Shounen Maid – 12 (End) and Series Review

Shounen Maid - 12 -1Barring carryovers (and Kyoukai no Rinne is the only one – the first time I can remember only one series on my watch list carrying over) this post marks the end of the Spring season for me (whoops – forgot Sakamoto-kun).  And it was a good season overall, if not exceptional.  Somewhat unusually, there were three new series that were not only far, far ahead of the pack but effectively tied for the top spot – to the point where even now, I don’t think I could rank them.  Boku no Hero Academia, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge and Shounen Maid were all wonderful shows in their own way, each with their own particular strengths.  But what Shounen Maid did best, it did better than anybody this season.

Shounen Maid - 12 -2This finale was a bit of a departure from earlier episodes in a number of ways, to the point where I’m almost sure much of it was original material.  The inclusion of Chiyo-san – the Chihiro-aged version of her, to be precise – as a ghost was a bit of a conceit, used to tie together the season and wrap a bow on it.  I think it worked quite well on the whole, though perhaps not as effectively as a simpler and more grounded ending might have. But when ongoing stories have to be wrapped up so prematurely, it forces difficult choices on the anime staff.

Shounen Maid - 12 -3This episode, not unexpectedly, lacked the humorous and light-toned A-Part that’s become a staple of the Shounen Maid anime.  Indeed, I think the first ten minutes of the episode were especially effective because they’re a shining example of the way this series lets the audience put the pieces together on their own.  Superficially we had Chihiro being his usual obsessive caregiver self, fussing over an overworked Madoka (it’s wedding season) like a mother hen.  But there’s something deeper going on here too – Chihiro is old enough and certainly smart enough to understand the circumstances behind his mother’s death.  And he reacts exactly as you’d expect to seeing Madoka drive himself to exhaustion to meet the demands of fussy brides-to-be.  It’s a perfect storm for Chihiro’s neuroses – taking care of everyone, and fear of abandonment.

Shounen Maid - 12 -4My hope going in was that this finale would focus on Kazusa and her relationship with both her son and grandson.  And it did, after a fashion – but it certainly didn’t deliver any Game of Thrones-style audience wish fulfillment.  Indeed things with Kazusa were left open-ended and frankly a bit somber – the word “sayonara” has very specific connotations in Japanese as most of you know, and it seemed Chihiro used it quite conspicuously after his latest meeting in the park with his grandma and the aloof white cat.  Chihiro clearly wants to know his grandmother better, and his affection for her is stronger than any grudge he can hold.  But this is hard, very hard – complicated and painful and difficult.  And that family bond he longs to establish may or may not ever come.

Shounen Maid - 12 -5My hope too was that Chihiro might loop Kazusa into helping him take care of Madoka, but that was never likely.  They do have a very touching bonding moment over it but that’s all – she leaves him to take care of things and so he does, in his fussy but loving fashion.  And Madoka eventually does finish up his backlog, but rather than go straight to bed he ends up back in his workshop, staring at a wedding dress that remains behind.  We know whose dress this is, of course – how could we not?  But that doesn’t lessen the impact when Madoka tells the story of how he came to create it, and how it was never worn.

Shounen Maid - 12 -6The fact that it’s the anniversary of Chiyo’s death may have made Chihiro worry about Madoka that much more – perhaps he was subconsciously aware of it.  It’s a bittersweet ending, this, because while the year’s worth of recollections he shares with Chiyo’s spirit are mostly happy ones, the fact remains that her death has left a huge empty space in his life.  And Madoka has cut his own mother out of his life by choice, though she remains very much alive.  You only have one mother, and whatever difficulties exist between parent and child, once that parent is gone they’re gone.  Chihiro is a child, and I’m sure he doesn’t know how to formulate this in words for Madoka – but I’m just as sure that he understands it on an elemental level, and the state of affairs in his family profoundly unsettles him.

Shounen Maid - 12 -7If ever an anime exemplified the idea that appearances can be deceiving, Shounen Maid does.  As cute as Chihiro is and as bright as the color palette and designs are, this series is both very complex and quite dark.  It embraces the pain that’s part of the human condition in a manner few anime have the courage to do, and it does so fearlessly and without resorting to emotional manipulation or cliche.  Like Uchouten Kazoku and Kyousougiga, this show is a love story without being a romance.  It’s about the love of family – how powerful that love is, and the hurt we often cause ourselves and others with whom we share it.

