Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Worst Maid Cafe in Japan.

It really isn't.
Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, episodes 1-6
Originally broadcast weekly on Tokyo Broadcasting, October 7 through November 11, 2010
Fansub by Furukawa Pan 

I figure when doing a review blog that it's best to start with a current series and work back from there. With that in mind, and before delving into my anime archives for my All Time Faves, I thought it would be good to start by reviewing Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (lit. "Yet the Town Keeps Going"), an anime series based on the manga of the same name by Masakazu Ishiguro. So why start with this one? Short version: it's really good. The review continues after the break.

I had been following this manga for some time when I heard about the anime. Learning that Studio Shaft was the production lead was a bit of a plus, as I have enjoyed many of their works in the past (and they are no strangers to the Meido genre, having done the anime adaptation of Mahoromatic).

The story -- mostly -- follows Hotori Arashiyama (voiced by Chiaki Omigawa): klutz, fan of detective stories and initially the sole employee of  the Seaside Cafe. The Seaside is a somewhat dingy lunch counter/coffee shop whose owner, Uki "Grandma" Isohata (voiced jarringly yet appropriately by Takahiro Sakurai), has realized that she can possibly make more money if the shop were a Maid Cafe. To this end she dresses herself and Hotori in maid outfits. Of course, without any of the other trappings of a Maid Cafe (including tea!) this is somewhat absurd and the regulars -- owners of other shops in the market area -- still come in for curry and coffee. The only other regular is Hiroyuki Sanada (Miyu Irino), son of the local fish shop owner and possessor of a huge crush on Hotori. According to the narration he provides at the beginning of the episode, he comes to the shop both for Hotori and for the peace and quiet.

All this begins to change when Hotori invites her friends Toshiko Tatsuno (Aoi Yuki) and Harue Haribara (Riyoko Shiriashi) to visit the shop. Toshiko is a fan of all things Meido and is horrified upon arriving at the shop to find that neither Hotori nor Grandma have any idea whatsoever just what it takes to be a maid. When she shows off her "Meidojitsu" she is offered a job by Grandma but is reluctant until she learns that Sanada is a regular. It turns out that she has a crush on Sanada and once she learns that he comes to the shop on a daily basis she immediately requests to be "Maid Number 2" at the Seaside. 

Cue hilarity. Soon we also get to know their extremely straight-laced homeroom and math teacher Natsuhiko Moriaki (Tomokazu Sugita), upperclassman (and bass player) Futaba Kon (Rieka Yazawa), and various local personalities and family members. Love polygons, mysteries and other wackiness are hallmarks of this often bizarre series.

La Pieta, as performed by Meido.

The anime itself is set up in omnibus format, each episode covering a couple of issues of the manga. The storylines follow the manga quite closely, as it should be. However, Shaft have gone above and beyond, placing their quirky stamp on the anime and allowing the more fluid moving format to present new jokes and situations that would be impossible to convey in manga format.

Take the OP, for example. It is, in a word, fantastic. One might even say that it borders on epic.
Dancing maids. Awesome.

The theme song itself is a cover of a 1970s J-Pop song redone as a big-band show tune.Naturally, in a comedy anime such as this, the epicness of the OP has NOTHING TO DO with the anime itself. This cannot be said for the ED, a rock/Enka mashup that is largely about the singers and the song itself and is 100% awesomeness. 

Within the episodes, anime visual gags abound. Style shifts, visual puns, strange happenings in the background, shout outs to famous anime of the past; anything you could expect in a comedy anime can be found here in spades.

Toshiko shows off her Meidojitsu against Moriaki-sensei.

So far, this series is very enjoyable and is rapidly making its way to my Mostest Favourite list. As a straight comedy it is just plain funny, but seen as a parody of the Meido and other genres it goes up an extra level. It is well worth the time of any anime fan to search out the series.

I give it 8/10, reserving overall judgement until the series is complete. 

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