Kaichou wa Maid-sama

We all know this type of anime. Sweet and inoffensive. Well, almost.

The format is traditional. Poor girl wants to do as best she can in life and works her way up to school president. To keep her family finances from getting any worse she also has a part time job. She is a “maid” at a café. Naturally this does not marry up with her image at school and so her job is a secret. That is, until a boy from her school finds out she works there.

We all know where this is going… and yet Maid-sama turns something that should be bordering on the ecchi and makes it almost feminist. Ayuzawa, our heroine, is the opposite of a shojo heroine. She is not shy, or quiet or even nice. She hides her job because she is ashamed of it. At school she is a demon. The school has recently gone co-ed and is male dominated. To compensate for this Ayuzawa is not only driven to protect the small clan of girls at the school but intimidates anything of the opposite sex.

The series seems to enjoy putting her in clichéd situations, such as the stalker storyline and turn the tables. She does not need rescuing. She does not need a man in her life. She is happily independent. In doing this the show does become more parody than good anime but it’s still enjoyable even with the formulaic storyline.

This is not a Lovely Complex type anime. It’s not a sweet story. It has a harder edge to it than that, which as a woman in her early thirties I appreciated. There are sexual references and while no flesh is shown some of the jokes are very below the belt.

The main instigator of all this is Usui. The hot guy in school, who seems wholly uninterested in school life or any of the stream of girls that hover around him. The president treats him with the same distain she would any male and this is what makes him interested. Usui has many secrets surrounding him that the president is intrigued by but cannot bring herself to really show an interest in. She has better things to do. This all changes when Usui finds her at a café in a maid uniform.

At first he goes there to tease but his visits rapidly turn to a guilty pleasure. He even ends up working there.

There is plenty of character development. Both Ayuzawa and Usui change as they get to know each other.

Apart from that the series left me feeling vaguely disappointed. Yes it attempted to jazz up the tired formula with some fun characters and plot devices and there is plenty to get a romantics heart racing. I just can’t help feeling I’ve seen all this before and probably done better.

3/5

I think I’ll go back to something bloody next, or paranormal… I think anime romance is making me cynical.

Anime review- Lovely Complex and added ramble

So, as a detox to Guilty Crown I again went against my tastes and stepped into the strange world of pure Shoujo. Again I am not one for cute and cuddly but I was recommended this one on twitter and gave it a whirl.

Story is simple enough. Tall girl Riza has love/hate relationship with her school pal, short boy Ootani. They start out hating each other, earning instant celebrity around the school as a real life comedy double act. Finally Riza matures enough to realise… she fancies the pants off Ootani. Enter a string of comic episodes that had me laughing so much I choked.

Anime humour does not always translate well, but this I found cringe-worthy but very funny. Riza, our freakishly tall heroine is a typically dippy shoujo girl, but brash and prickly rather than cute and demure so I did not mind her dizzy character. The object of her affections also falls into the same tired role. Ootani has a temper but is nice under it all. The show livens things up by throwing the odd serious bit in and this gives a nice balance to the comedy. At times I actually said “awwww” at the screen as Riza tries to awkwardly grapple with her hormones and her wholly inappropriate crush. I also squealed like a sixteen year old over certain sweet moments. I felt absolutely no guilt for enjoying the show. It is well written and takes time to build character.

The anime does not rush the plot either and takes the time necessary to cultivate the relationship between the oddball couple and throws in plenty of obstacles. Riza and Ootani are well matched and their friends constantly push for them to get together, just like in any other high school around the world. (Seriously why do people do that? Never match make people it can all go so very wrong!)

So, a nice 24 ep light relief from the blood and guts, but it was not really anything deeper. 3/5.

The reason I unashamedly enjoyed something so far removed from my taste is because it struck a chord with me. OK, I was not a cry baby as a teen. I would not be caught dead crying at school… the rest of the story however is fairly close to my own experience.

I was Riza once and watching Lovely Complex brought it all back. So I am going to tell you a story, about me and how life can imitate anime . (Clichés are clichés for a reason.) Yes this is self-indulgent but its good practice to write about yourself instead of fictional characters all the time. I am going to use a little creative license to shorten things and avoid personal details. Apart from that the story is mostly true and the anime inspired me to write this tonight. Besides, this is my blog, if you don’t like it then click the little X and be gone.

You may know that there is a step between school and university in England and Wales (not so much in Scotland.) It’s called 6th form. Most large schools have a 6th form or separate college entirely for the A level students. These are the exams you need to get into university. It’s an intense two years of study. You have to be incredibly bright to take more than 3 subjects over the two years.

So, a large group of young adults all under pressure and yet at that age pupils are considered responsible enough to have their own common room to hang out in between classes. Some schools even give you the freedom to drop in and out of school between classes. It’s an interesting period of any teenagers life and it was no different for me.

I was a transfer student! (How cliché can we get people!) I’d already done a term in a much smaller school in the back of beyond. Suddenly I was in a much larger school and even had to change a subject which meant I had some serious catching up to do. On day one my fellow pupils introduced themselves to the strange country bumpkin that was now among them. (We are British we do that sort of thing. I met 150 people that day, some of which I never spoke to again in the two years I was there.)

I met my version of Ootani that day. He was short, no higher than my shoulder, had untidy short dark hair, dark eyes that were far too knowing and a cocky grin. I hated him on sight. I hid my dislike quite well, for me. I was not the most even tempered girl back then and I was well out of my comfort zone. Also, my fragile teenaged heart was bruised from an attachment at my old school, but that is a story for another time.

