Author: Hiro Fujiwara
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 omnibus (volumes 1-2), $14.99
Vintage: 2006-07 by Hakusensha, August 2015 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy
Misaki Ayuzawa attends a recently-made co-ed high school, which is still predominantly filled with male students. As student council president, Misaki has made it her goal to whip the boys into shape and make the school more welcoming to female students. The tough-talking and acting Misaki has a secret that no one can ever know – after school she works in a maid cafe to support her family. Misaki is exceptional – while holding down her after school job, she still manages to get high grades (in fact, she usually ranks first or second), and she rules the school with a tough but fair hand (or occasionally fist). Her life is mostly under control until her secret is discovered by popular classmate Takumi Usui. She frets at first, but Usui never gives her away. He does, however, follow her around, and always seems to be around every corner. He becomes a regular at the maid cafe, keeps a close eye on her at school, and is always around to lend a hand (whether Misaki needs it or not). The girls at school adore Misaki, but most of the boys find her annoying, although she is gradually earning their respect each day. Sometimes she beats it into them, but most of the time she works through compromise. The school festival is a success, despite a conflict of interests between the rambunctious boys and the delicate girls. A small fan club of male students forms around her at school, and she helps them study. When a group of boys get into a fight with students from another school, Misaki steps in to smooth things over by putting trust in her fellow classmates and negotiating an apology on both sides (with some help from Usui). That incident draws the attention of Miyabigaoka’s student council president, who tries to convince Misaki to change schools. Tora Igarashi makes the tempting offer to cover Misaki’s tuition fees, but Misaki isn’t the type to abandon her work, and intends to keep working to improve Seika high school.
I’ll be upfront here – this series makes me uncomfortable. Usui is a creeper. Like Christian Grey-level creepy. He’s a stalker, he is constantly touching Misaki without her permission (and kissing/trying to kiss her, too), and claims her as his even though they could barely be called friends. There are several panels where Misaki looks terrified of Usui’s attention. Not shy or embarrassed, but terrified. Borderline panic attack terrified. This series also falls prey to the trope that no matter how strong or tough a female character is, she’s still just a woman, which means she’ll never be as strong as she needs to be (ie: as strong as the boys). That also appears in a series I love, Ouran High School Host Club, but Haruhi is small and not physically strong (or very physically oriented at all). Misaki is fast, knows aikido, lifts weights, and is good at sports. But she’ll never be as good as, say, Usui (since she’s compared to him throughout the book), because she’s still just a girl. There’s a scene during a race for the school’s sports meet where Misaki is in the lead, but falters near the end when her legs nearly give out. Usui swoops in to win the race for her, pointing out (again) that, “You’re a girl, remember?” (He could have just pointed out that she’s run in every race that day and exhausted herself, but nope, it’s because she’s a girl.) But, it’s shojo, and what’s a shojo without the male lead swooping in to save the female lead. Still, I wish it wasn’t so blatantly “women are weaker than men.” At least Misaki finishes the race (in second, of course, because she’s always coming in second to Usui; at least it’s not as heavy handed as the plot to Special A). I would be remiss in my complaint, however, if I didn’t point out one time Misaki does not require Usui’s help, and in fact she handles the problem before Usui arrives to save her. But then Usui grabs her and claims she’s his “very own personal maid,” and I’m face palming again. Misaki is strong, independent, and has plenty of confidence; Usui’s presence doesn’t do much other than make her more frazzled than normal. He’s contradictory, too, at once telling her to stop running away from who she is, then jumping in to keep her from revealing herself. So, clearly, I don’t care for Maid-sama! However, I’m not willing to write off Fujiwara, because there’s a bonus story (unrelated to the main story) at the end of the first half (originally volume 1) that had me in tears nearly every page. So she can write something meaningful, I just don’t think that thing is Maid-sama!