Ukiukiukiukiukiukiukiuki~ (Time to get cheerful~)
This is one of those titles that I have been looking forward to air but still was afraid for, because in case of SHAFT it’s either hit or miss. So, it was trepidation-me, who had no expectations whatsoever before watching this. The only thing I had going for was the brilliant OP, sung by none other than Sakamoto Maaya (my lovely), whose voice I adore as Shiki, Haruhi, Nino and Ciel; just to name a few:
If you thought this was going to be another typical maid-café-ridden storyline, you were wrong sir/madam! Knowing SHAFT and Shinbou, at least one thing was clear, this is not going to be your typical and flowery Irrashaimasen goshujin-sama~ If the regal introduction surprised me, I still waited for something to go wrong and it sure did, when I was not expecting at all.
The premise of the show is quite interesting. In Martin B. Stone’s words, “There are no bad customers; there are only bad stores.” However the ambience of a café, if it delivers exactly what the customer needs, it has fulfilled its big duty of being a customer-serving store. The story revolves around the Seaside Maid café, which is run by an oba-san, Uki Isohata. You can’t really call it a maid café because there are no flowers, shiny cutlery or aromatic ambience; also, tea is not served there of all things. If you went EEEHHHHH?! you are right to do so because, which maid café have you heard of not serving tea? Preposterous, I say but this is where the fun begins.
Being part of a commercial lane, the café doesn’t stand out much and only visited by a handful of customer, mostly belonging to the nearby shops. Our main protagonist Hotori Arashiyama is a recent hire, who is a complete airhead with a very small attention span. You can’t call her a blonde bimbo (she’s better than that) but is actually slow and klutzy. Now, I know the klutzy bit is already overdone in anime but there’s a cute side to her which WINS over all, when Omigawa Chiaki voices her so perfectly (a la P-ko from Arakawa anyone?). That childish deflection and high pitch in excitement/rage works spot on.
Our airhead maiden at the said café, is frequently visited by her classmate Hiroyuki Sanada (if someone remembered Sanada Yukimura, 20 points to you!). It’s clear to the viewer the reason of his being there: to be alone with Hotori, who he has more than a crush on. However, Hotori being herself doesn’t have the foggiest and simply chats along to copy his homework. To Sanada though, this trifling café is his fortune café because it gives him what he desires: spending precious time with Hotori. If you thought, you have heard him somewhere, you are not mistaken, Irino Miyu recently voiced Ryoushi in Ookami-san and Konoha in Bungaku Shoujo.
Good to know that teachers at Otani High School actually pay attention to students who bungle about rather than going with the flow like so many we have encountered in the anime land. In particular, Moriaki sensei more than lectures Hotori for blatantly copying the homework from another student. He calls her to his office after school, which Hotori completely forget because she was taking her friends Tatsuno and Haribara to show her exciting work place. Uhhh…. -___-
Will the real slim shady please stand up!
Tatsuno is a total fangirl from the looks of it and a closet otaku I might add because she knows more about the nuances of a maid café than the owner herself, who’s only good at sewing handmade maid costumes and scaring the shit out of people. Did I mention she’s voiced by none other than Takahiro Sakurai, the voice of whom I oh-so-love as Oshino Meme, Yaichi, Luka, etc. You can never guess it’s him until you look it up; he’s that good. I would love it if Uki turns out to be an oyaji, who loves to wear maid costumes; would actually make my day but let’s leave that for later episodes.
And we have a winner! DAISYYYY~
Tatsuno being a know-it-all, trains Hotori good to bring out her inner-maid, which is not the flowery kind but the klutzy kind. According to Tatsuno it actually brings out her adorableness and even if she falls down, burns herself and fudges the welcoming greeting, she’s pure WIN~ through and through. For a fact, that is true because it sure produced some laughs from me and that clingy “I’M HOME DAISYYYY!” from a customer.
You see what I mean? It’s not all her fault…
When Sanada comes to visit as usual, he’s surprised to see the hubbub. On the other hand seeing him around, Tatsuno promptly decides to join the café after a girly heart-to-heart an enthusiastic grin from the owner. Again, clear to the audience, we have a rabu triangle between this trio.
The next day, Moriaki sensei follows and catches the two friends entering the café and lectures them about their part-time job as it’s prohibited according to their school regulations. They need their guardian’s approval if they are to continue working. Tatsuno comes up with a diabolical plan of letting loose the klutzy maid Hotori to unravel her Maid Arts in the usual fashion. However, Moriaki remains unfazed and continues to not only lecture Hotori but finds many faults, killing her motivation to work. You would be thinking, Nakata Jouji should have played this role but Sugita Tomokazu does a pretty good job in being overbearingly serious and bossy. Don’t expect him to break in a ballade like Hoshi (Arakawa Under the bridge) neither Gin-like (Gintama) funnies; though like Sakurai, he’s going to be another gem to watch out for.
The episode takes a full circle of fortune café, when the same welcoming sequence plays for Moriaki sensei but all goes to hell when his tea soda fizzes over and the whole scene is transposed to a nightmarish sequence of Uki inviting him in the café without ever escaping. *insert evil grin here*
Not to mention, ED is another winner, “Maids Sanjou!” by the maido seiyuu cast:
End Thoughts: I have to say, SHAFT and Shinbou are BAMFs! I mean, they know their stuff and this is definitely a hit! The pacing was perfect and I didn’t feel the plot lagging behind or giving too much information. Coming from a Slice of Life genre, the first episode gave enough of character introduction for the viewer to be interested in and wanting to know more.
Clearly, Seaside Maid Café is not just a run of the mill coffee place and I see it getting more customers now that Tatsuno’s diabolical mind has been added with the already sinister Uki. If you are not afraid of her after that last scene, I would warn you for more such performances in later episodes. Tatsuno has an axe to grind; same for Sanada; the only one left not having a clue is Hotori. I can’t see her to remain like that but as it’s the first episode alone, I’ll leave the deep speculations aside till later episode.
This had a very Arakawa Under the Bridge feel in the beginning, when Sanada had an internal monologue about his feelings for Hotori akin to Ric, while she cluelessly continued prattling on like Nino. However, this didn’t continue and went to another level of funny which was not as laughter-producing as Arakawa but chuckle-worthy for sure.
This was a good first episode overall and props for the Seiyuu cast because everyone fit into their roles and then some. There’s a lot of questions like who the hell is that random Pikachu Poko, continuing to provide tongue twisters; not to mention the very appropriate narrator, who doesn’t annoy me at all (unlike as in Ookami-san). I know these were not important but I would like to see the flow of plot before going into long-winded theories. I’m definitely following this and blogging until Ryuu’s back from her vacations.
Preview: It’s all going to be about sexual harassment… and this is where I end my speculation because I already know whatever I think, something wild and completely opposite would happen. Also, I would not be reading the manga to get spoiled until this twelve-episode series ends. I leave you with another winner, School Rumble referenced at the end: guruguru mawaru (if you haven’t seen this, go see it NAO!). Ja ne~