Shounen Maid - 12 -8That Shounen Maid ends here is certainly frustrating, but it’s a story fans of manga are all too familiar with.  While the unlikely existence of this adaptation is something to be grateful for, the fact that there are no translations of the manga whatsoever since 2012 makes seeing the anime end here (though there is the skipped episode that will be included on the Blu-rays) especially painful.  Being a manga fan can be painful at moments like these, no matter how many times we see the process repeat itself.  It’s always an effort to focus on the positive, but I can say with honesty that I never for a minute expected Shounen Maid to receive an adaptation.  As gutted as I am to see the story end here, I am glad it had a chance to win over a few (not nearly enough) new fans.

Shounen Maid - 12 -10Shounen Maid has been a funny sort of series for me.  I felt myself very much in the role of defending it to a skeptical potential audience, because I’d read what little of it is translated and seen that it’s excellent (and how different than the sort of series most assume).  But I was not really prepared for just how good this series really was – maybe because there are only about 20 chapters out there in English, maybe because I was guilty of a bit of the same closed-mindedness I was seeing in others.  Maybe, even, because the anime has improved on the manga.  But whatever the reason, it’s time to confront the fact that Shounen Maid may just be the best series of the Spring – and who would have predicted that?

End Card by Ototachibaba:

Shounen Maid - 12 -70

 

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17 comments

  1. I am really sad it’s over. That is all I am thinking about right now. I wish to see more, I enjoyed every episode, and I think I re-watched every episode over 10 times over how much I have enjoyed this show. While it will probably be the type of anime where there will never be a continuation, and if it does, it would be in a very far away future where Ouran, Kaichou wa Maid sama, Fruits Basket and many others are still sitting on a pile of dusty memories.

    Thanks for your review. It was actually that you wrote about Shonen Maid that made me want to watch it, and I honestly have no regrets. I also prejiduced the name because Super Lovers ruined my life perminantly and I subconsciously put it in the same boat, but Shonen Maid can’t even be compared with that.

    Thank you for your review as always,
    M

  2. y

    Shounen Maid was great. I was hesitant with the premiere as well, but I found myself enjoying this show a lot. It’s probably my second favorite this season right underneath Tanaka-kun. But it’s such a shame as I’ve tried to recommend this show to my friends, but none of them want to give it a chance.

    Also you mention this being the end of the Spring season for you, but what about Sakamoto? O:

  3. Shounen Maid ended up being my favorite series of the Spring. It had likable cast of characters, believable depiction of character dynamics, great story (restrained (if that’s the right word) and heart-warming), and the art was pretty to look at.

    Shame it didn’t seem to get the (positive) attention it certainly would have deserved… And also sad it’s unlikely to get continuation as anime.

    (So I guess I have to buy the manga now. I haven’t read it at all yet, but from what I’ve gathered from these blog posts the adaptation was quite faithful.)

  4. G

    Thank you for review Shounen Maid. I’ve learned many things from this anime and your review. Anime of the Season! Give it 10/10♥
    Like Mi-Chan, I re-watched 3-4 times each episode and will marathon every episode tomorrow.
    (I don’t know why it has low popularity until the end…)

  5. Y

    Although my favorite show this season goes to Boku no Hero Academia, I will probably rank Shounen Maid as #1 for the consistent enjoyment it brought me and its well-rounded performance. I’m a sucker for stories about families, so Shounen Maid was one of the few series this season that I watched the moment it was available. Thanks for introducing us to this gem! If it wasn’t for your blog, I probably would have never checked it out. This last episode really caught me by surprise, because it felt like the show just took off with the drama surrounding Kazusa. Nevertheless, it was a touching way of tying up Chihiro’s one year at Madoka’s place. I’m going to miss this show dearly and am crossing my fingers for a second season.

  6. Like anybody what I like can be night and day from everybody else. That being said it is third on my Top Favorites which is amazing considering all the pre-picked hyphed shows for spring I learned my lesson Stay low-keyed and watch first. Yes Slice of life show were in my top 5 but this is how I stack them up.

