’s Misaki and Usui, both individually and together, who really save this series and make me want to read more.
Misaki starts out as rather abrasive, but mellows a bit thanks to Usui’s influence and by volume two is more often depicted as cool and intelligent. She never fails to give 100% in whatever she is trying to do and at times is downright valiant in her desire to protect the female students. Usui is one of those effortless genius types and is in love with Misaki, though his teasing nature prevents her from ever taking his declarations seriously. I love that Usui respects Misaki for her brains and strength—though it saddens me that he seems to believe that because Misaki is a girl there are limits to what she can expect to accomplish—and is impervious to advances from other girls.
It’s obvious that these two are meant to be together and it’s the rare pulse-pounding moments between them that make Maid Sama! such a fun read. Indeed, though the volleyball part of volume four is pretty dumb, it nevertheless leads to frustration on Misaki’s part when Usui, always her ally, is now suddenly her opponent. This, in turn, leads to one of the most romantic moments yet, which is unfortunately interrupted. Still, Misaki has been gradually warming to Usui, and it’s at the end of this volume that the narration observes that “Completely unnoticed, feelings had begun to grow.”
While I can’t claim that Maid Sama! is groundbreaking in any way, it is nonetheless extremely enjoyable and I’m looking forward to continuing with it. It would be nice if the plotting got more interesting, but so long as Misaki and Usui’s relationship continues to develop as it has been, I’ll be satisfied.