Polishing off Maid-Sama, Yakuindomo

The Kaichou wa Maid-Sama finale did what you might have expected, bring together Misa and Usui as a couple, and they actually do it pretty well, but everything around them felt off.

Misa came to this festival because she wanted to keep an eye on Sakura, who’s there for the UxMishi concert, i.e., their lead singer Kuuga. But they get separated. Most of the episode concerns Misa and Usui as they kill time until the concert’s over, including a “love-trial” contest, where they must do a number of things around the festival while holding hands. Not only are these scenes fast and silly (Maid-Sama’s specialty) but they exhibit the couple’s weird dynamic. First, they are holding hands; second, Misa isn’t sure how she feels about that, third; Usui is doing his best deadpan teasing at the same time.

But there are things that didn’t pan out. After the concert Kuuga is to be escorted around the school grounds by Sakura. Misa runs into him beforehand. It’s an odd scene. Misa is looking for changes while Kuuga says he likes Sakura for how she sees right through him. I don’t buy that at all, but at least it shows he has no nasty intentions this time. But, face it, the reason he’s in the episode at all is so he can comment on Misa/Usui. He says stuff about enduring someone, then poof, he’s gone. We never see how Sakura’s tour went. I guess she wasn’t that important to the episode.

And then we get the big confession scene, the characters dressed in old fashioned costumes for some reason, waiting for fireworks, Kuuga’s “enduring” concept rears its head again. I must say that I had not been looking forward to this scene because I thought it would mean Sakura simply giving in to Usui’s charms, but the real scene is, happily, two-sided. She asks if he is enduring HER, and why, and Usui, taken aback (which was satisfying in itself) gives out a splendid, honest rundown of the things he loves about her. He teases her because he loves to see her expressions was my favorite bit because I like those moments too, but there are other good things here. And then he uses the L-word. Then its her turn to rattle off a sort of confession, Misa-style. Another good speech. She’s letting out her frustrations and insecurities and telling him how important he is to her. Usui is almost shocked. He’s unsure what to do! For once, in a romantic setting, he shows vulnerabilities we hadn’t seen much of before.

Well, it was good to see him soften a little at the end. It was not good that we don’t see Hinata until the closing credits; I expected him to play some role in a finale. That’s another reason why the episode felt incomplete.

And now it’s over. Will there be a sequel? I mean, they’ve confessed now. If there is I’m not sure I’ll watch it. The show did some things well. At its best it had great energy and a good set of characters bouncing off each other. I liked the ensemble acting very much. Misa was terrific. Usui had great moments when he wasn’t being smarmy. But I don’t know if I need to see any more of this story. Maybe I’ll feel differently when the time comes.

Seitokai Yakuindomo 13 ends with nothing at all.

A typical Takatoshi reaction.

Let’s see. There’s a small earthquake, the student council visits the robot club, Suzu is short, Aria shows off her family album, back to the robot club, Dejima’s driving skills, Kaede has trouble with mushrooms, Takatoshi has to write another essay for the school paper, Kata wants childhood photos for the paper (Suzu is short), Mutsumi and Takatoshi are on day duty, Suzu spills tea on Aria’s cell phone, Takatoshi is nervous about giving a speech, and then there are closing credits, only they involve Kotomi … and the episode is only half over.

Takatoshi's idealized beach scene.

I was worried at first. The Student Council all start to reminisce about the past school year. That means flashback time. However the show decided to give us variations of the memories based on the characters’ dreams and fantasies, which made it slightly more tolerable. However, the fantasies did little but stick the character in their ego-driven dream world (Hata as undercover photographer, Mitsubi fighting off goons, etc). Not much imagination there.

And the episode STILL isn’t over, so they talk about next year, break the fourth wall by comparing a year in anime time to three months, then invent a new magical girl show, then plug the time slot’s actual next show: Hakuouki Heketsuroku, which I must say is pretty decent of them. I’ve never seen one show plug the next one before.

Don’t ask me why I watched this all the way through. I simply don’t know.

One more of the Student Council.

Shiki 11, Maid-Sama 25

The makers of Shiki certainly picked a good time to put the show on hiatus. Even though this week’s cliffhanger was no bigger than the others, everything’s ramping up now. And we didn’t even get to see Natsuno.

A prophet is not without honour ...

