Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maid-sama! Volume 6

By Hiro Fujiwara. Released in Japan as "Kaichō wa Maid-sama!" by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine LaLa. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

I'd actually forgotten about the initial premise of Maid-sama!, so it's refreshing to see it brought up again in the first chapter. The premise being that this formerly all-male school is now co-ed, but the boys vastly outnumber the girls, and are, well, high school boys. And so this chapter shows that they need to clean their club room, as it's gotten completely disgusting. Misaki and the others try to give a little bit of carrot by making them riceballs for snacks, but it's mostly stick, with Misaki's rage powering things. (Misaki's riceballs being round shiny globes remind me of Special A, again, and the two series really do share a lot of gags.) Sadly, we get very little Usui teasing, and it's the weakest chapter in the book.

But don't worry, we get a new rival on the horizon, who will carry the next three stories. Yes, shoujo fans, it's the long lost childhood friend, now all grown up! Hinata is the 'aw, shucks' country boy type, and once he realizes that Misaki was his childhood sweetheart, he tries his best to win her. Which really pisses Usui off, mostly as Misaki, being essentially a nice person, and also totally oblivious, won't simply tell Hinata to go away. This leads to a great moment where Usui, never one for hiding his feelings for Misaki, notes point blank to her that he's jealous. Cue blush.

Yes, teasing Misaki, aka the reason we read this manga. I have to say, I like tsunderes a lot more when they're a) above the age of 13, and b) strong and dynamic female leads. As Misaki fits both, I can deal with the essential stammering denial. This leads to the best moment of the book, as Usui has watched Misaki deal with Hinata the same way she's dealt with Usui - she regards them both as annoying problem kids she constantly has to watch out for. But when he presses her on it, she blushes more, knowing what he means, and indicates that Usui is "MORE trouble". For a manga like this, that's practically a confession.

This is very much of a snack manga, and will never wow you with its deep themes or amazing plotting. It's shoujo-by-numbers. But the numbers are really pretty and the leads are dynamic, and there's a great helping of humor. Lately Maid-sama! has been on the NYT bestseller lists, and it's easy to see why - it's cute romance with a healthy pile of humor.

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