“My mother had bought a sewing machine for me. When I went away to college, she gave me a sewing machine, a typewriter and a suitcase, and my mother made $17 a week working as a maid 12 hours a day, and she did that for me.” – Alice Walker
This manga was one of the titles that had been partly published by TokyoPop before it withdrew from the English-language market. Now Viz Media have picked up, and are re-releasing it in 2-in-1 omnibus editions under their Shojo Beat label.
Seika High School was originally a boys’ school, but it has been co-ed for several years. Despite this, 80% of the student body are still boys. Boy-hating Misaki Ayuzawa has managed to work her way up the ladder to become president of the student council, and is now making her presence felt, ensuring that all the boys behave properly from now on, and making Seika High School a safe place for girls.
Part of the reason Misaki hates boys so much is that her father absconded when she was young, leaving a massive debt behind. With her mother being in poor health and with a younger sister to care for as well, Misaki has been working part-time to make ends meet. She has been keeping her job a secret from everyone at school because she finds it embarrassing. She works as a waitress in a maid cafe. Misaki is paranoid that if anyone finds out about her job then it will be used against her at school and no-one will respect either her or her demands on the boys at school.
But as bad luck would have it, she is spotted by one of the boys: Takumi Usui, the school heartthrob, who spends most of his time turning down requests from girls. Misaki is obviously worried that he will reveal her secret, but Takumi keeps quiet. Annoyingly for her, however, Takumi keeps coming to the cafe, but Takumi also defends her from anyone who might harm her. For example, three boys who start insulting her get rebuked by Takumi. Eventually these three boys, dubbed “The Idiot Trio”, become regulars at the cafe.
The story continues to see Misaki trying to prevent anyone else from finding about her job, while Takumi becomes more romantically involved with her, and even ends up temping as a cook in the cafe. Misaki also tries to control all the rowdy behaviour at her school, and comes into conflict with the snobs at the much posher Miyabigaoka High School.
The art in Maid-Sama! is OK: nothing spectacular, but not bad. I find it quite passable, and I especially like the maid outfits created by Hiro Fujiwara for Misaki and the other characters who work at the cafe. The story is the more appealing aspect however. First of all, there is Misaki’s double life, being the ruthless, man-hating, almost dictatorial head of the student council, while at the same time having to be polite to everyone she meets while dressed in an ever-so-slightly fetishised way. Then there is the relationship between her and Takumi which Misaki wants to deny is in any way romantic, but Takumi clearly has other ideas.
If I were to compare it to a series like Ouran High School Host Club, I would say that Maid-Sama! is the more romantic and Ouran is the more comedic. However, both have similar ideas, in particular the lead characters trying to hide a secret identity: Misaki hides her job as a maid, while Ouran‘s Haruhi Fujioka has to pretend to be a boy. Maid-Sama! certainly has an appeal to it, and I think it was wise of Viz to release it in this omnibus edition rather than as individual volumes as it fleshes out the characters more.