Mitsuki SaigaYoshiko SakakibaraNatsumi FujiwaraTaku Yashiro
Shounen Maid
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2016: S
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2016
Director: Yusuke Yamamoto
Writer: Yoshiko Nakamura
Actor: Natsumi Fujiwara, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Asuna Tomari, Kaede Hondo, Kazutomi Yamamoto, Mitsuki Saiga, Natsuki Hanae, Taku Yashiro, Tomoaki Maeno, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Yui Makino, Yukari Tamura
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2016
Review date: 27 November 2017
shonen maid
It's unexpectedly lovely. It's a silly little comedy that doesn't seem to have got much attention, but I really liked it. It's light and amusing, but also has a strong emotional core underneath and a cast of characters who really care about each other.
"Shounen" means "boy", or maybe "male teenager". Our "shounen maid" hero is a boy called Chihiro who works as a maid and dresses up in a frilly maid outfit. He's about ten or eleven, by the way. This could have been all kinds of wrong, but as it happens this is a shoujo manga/anime. In other words its target audience is girls, which in this case means there's absolutely nothing sleazy about it. (You can tell it's for girls, by the way, because almost all the regular cast are male. That's normal for anime, above a certain age level.)
What's interesting about Chihiro is that he's clearly a female identification figure with lots of stereotypically feminine traits, but he doesn't come across as a female protagonist in a boy's body. He's an elementary school boy whose favourite activities are housework and cleaning. His friends call him a housewife. He's a great cook (although with certain specific proficiency gaps) who'll give cooking and cleaning lessons to Miyako, the only girl in the main cast. (She's naturally hopeless at both, but she's a hard worker.) However Chihiro's also a grumpy little tyrant who shouts at Madoka all the time, albeit with good reason. He's rude to Madoka in a blunt, masculine way and he seems to relax the most with his schoolboy friends the same age.
Chihiro also embodies other role-reversals, e.g. age-related. He's effectively the adult of the household while his supposed employer (Madoka) is a flippant, irresponsible, often pathetic flake who's usually giving the impression of being as feather-brained as possible. He'll cower in terror from puppies, but cover himself in cats even though he's allergic to them. It doesn't occur to him to stop elementary school boys from watching a horror film in his house. (He even watches it with them!) He's a costume designer with an, ahem, relaxed work ethic, but he'll pull an all-nighter for his own amusement if he sees a chance to drown you in frills.
All this is pleasantly silly, but the show also has a heart. Chihiro's an orphan. His father died when he was a baby and his mother, Chiyo, died very recently. He has nowhere to go and he thinks he doesn't even have any family, but he's wrong. Madoka's his uncle. Chiyo severed all ties with her family, possibly over her marriage and/or pregnancy, but Madoka still remembers his big sister and a promise he made to her.
It's a heartwarming show. Chihiro's snappy and irritable, but only when someone deserves it. He's also hard-working, conscientious and a thoroughly nice kid. The show has a satisfying level of emotional engagement, with the late Chiyo still being very much on everyone's minds even though she's dead. It's a fairly dysfunctional family, especially when granny enters the picture, but I'm pretty sure they'll all settle down in time. I reckon Chihiro takes after his grandmother, by the way. They're both efficient, businesslike and harsh towards people who aren't, whereas the middle generation were the opposite and didn't get on well with their mother. (The main difference between Chihiro and granny is that Chihiro basically gets on with everyone, despite his amusingly low opinion of his uncle. When Miyako admits that she's Madoka's fiancee, Chihiro is aghast not at the principle of arranged marriage but at the idea of specifically being forced to marry Madoka.)
I really enjoyed this show. I galloped through it and would have similarly devoured a second season. It's funny, but it has a strong emotional base. It's not just fluff. It would probably have a far higher profile among the predominantly male Western otaku fanbase had it been gender-flipped, partly because there's an infamous hentai of the same title, but it contains no inappropriate content whatsoever and I could imagine it being a hit in pretty much any timeslot, for any audience. It's made me consider buying the manga, actually.