I like to think that I’m pretty open-minded about most anime, but there are certain archetypes that dispel any possible interest I might take. One of these is the maid stereotype. Japan has this odd fascination with maids, as evidenced in their abundant maid cafes and in most anime harems where the shows make up any excuse they can to stuff their female characters (and sometimes male) into maid costumes. And when I say maid, it’s definitely not your modern janitor type of clothes, but the classic, Victorian-era, British maid look.
Maids and butlers–it’s all about service, right? Exemplary service is expected to both household and its occupants. This means the utmost hospitality, graciousness, grace, manners, and the awareness to make one’s self invisible unless called for. Nothing is more unbecoming than a servant who does not know his/her place (think of Umineko’s servant Kanon and his notion of “furniture”). In the case of most anime’s depiction of maids, another term comes to mind: MOE. They are objects of appreciation who do all they can to please the master(s). Since we’re considering the show Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, let’s narrow the focus down to specifically cafe maids:
- Super unrealistic anime-like voices
- Some skirts may be ridiculously shorter than advised for the practical purposes of a maid
- Some dresses may be ridiculously more flamboyant than advised for the practical purposes of a maid
- Additional skills of dancing and singing?
- Pandering to the desires of the customer, be that spoon feeding or paying special attention to him or her (omelets with requested messages, anyone?) with bidded appeals of “-sama, -niisan, etc.”
While I don’t really find the above attractive in an anime since I see it all the time, I wouldn’t mind trying it out in real life once or twice for the experience and fun. Taking the cafe in SoreMachi into light, we get the FAILED EXPECTATIONS of the customer. All those above bullet points are nowhere to be found. It isn’t so much a show about maids, but about everything anti-maid.
Arashiyama Hotori works as a maid in a cafe. Let me rephrase. Hotori pretends to work as a waitress coincidentally dressed as a maid in a quaint “cafe” that serves coffee instead of the regular tea menu. The Seaside Cafe is owned by an obstinate old lady who wears a maid costume as well. As we watch Hotori “work,” it’s very clear that service is the last thing on her mind–she lazes around until forced to get up by a demanding customer, often mixes up orders, places items on the table in a loud and clumsy manner, and most days tries to get out early. The main customers are the local fishermen, other store owners, or Hotori’s school friends, and they don’t come around that often. Can you blame the owner for trying to entice more customers with the maid look?
After the first episode, I had certain predictions: this show would show us a terrible example of a maid cafe, and over the course of the season, give us the ol’ improvement storyline. Hotori would learn to become an A+ cafe maid, the cafe itself would get a makeover, and the customer count would skyrocket.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Hotori does not improve. As each episode progressed, she grated more and more on my nerves with her perfectly whiny voice (excellent VA work by Omigawa Chiaki) and her ability to either do everything wrong, or do absolutely nothing. The episode themes take much the same route. There isn’t a real pattern to the storyline, so we immediately have the slice of life genre.
Some episodes focus on the daily happenings in the cafe, with the addition of Hotori’s friend, Natsuno, to the staff, and the hilarious encounters with other customers. Hotori has a showdown with her overly strict math teacher, who she also happens to have a crush on. She helps him solve the mystery of his art inheritance. She has another showdown with the local police officer. Other episodes focus on her outside dealings with friends and strangers alike. We get to meet another one of her friends, Kon-senpai, who is the embodiment of cool. In fact, this was one character who I wished to see more of.
There are times where we get almost zero focus on Hotori, as SoreMachi instead tells the stories of other random characters, like the antiques shop owner, or the Arashiyama house pet, tanuki “Josephine.”
While I certainly liked this show and laughed a lot, I did have one major pet peeve with it. With one very startlingly maid-like quality, SoreMachi strove to over serve–it covered too many bases within too short an episode-count (12). The show first gave us an anti-maid cafe type show, then moved to a mystery type thriller, later we started getting hints of the supernatural with time traveler and alien encounters as well as an afterlife experience, and we even had a culture fair episode staple, featuring Hotori and her friends in a knock off K-On! performance, featuring drums, guitar, violin, and accordion. In the end, and even now, I have a hard time remembering every episode and every character, as it all started to blur together. For their idea to work, Shaft should have opted for either a 24-episode length season, or cut out some of the random shit in the short 12-episode season.
Overall: somewhere between a 7 (good) and 8 (very good)…7.8?
Looking for more maids/butlers?
Really…there’s too many to name.