Beach balls and Bikini Maids
In any manga with this many girls gathered together, they will eventually hit the beach, and that is just what happens in this latest volume of “Maid Sama”(Japanese title “Kaicho wa Maid-sama!” or “Student Council President is a Maid!”). In your typical comic that would quickly lead to lots of close-ups of the girls in their swimwear and most likely someone walking in on someone changing, leading to endless hijinks and misunderstandings. However, as I have learned, “Maid Sama” is not your typical comic.
The story opens with a bizarre little encounter with new character Soutarou Kanou, a woman-hater with amazing powers of hypnotism. Although Usui is immune to his influence (of course) Misaki finds that she quickly falls under his spell, and so Soutarou plants a command in her that, if she sleeps at all during the next 24 hours, she will awaken hating Usui. What follows is a contest between the three to keep Misaki awake. This story is followed by a short story on the various clubs wanting to recruit in-coming middle-schoolers, but everyone wants Usui to join their club first.
The real action begins when all the girls of Café Maid Latte head to the beach resort of Satsuki’s younger sister Nagisa, who are both the aunts of the cross-dressing Aoi. Of course, Usui is along for the ride as well. However, his anticipation of seeing Misaki in a bikini are crushed when she happily steps out in her one-piece school bathing suit, swim cap included. Nagisa is worried about the slow business at her resort, so the girls do what they do best and chip in as “Bikini Maids” wearing their maid aprons and bonnets over bikinis in order to drum up business. Finally, Aoi is forbidden from cross-dressing by his aunts, who want to make him manlier, and the only road open to him to wearing the frilly dresses he so adores is to win the beach volleyball tournament. Misaki agrees to be his partner, but is surprised when Usui puts together a team to oppose them. Why does Usui want Misaki to lose?
The final story in volume four is a “non continuity” tale where Misaki and Usui perform the Japanese fairly tale “Momotaro the Peach Boy.” I enjoyed this, as it finally gave the Idiot Trio a chance to pop up, and was a nice twist on a familiar legend, without taking away from the ongoing story line.
This volume is decorated with a “letters column” of sorts with Misaki and Usui answering reader questions scattered between the pages. They finish up with about five pages of one-line questions and reader requests. Very funny.
I really love the humor in “Maid Sama,” which plays against conventions for your typical shojo book and delivers lots of laughs. Volume four does have more romance in it than previous volumes, and Usui is slowly showing his nicer side to Misaki. In previous volumes, I could understand why Misaki was turning down the “perfect guy,” but here it becomes less clear and you can tell Misaki is questioning her rejection as well. There is an “almost” scene between Misaki and Usui that was nice, and of course they were interrupted at just the right moment.
Series author Hiro Fujiwara’s art continues to be excellent, and I think she manages to move between styles very well. The overly-cute maids contrasts with Misaki’s tomboy looks and attitudes, and Usui continues to be a nice play on the stereotypical bishonen.