    1 Assassination Classroom 2 just a great adaption and the endings touche a lot of people who think it one of the best ever Anime done right Lerche did a great Job along with Yusei
    2 My Hero Avademia / just enjoyed it.
    3 Shonen Maid I feel bad people got the wrong intial impression
    4 Flying Witch The most laid back anime since Non-Non Biyori
    5 Three Leaves, Three Colors A Slice of Life / CGDCT but with lie lessons

    As the series goes just great / but I also flt there were a couple of loose ends but CHI’s dream about his mom was a huge point.

    Also CHI wanted to ask his grandmom about his mom but did get some answers about Madoka

    Chi wanted to ask Madoka more about the shaky relationship between the family.

    So thanks for blogging this as I enjoyed reading your take as much as watching

  7. Z

    Do you think the first dream where she pats his head and he falls was supposed to be symbolic of his feelings after her death? And could Chihiro have been any more adorable when he went to close Madoka’s window after his ghost scare? Watching him fret about Madoka’s overworking really pulled the heart-strings. Such a good series. Such a sweet ending.

    If only we could get another season! Or if not, maybe this will get more of the manga translated. We can hope for that, right?

    I was pretty sure I would enjoy this, but this adaption knocked it out of the park. Shounen Maid is my #2 of the season. For me, Tanaka-kun was great, but Shounen Maid edged it out.

    #1 Ushio to Tora
    #2 Shounen Maid
    #3 (tied) Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
    #3 (tied) Boku no Hero Academea
    #5 (tied) Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 2
    #5 (tied) Concrete Revolutio 2
    #7 Flying Witch

    Looking at it now, that’s 7 shows I really enjoyed in one season. As much as it felt like the season was a disappointment, it really wasn’t.

    Thanks for blogging about this one.

  8. Well, for me it was a really good series just a bit shy of being a great one. But to be fair it had stiff competition this season. I would prolly put it at the top of the B list, with the A list for me being Flying Witch, Concrete Revolutio and Ushio to Tora.

    Even so, it was an excellent series and (I know I am preaching to the choir here) deserved way, way more attention than it got.

  9. Series like this make me appreciate your blog all the more, I would never have stumbled along this show without all your positive comments.

  10. These comments are very kind and I sincerely appreciate them. Almost feels like a Ginga e Kickoff situation – making a big difference on a little show.

  11. Z

    Better comment late than never I suppose.

    I could echo all of these posts, but two things really stuck with me.

    1. Like some others, I never would have given this show a shot if you hadn’t rated it so highly. The whole “boy dresses as maid” thing would have stopped me short from episode 1. Instead I got to ride the feels train and enjoy a sweet story about a group of people struggling to deal with family, loss, and each other. Thanks so much!

    2. What kind of analogy can we draw from Kazusa and the white cat and her own relationship with her son? That if she can overcome one cat’s resentment, there might possibly be something to be doen about her and Madoka’s relationship?

    Unfortunatley we’ll probably never know the full truth, but still hope springs eternal!

  12. First, thank you. As far as the cat, I’m not sure how symbolic that whole thing is supposed to be. Maybe just that Kazusa is an intimidating presence who isn’t always able to communicate how she truly feels?

  13. And this was yet another series that I wouldn’t have touched if not for your positive first impressions, we may have some different opinions about certain series, but I gotta say you really have a talent to shine light on the underrated “underdogs”, thanks man.

  14. Music to my ears…

  15. n

    I admit i saw the title and avoided it, but then i somehow was reading anime descriptions and clicked the first episode… what a pleasant surprise ^u^ i loved this series, and even my mum (she hates watching english subs as english is her…. .third language…. so it’s hard for her to read quickly enough) absolutely loved it and kept bugging me as to when the new episodes would be up heh..

    tho… u mention 20 chaptesr? !? I can only find 12 at most ~!! where are these mystical extra eight please tell me !!! *puppy eyes*

  16. Yeah, I only know of 12 translated chapters.

  17. n

    ahhh that stinks -.-” i hope somehow this gains enough interest that someone somewhere finishes it :/ -.-“

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