Much of the episode is devoted to Ikumi, the crazy lady who actually has it right. She’s become more vocal in her pronouncements, and while some of the people laugh at her there are some who are beginning to take her seriously. To add to the depth we see her daughter lamenting the fact that her mom is so nutty—it doesn’t her her own reputation. And even many of the more rational townspeople are wondering what’s going on, so much so that they invite Toshio to a cafe to talk. He slips them just enough information to suggest it’s an epidemic. Toshio’s playing it close to the vest these days, apart from trying to dig up a recent victim.

In the middle of all this we get another chat between Seishin and Sunako. Seishin, perhaps tossing her a bone, talks about his new novel and the dead-but-alive character in it. Sunako is delighted and suggests that these undead have souls and are just a different type of human, as if she’s trying to justify her own existence. It’s not the first time she’s fixed on this idea. Sunako is fascinating. If she is a troubled shiki, wondering about her place in the universe, she doesn’t show it, instead throwing out giggles, doing twirls and generally acting cute, though spooky. The scene’s end shows her complexity. She’s about to bite Seishin but stops when he asks if she is a shiki. “You’re such a romanticist,” she says, and leaves.

Her comment might make some sense when we catch up with Ikumi and a group of curious people she’s drummed up as they demand the people in the castle come out. The father, Seishirou, appears and lets Toshio check for a pulse. Apparently the family can come out during the day, or at least some of them can. There might be different types of shiki, different levels or castes. We saw Sunako’s fangs. I wonder if Seishirou has them? A good scene, since Toshio is forced into playing a “Let’s humor the crazy lady” role in order to keep suspicion away from himself, or just to keep the peace, even while he’s in full agreement with her. Or maybe he just hasn’t made the connection between the Kirishiki family and the vampires. Well, we’ll learn more … in three weeks, at which time I’ll have completely forgotten the plot.

As the show reminds us, there’s only one episode of Kaichou wa Maid-Sama after this one. By now it’s obvious that, romance-wise, nothing much is going to happen. Misa and Usui won’t become a couple. We’ll probably get a second season, sooner or later.

At first I thought this episode would be completely devoted to Hinata’s devotion. We get scenes from him in middle school, already in love, in spite of the fact that he’s developed into sort of a heartthrob himself. I notice none of the girls now are throwing themselves at him. Maybe it’s because he’s so obvious about Misa. And I suppose we never entirely leave Hinata this episode until the final scene or two, but the overall the show devolves into little scenes that have little relation to each other, except for him.

The Cafe Latte fortune-telling day scene works pretty well. I didn’t expect it after the Hinata stuff, and there’s fun to be had in the reaction everyone has when they ask about their future with Misa (plus the fact that that’s the only question on their mind, and that Misa stands by, watching, utterly clueless). It’s especially fun when Usui is told he has absolutely no future with her. Even he looks surprised by that. Afterwards they sort of make it up in the alley—with Hinata watching. Back to him again.

Then another Hinata heartbreak scene where Usui lends Misa his shirt when she gets wet (because Hinata was clumsy with a hose and is wet, too). You see his optimism begin to wane. This makes me sad because that is one of the endearing things about his character. But that’s about all we get of story in this episode (I think I’ve wrote this line about a previous one, probably more than one). To polish off the episode the girls (and Usui) go to a school festival to see that band that was so mean to Sakura, but it ends there. Nope. Not going to see a solid conclusion to this series. On the other hand the show does all right even when it’s not intent on plot, so I don’t mind.

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 24

Nothing much happens in Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 24. For the most part the show goes into a holding pattern and play with the characters a bit. Which is not to say it doesn’t have some good moments.

Nothing like a non-sequitur early in the episode.

We get two little non-stories, the first involving Hinata helping Misa’s mother carry her persimmons home, much like Usui did episodes ago with some other fruit … apples, I think. It differs in that Hinata has known Misa’s family since childhood (which explains the bizarre game Hinata and Suzuna play above) so the conversation goes from “How you’ve grown!” to the more interesting comment that everyone could always read Hinata like a book. Again, nothing more happens except that we learn Hinata is looking for the cherry tree he fell out of long ago. This is the closest thing to a story the episode has. But it’s happy banter with several distinct personalities joining in. It passes the time.

