Hanaukyo Maid Team Vol. 2: Lost in Kamakura
I can't help but feel somewhat guilty for enjoying the fanservice vehicle that is Hanaukyo Maid Team. It isn't much more than a paint-by-numbers harem comedy with more women and nudity than other popular shows of the genre. What's more, it features an even younger main protagonist than Keitaro from Love Hina, Kaoru from Ai Yori Aoshi, Tenchi from Tenchi Muyo, Ranma from Ranma 1/2, or almost any other major series that I can think of.
That's typically the case with a series like this; they tend to follow the standard formula to start, toss in a few variables, and go from there. Even though this series can be accused of being unimaginative, it doesn't mean that it's not fun to watch for those of us who appreciate a good mindless comedy from time to time.
Taro Hanaukyo's grandfather has decided to step down from his position as the head of the family, and as the only living heir, it's now Taro's turn to take control of the powerful Hanaukyo Empire. Taro's parents had a falling out with his grandfather, so he wasn't aware of the massive amount of wealth that he was connected to until he made it to the family mansion -- now his home. Even more impressive than the huge estate is the legion of servants dedicated to taking care of every aspect of Taro's life. Unsurprisingly, the staff is entirely female, mostly under twenty years of age, and on average, exceedingly attractive.
The head maid is named Mariel, and Taro quickly develops a crush on her. No man would have trouble finding something appealing in Mariel. She's extraordinarily kind, warm-hearted, devoted to Taro's well-being, friendly, well-mannered and beautiful. However, seeing as she's maybe ten years older than Taro (or maybe not that much older -- it's hard to tell), she's somewhat out of reach (literally; she's taller than average and he's shrimpy, even for a kid) for the young man, his dreams may have to wait.
As can be expected for this sort of comedy, there are all kinds of supporting characters with quirks to round out the cast. From the overprotective head of security with a secret sensitive side, to the child prodigy, Cynthia and her other personality, Grace, there is diversity enough to allow most viewers to pick a favorite character.
The story of Hanaukyo Maid Team gets a little more complex with the addition of Ryuka Jihioh. She's destined to be the head of the Hanaukyo Company's main competitor, but she will only be given the position if she can secure Taro's hand in marriage. Like Mariel, she is considerably older than Taro, and unlike the head maid, she doesn't have any interest in the little guy at first. However, he manages to bring out the best in everybody -- even his rivals -- and in this volume, she begins to see him as something more than just her only means to rise in the business world.
I especially enjoyed the first episode on this disc. Not only does it give us another look at Ryuka's personality, casting her in a slightly more sympathetic light than before, but it's set at a Comic Market -- a dojinshi buying and selling fair. It's always fun to see one show referencing another, and seeing the maids cosplay as Chii from Chobits and Alucard from Hellsing, and Taro's spot-on portrayal of Mahoro from Mahoromatic was pretty funny.
Standard harem comedy or not, this series appears to have secured a good amount of funding to support its production. Animation is smooth and clean throughout, and the show is generally colorful and sharp. Backgrounds tend to be well-rendered, and little provocative details (read: panty shots) are thrown in often when it comes to depicting the maids. If you are familiar with the manga version of Hanaukyo Maid Team, you know that the series does get a little more serious near the end. Don't fret; a show that is this much fun can't get too dramatic.
The show's music is surprisingly good. A symphonic score is used as background music, and it adds much to the richness and legitimacy of the series. The opening and ending themes are cute and fuzzy, although they are not remarkably catchy. However, I'd be interested in buying the soundtrack just for the background score.
Extras aren't especially impressive, but some lucky people will receive a limited edition pencil board with the disc, and I believe everyone is treated to a dual-sided cover. But then, with a three DVD series, there might not be too many extras to include.
There is a simple charm that is present in this series, and although some people may be turned off by the excessive fanservice (c'mon; a cast that is ninety-nine percent composed of maids?), it manages to shine through. Much like Taro's strong personality, the worthiness of this story becomes apparent to those who get to know it. The show doesn't promise to introduce new fundamental truths about life. It merely serves as a temporary diversion from reality, and in that sense, it performs its task flawlessly.