Anyway, it was a week before me and my Ootani locked horns. I was slaving over my first history essay. No word processing allowed back then people. 1500 words on Stalin’s rise to power. I had never written a history essay before and I had 4 days. I was on my third draft and lost in concentration, studiously ignoring some of my peers dancing on the tables to Itchycoo Park… (we were going through a retro phase on the CD player. It was either that or the starwars soundtrack.)

A shadow fell over my work.

“Bloody hell your handwriting is awful Welsh girl,” droned a voice in a mocking parody of my accent.

I looked up to see the cocky grin I had not liked last week. He had just made me lose my place among the purges damit!

I kicked him in the shin… hard… He yelped, clearly not expecting my reaction. We glowered at each other for a moment until I politely told him to piss off.

Things fell into a pattern after that. He would pick a fight, I would react with my legendary Celtic temper. We would practically be in each other’s faces, snarling at each other. ( Although I had to bend down a bit to achieve this.) Oh I hated him.

Yep I was far too stupid to realise I fancied the pants off him, just like Riza.

Also, just like the anime we became a source of entertainment for the whole 6th form. People would goad us into an argument and watch the sparks fly while they drank coffee and placed bets on who would win.

My new so called friends tried to shove us together, using very obvious strategies to get us to notice what was blindingly clear to them.

“Don’t you think he was sweet helping you with your history homework?”

“He only did that because I bribed him! I have to buy his coffee all week as compensation!”

“Don’t you think she has a lovely accent?”

“Her? She cackles when she laughs, sounds like an old woman.”

“I heard that you prick!”

“Yeah? I don’t care if you did!”

*Slagging match across the room …*

This went on for months and I actually looked forward to the arguments. I got a little thrill out of them that became addictive and the volatility between us increased. The big arguments also seemed to coincide to when either of us showed interest in anyone else. Little petite blonde eyes him up at a party.  He drove her home after. Monumental name calling by me on Monday. Me dancing with a lovely Irish lad on Saturday.  Monday he wiped chalk dust on my new jumper.

Of course, I was too dense to add all this up at the time, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Two months before final exams things finally came to a head. I was wandering up the corridor to the common room and I heard my name called. Without thinking I turned. My face was slavered in wet warm cloth. I pulled it off my face and realised it was a towel. The perpetrator was running up the corridor in his gym shorts and shirt laughing like the idiot he was. I frowned; it was not much of a prank. That was when I realised that the towel was soaked in his sweat, not water… I was half disgusted half impressed he would go that far… my mascara and black lipstick were now smudged to hell and I smelt of boy. (It was the 90’s don’t judge the make-up. I went through a mild grunge phase. I recovered I’m pleased to say.)

I ran after the little bugger swearing revenge. He was on the tennis team, so he was much faster than I was but he could only go so far.  I remember people laughing as I passed them, they all knew who I was after. Tracked the swine down to an empty biology classroom. Threw the towel back at him and made all sorts of threats of bodily harm. He let me rant for a bit then finally shrugging and glared at me with those cursed molten chocolate eyes…

“Oh come on,” he said as if talking to a child. “You love me really.”

That brought me up short. I knew he was being sarcastic but it made me think… what was I covering up with all this bravado?

I got angry. This was not fair; this was not the way things were supposed to be between us. We could not hold a conversation without insults, but I went out and got him cold meds so he could take his maths test last month without fainting of a fever. He was the one who stayed with me and talked me down when I had an asthma attack last year, but he told me on a daily basis that I was an idiot. I was comfortable with that. We could be nice, but preferred to be nasty. He was not allowed to see through the act. He was not allowed to change the rules! They had served us well for nearly two years why change now?

I decided to be cruel. In my revenge I went for total humiliation. Next time he picked on me in the common room and got in my face I did not just shove him away, my normal response… I used the skills only a welsh farm girl picks up. I got the little swine in a head lock as if I was about to shear the fleece off him and watched him struggle. He gave up fighting me quickly and retaliated by saying he did not fight girls and I was too freakishly tall to argue with anyway. I remember the smug grin that crossed my face.

I kissed him… right there in full view of the entire sixth form.

*shudder*

You’ve never seen a boy more shocked in all your life. I seriously thought he was going to cry! This was not right! He was supposed to be angry not look as if I’d ripped his heart out and stomped on it! With reflection I suppose I knew then that I had over stepped the mark, I flounced away apparently proud of myself. The guilt hit me about five minutes later. I knew I should apologise… I had embarrassed him… but I couldn’t. Pride would not let me. I wanted to humiliate him and I had. One sloppy kiss and a headlock equated to a sweaty towel in the face and smudged make-up right? Somehow I think perhaps it didn’t.

A month later we could laugh about it, but relations were strained. We did not even argue anymore. He wrote in my leaving book that it was two years he would never forget and a kiss he would never forget… right next to a picture of a sheep.

That was it. He went off to some English uni I can’t recall the name of and I went north 600 miles to bonny Scotland and have never left.

So, sad pathetic story. Well I actually don’t see it that way. I learnt a lot about myself from my relationship with my own Ootani. I realised I was not a nice person. I covered up my insecurities with anger and bluster. I also realised I did not like myself very much at that point in my life and that was something I needed to change. So I did just that.

I should thank my 6th form nemesis if I ever see him again. He made me take a good look at who I was and made me decide who I wanted to be. I would probably stamp on his toes too, just for old times’ sake. XD.

So off I went to university to start a new chapter of my life with a new found perspective.

In my first year I met a really freakishly tall Scottish lad with a pretty face and copper hair… the rest, as they say, is history 😉