The non-action moves to the cafe and its magical girl cosplay event. Few surprises here, though it does take me aback that Misa actually seems into the fun. She borrowed the anime and liked it. This takes out any possibility of what is a usually dependable source of conflict: her real self working against the maid-type she normally plays. But it doesn’t hurt the scene. Any conflict comes from the arrival first of Usui (pouting more than usual) and later Hinata.

The waitresses have been casting spells from the show as part of their schtick and it begins to bleed into the real situation. One of them tries casting a friend spell to limit the tenseness between the two. Hinata asks for a seeking spell so he can find that cherry tree. And there’s the truth spell, which comes later. Again, well and good, but it’s not really advancing the story. We just kick back and watch the silly situation and enjoy the well-timed banter.

When we do get a couple of pointed questions we don’t get any answers to them. The first, “Does Usui have any friends?” is emphasized as if it’s important but I don’t know why. The second, what does Usui mean to Misa?” is the more important one. It’s one that Misa has obviously been struggling with, but she’s been doing that for ages now. Late in the episode Usui himself asks her the same question. Sadly he has to put on his you’re-powerless-to-resist act when he does it. I find myself more and more disgusted with this act, possibly because there’s some truth to it. Never mind that it once again shows Usui as a spoiled selfish rich kid who always get what he wants, it also undermines the best thing in the show: Misa. Her strength, determination and righteous anger.

Sigh. Well, maybe they’ll find a plot next week.

Shiki 9, Maid-Sama 23

Shiki 9 shifts away from the threat of the girl with the mannequin and shifts back to Toshio. While I’m more interested right now in Natsuno’s danger, we hardly saw Toshio last week, so it’s only fair.

Toshio’s still working on the vampire theory and so has kept Setsuki, the latest victim, at the clinic. He and Seishin hold vigils every night to see if anything suspicious comes up. I still find it ironic that it’s the trained doctor who has the crazy theory and the priest who’s playing the skeptic. As they talk in the night we learn that Seishin’s latest novel is called “Shiki” and it’s about a cursed man who kills his saintly brother. This will fit into our own Shiki somehow, possibly related to the idea Seishin mentioned to Sunako last week, that she has been rejected by God.

The proof.

The plan is working. Setsuki is slowly getting better, but the vigils are taking their tolls on Toshio, sleepily going about his daily duties, getting visits by his wife and snarky comments by his mother (both with weird hair. Every woman in this show has strange hair, and each style is different). You feel sorry for the man. But it pays off. The next night the vampire Nao comes to visit her mom but can’t come in (they can’t unless invited, another factoid pulled out of nowhere, though I remember it from Buffy. Not that Seishin ever watched it). But now Toshio and Seishin have proof that the vampires exist. But what can they do about them?

Turns out, not much. Tatsumi, somehow, gets in, slugs Toshio and goes out the window. It’s a bloodfest! Toshio is left screaming in anger and I’m wondering if the vampires hold all the cards, here. On the other hand, maybe Seishin’s new novel refers to dissent within the vampires, who apparently have at least some free will. Also, the vampires have not threatened Seishin. Does he hold some sort of power? I have a feeling he’s going to be more involved from here on. But right now I’d really like to know what’s up with that strange girl in Natsuno’s house.

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 23 has one silly to which leads to a less silly half that threatens to become maudlin but never quite gets there. First we get an eating contest, and one of the other maids accidentally made a promise to date a customer if he wins, which is against cafe policy. Naturally Misa disguises herself, planning to win it herself. Unfortunately, she’s not the only participant.

A rather clever predicament. The winner will get a photo taken along with their favorite maid, even if she’s not there today. Meanwhile, Usui works deviously in the kitchen, producing richer and richer cakes as the contestants get sicker and sicker. It will come as no surprise who wins and which maid he chooses. “She has the same name as a girl I like!”

The second half drops in interest for a while. The plan is for Misa to go to the cafe with Hinata, beg off for an emergency, slip around and in disguise for the picture, which sounds absolutely ridiculous (and is, once you see the disguise). What’s more, Usui has invited himself along. In this episode he shows his ugly, jealous side again, so when Hinata is going on and on about Misa as a child he gets sulky. When put in a situation of describing Misa’s unknown part-time job we don’t actually know if he’ll do the right thing and lie. On the other hand, it’s becoming clear that maybe Misa feels bad about lying to Hinata, anyway (something that makes Usui even more jealous), so when the time comes for the disguise, she refuses it. And, really, it’s the right choice. The only danger in Hinata knowing is that he’s something of a blabbermouth.

