A small boy called Taro Hanaukyo travels to Tokyo to meet his grandfather and finds himself the owner of the family estate. His new dominion is effectively a palace, has so much money that it's practically an independent economy and is staffed by an army of maids who live to service... uh, I mean serve him. Yes, I'm afraid so. Cue the fanservice.
This show is surprisingly good. I say "surprisingly" because after you've watched episode one, you may never want to watch anime ever again. Remember that Steel Angel Kurumi trailer? The "Oh My God" one that makes jaws flap feebly on the ground and kills feminists faster than cyanide? Hanaukyo Maid Tai La Verite sustains that level of seediness masquerading as cuteness throughout an entire episode. I feel less dirty watching hentai. Japan, we need to talk. Wherein lies the wrongness? Let me count the ways...
- 1 - Hanaukyo Taro is wandering through the forest when he discovers that he's the master of hundreds of squealing buxom maids. Forget minor additional details like a mansion and a financial empire. Those are mere side-issues.
- 2 - These maids all dote on Taro, who looks about ten although I think he's meant to be fourteen.
- 3 - Fanservice, fanservice... Panty shots, a communal bath involving Taro and about a hundred soapy maids, lots of breast-bounce and of course our hero's personal bedwarmers. This trio's job description appears to consist of stripping naked, clambering into bed with Taro and molesting him. They love their job.
- 4 - Taro's reaction to all this is to run away. The poor lamb.
- 5 - Oh, and later in the episode a crazed scientist activates a gadget which removes the clothes of any maid within grabbing distance.
Pornography is more honest. Thinking too hard about this kind of anime is frightening, bringing to mind an entire industry whose target audience's love life revolves around cartoon characters. Fortunately after part one things improved. I nearly said that they couldn't have possibly got worse, but then I remembered that we're talking about anime here.
The fanservice dwindles, though it never goes away (especially the panty shots). It's obviously one of Those Anime aimed at scary people, but perhaps surprisingly I don't regard it as a full-blown harem show. The maids like Taro, but they don't fixate on him romantically. He's merely the boss and even he needs permission to do certain things, e.g. go into town. The maids do their jobs. Very efficiently for the most part. That's all. There's a lesbian crush in the security department and Taro falls for Marie-Elle, the head maid with blue hair, but both of those are one-sided and otherwise this show is romance-free. Instead its relationships are about friendship, respect and facilitating the smooth running of the organisation.
Oh, whoops. I nearly forgot Ryuuka, the stroppy egomaniac head of a rival empire who regards herself as Taro's wife by arranged marriage. However even that's not full-blown harem stuff. Admittedly when the mood takes her she can act like a jealous rival, but that's just ego rather than anything personal with Taro. Initially she doesn't even like him!
The stories are inconsequential nonsense, but still kinda fun. I liked Taro's relationship with his prickly security chief, not to mention the computer whiz with a split personality. Her dominant character is obnoxious and boorish, but touchingly protective of her childlike secondary persona. The show's core cast isn't huge, but it's enough to fuel twelve episodes without noticeable filler. There's even character development, pretty much throughout.
The animation is slick and computer-assisted. It's unmistakably a modern show, but if you're going to build a show around fanservice instead of anything wild and wacky like... oooh, a plot, then it had better look good. Fortunately it does. Ryuuka has scary breasts, but that's Ryuuka all over. What's more, the visual quality doesn't end with the girls. The animation also serves the comedy well, with imaginative sight gags. It may not be as detailed as something like Steel Angel Kurumi, but it's still fun.
This show will never be generally acclaimed, basically thanks to episode one. You can see the audience they were targeting, but what about everyone else? It's also unoriginal. It's covering well-trodden ground and thus some of the cast feel like old friends before they've opened their mouths. Nevertheless it is funny and eventually even manages to grow... well, not a plot, but something plot-like. I also kinda like its set-up. Despite their frilly fluffiness, the Hanaukyo maids run themselves and their estate with almost military organisation.
This isn't a substantial show. It's hard to imagine its run stretching to 26 episodes, let alone 39 or 52. However it has charm, enthusiasm and a likeable cast. Much of the audience may never get past initial impressions and that first episode, but others might rather enjoy the show even if they'd never admit it. Incidentally there had previously been an earlier twelve-part Hanaukyo Maid Tai TV series that even got three OVA episodes. This was a remake rather than a sequel, with "La Verite" added to the title to indicate greater faithfulness to the original manga. Someone saw potential in this material!