It’s nice to see Misa admire Hinata’s basic decency (like soothing a crying baby), not so nice to see Usui act so petty. Now the rivalry is officially set up. Not that Hinata stands a chance, the show likes to demonstrate that Usui has some sort of demonic power over Misaka, but things are too easy for him. I want to see him actually earn something.

Maid-Sama 22

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama 22 spends much of its time anchoring Hinata’s position in the cast and working him off of Usui, with the backdrop of the school camping trip. Some trip. Instead of some fun camp it’s a place meditation, work and starvation, a little trick they like to play on the underclassmen. When anyone dares to complain, there’s always Misaka.

Most of this is pretty inane. They boys have to meditate under waterfalls and other such things. The girls are off cooking and pestering Misaka about Hinata. It’s okay, not great. What’s better are the Hinata scenes. He’s such an off-the-wall character that the camp can hardly contain him. And what’s even better is his effect on Usui, who, for the first time in the series, actually seems at a loss. He tries to flirt his way back to Misaka’s heart but she’s too busy, leaving him more unsatisfied. What’s more, Hinata likes him.

Two interesting scenes: First, when Hinata and Misaka are locked in a storeroom together (that old trick) he declares love to her, and she seems genuinely touched, suggesting that she isn’t as closed off to him as we had thought. Or she could be simply touched by his sincerity and earnestness. That’s probably it. Second, Hinata asks Usui if the two are dating. Usui says that if they were he wouldn’t be so troublesome. One of his more interesting statements. Interesting, too, that Hinata would ask a serious, straightforward question like that and that Usui would honestly answer it. The two actually seem to bond a little.

After that the more serious themes get tangled with the aforementioned inanity. The boys, separated from the girls for three straight days, turn into a mob of ravenous somethings. In an earlier scene they had all attained Nirvana … go figure. Misaka, Usui AND Hinata fight them off. They all agree on something! Perhaps Usui has come to realize that Hinata is not just an always-hungry idiot, and actually, he hasn’t shown much actual dislike for the boy; he just doesn’t know what to do with him. As for me, I like Hinata. He’s already given the story a fresh angle, and while his hunger schtick is already wearing thin he’s usually fun to watch.

21’s: Heroman, Maid-Sama

Heroman 21 sort of concludes the missing persons arc, that is to say, the missing persons are safely recovered, but it leads to other questions, like where is that other Skrugg? But in terms of character the episode is mainly about Joey.

So THAT'S how it happened. Boring.

Tracing Denton’s soil samples Hughes knows that the Skrugg is holed up in that abandoned mine (and, yes, it turns out this is indeed the mine Joey’s father died in). Joey is torn. He’ll do anything to save his sister, but if the Skrugg is indeed Will, would he be able to fight? Psy reassures him, and we get a flashback where Psy demands Will throw the football to him, and when he does it’s an ill-advised desperation fling under pressure. Psy gets his famous injury and Will quits as team captain as self-punishment. In other words, Will is not the type to hurt people (except for last time, though I remember he turned away from killing Psy back then). I’m thinking that it’s a nice story, but a football injury? Ho hum, I expected more.

So Joey, Heroman and Psy go into the Skrugg lair and find lots of that creepy organic stuff that the aliens like. Also Denton and Holly, who have managed to escape their pods and hide (none of the other victims, just them). The Skrugg shows up. We have a fight. We learn it’s not Will. Another Skrugg shows up, this one a dog, and Psy lures him away so Heroman can fight the big one. I sometimes wonder why defenseless Psy gets invited along on these missions. Here’s one reason: to be bait. But the battle has made the walls unstable and Psy’s cool scooter is damaged before he can reach the exit.

Here’s where the show nearly got me. Psy limps toward the opening, muttering about touchdowns. It seemed too much, the injury story, not being able to play again, trying to reach the goal line, I seriously thought the story was going to kill him off. Well, I was wrong. He makes it, but later collapses, so he’s not dead, but not at all well. Joey angsting about his friends getting hurt is apparently the theme of next week’s episode. As for the end of this one, the big Skrugg simply disappears. What’s up with that?

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama has two stories with a bit of overlap. In the first one Misa orders the sports teams to clean out their club rooms, promising refreshments. So she learns to make rice balls, which don’t go over well.

There’s nothing more to this episode except that Misa tries hard and succeeds. We’ve seen it before. What’s intriguing is the new character they sneak into scenes. Jumping off roofs to rescue stray pieces of bread, eating grass, actually eating one of Misa’s rice balls. We’re not told who he is until the second story, which is much more interesting.

Hinata endears himself to everyone in the school thanks to his eccentric gluttony and backstory. Even when it looks like he’s about to be bullied it just turns out the guys are offering him food. Only Misa is unaffected. She keeps confiscating everything he gets until he’s convinced she’s just a meanie. Oh, part of the backstory is that he’s come to this school to find the girl he swore he’d follow years ago. Guess what her name is?

Got it in one!

After a tree incident that repeats an incident they shared in the past, Misa is revealed to him, and she has a new suitor. This could be interesting. Kanou, acting as foil for the main characters this week, is convinced that Misa and Usui like each other. However, she’s too proud to admit it and Usui says relationships are “a bother.” But now possibly he has a rival. Good thing, too. Usui is too sure that he can wrap Misa around his little finger, and the show gives us glimpses of him obviously not pleased with this turn of events. On the other hand I can’t see Misa treating this eccentric guy as romantic potential. As for me, I like Hinata. I just hope they can keep the gluttony scenes to a minimum. They’ll get old fast.

20’s: Heroman, Maid-Sama

Heroman 20 is an annoying one. People in Central City are being abducted, along with cows. Naturally Dr. Denton is on the case, wasting Joey and Psy’s time, until he vanishes, too. Then Holly decides to join in the investigation.

The first half of the show is a waste of time. Holly drags Joey and Psy around, wearing stupid outfits, as they visit abduction sites, one of which is conveniently a beach, so she can have a swim. Joey and Psy sigh a lot. They make fools of themselves, accuse the beach’s local strongman that he’s the culprit, you get the idea. We know from the prologue that there’s a small girl who witnessed her father’s abduction, so we’re waiting for that angle to open up. And we know that the bad guy is either Will or some other Skrugg-thing. Kind of takes the mystery out of it.

A couple of nice character scenes improve the story. Holly is self-absorbed and brusque, but when she wants to she can display some empathy. In an otherwise annoying scene they sneak into the hospital where she gets the frightened girl to talk. I thought bothering a traumatized little kid was a bad idea, but she managed it well. And later, when the Skrugg does appear and she doesn’t see Joey she races out of cover to find him … to get abducted herself. Still, a good moment. Also decent was Lina, grounded at her house because of the abductions. You think her family has gone too far. On the other hand her father reminds her that they have already lost Will; they don’t want to risk losing her too.

But mainly it’s Holly, Joey and Psy poking around. The monster has to conveniently show up for any plot development, dead flower mystery notwithstanding. There’s a brief fight, Holly gets taken and that’s it. Five good minutes and twenty annoying ones.

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! 20 has two complete stories. The first one falls apart at the end, the second didn’t make any sense at all, but they were both enjoyable.

Ruri, Yukimura’s younger sister, wants nothing to do with her brother. Rather, since she wants to be a princess she wants a handsome prince. She takes one look at Usui and falls for him. Yukimura wants her to look up to him, so he begs Usui to go on a date with her. Misa joins Yukimura’s side so Usui can’t say no, can he? Naturally, Misa, Yukimura, Kanou and later the three idiots watch from the bushes.

Naturally it goes wrong. Misa and Aoi (I forgot, he’s there too) concoct some schemes to make Usui look bad, Misa playing jilted lover, the three idiots playing thugs, etc. Usui is along for the ride. One of the things the character does well is nonchalantly regard the craziness happening all around him.

It leads to a ridiculous moment where Yukimura and Ruri sort of make peace. I don’t quite understand how it got that way. On the other hand it was fun to watch with all the plans changing instantly and quick dialogue by those watching undercutting the main action.

And if you like quick, underscored dialogue and nonsensical action, the second story delivers it. That’s about all it delivers. Aoi wants to take photos of herself and charms Yukimura and Kanou into helping. Then the three idiots show up (twenty episodes in and I still can’t tell them apart) and get roped into it, too. Aoi delights in and later regrets using these fools in that way, admitting she had fun with them, which I guess is the story’s thrust, but mainly it’s everyone acting like idiots and bonding a little. But again it’s fast and frantic. Maid-Sama can do that well, so I was entertained even though nothing much happened.