Hanaukyo Maid Team "La Verite" Vol.01: How do you do, Master? Review
When his mother passes away, young Taro Hanaukyo travels to Tokyo, where he is to stay with his Grandfather. The pair has never met each other before and so Taro isn’t sure what to expect. One thing is for sure; never in his wildest dreams did he think his Grandfather was one of the most powerful men in Japan, with a huge estate filled with hundreds of buxom maids. Upon his arrival Taro learns that his Grandfather has left the estate and bestowed the entire premises and family fortune upon his Grandson. Well this is all very sudden; Taro isn’t at all prepared for such a responsibility. How can he run such a vast estate, and what is expected of him? Thankfully - or not as the case may be - he has in his service the finest maids in Japan, led by the blue-haired Mariel. Taro is about to find out that even though he has every need catered for; life at the Hanaukyo mansion is going to be far from simple.
To clear up any confusion, Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite is a remake of 2001’s Hanaukyo Maid-Tai, which is based upon Shige Mori‘s manga. Having not seen the original I can’t comment as to how much of an improvement this new incarnation is, however first impressions are that the series has some nice production values and a little charm to carry it off.
Anime maid shows are hardly a rarity, and this one isn’t exactly original; neither does it build upon the dozens of existing series that tell the story of a young man surrounded by beautiful women. Series like Tenchi Muyo and Love Hina have become leaders in this type of storytelling, while others branch out to supply more in the way of fan service, by providing the kind of tales that fuel the male fantasy (Hand Maid May, Mail Order Maiden et al). Now we have something that is caught in-between. A series such as this cannot afford to be a serious drama, it’s far too ludicrous in premise for that, and so the writers take their influences and design a series of skits that utilise nudity, suggestiveness and idiocies for the sake of providing cheap entertainment.
To be fair, Hanaukyo Maid Team isn’t a bad show, if anything it’s actually pretty charming when its not indulging itself in youth sexual obsession; but for the vast majority of this volume the situations are predominantly comical, and predictable at that. The set up is very standard and not difficult to follow if you’re already accustomed to watching these kinds of shows, where multiple characters and their arcs take precedence. For this volume everything is about introducing the stock characters, getting to know them a little better and seeing how they grow, or seeing if they show promise for future episodes. Once again they just all happen to be lovely females who dote on their “master” in this case, whilst being adorned in typical fetish outfits that show off as much of their assets as possible. Though not entirely original the designs are attractive and fun, with the animators naturally exploiting each maid as much as possible. Its most exploitative side comes in the form of Taro being the rather unhealthy obsession of the seemingly older maids, so if there’s anything at all for the viewer to concern and confuse himself/herself over then it’s undoubtedly the question that begs “why”? But as with most things the animators and writers don’t have a reason because it’s a staple part of anime culture these days. Hanaukyo Maid Team just is, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other. This attitude may prevent it from becoming anything memorable, but at least it doesn‘t have delusions of grandeur.
Moving on then to the multitude of characters, each one is established relatively quickly, and some are even given a little background for us to get to grips with. Initially these players are very familiar in how each one is portrayed, but with the occasional specific trait thrown in some of them still come away with a unique personality of their own.
First we meet Taro; there’s nothing particularly special about him, he’s like any normal boy and acts pretty much like every other young male character that has been thrown into an awkward situation. He soon meets Mariel, who is an attractive maid and proves to be the object of his desire early on. In fact episode 2 seems him immediately fall head over heels for her, so we can cancel out the idea of anyone else being a substitute for his love at this point. As Taro is shown around the estate we get to meet the important maids and divisions. There’s Konoe Tsurugi who is the head of security and is a strong and assertive figure. She takes little crap from anyone and understands the importance of serving one’s master and providing ample protection for him. Next up is her right hand girl, Yashima Sanae. She is a woman who is more passionate about serving Konoe than she is in Taro, and very early on we get a glimpse into her affection for Konoe, which clearly extends to lesbian fantasy. Taro’s personal staff is soon introduced, and this is made up of three identical young women named Lemon, Melon and Marron. Their duty is to simply warm Taro’s bed for him and service his every need, although he has to fend them off more than a couple of times. The girls argue amongst themselves as to who is going to get the first kiss or lay and constantly try their best to get him into compromising positions. When he escapes from their advances one night, Taro finds himself in the mansion’s basement laboratory, which is headed by Ikuyo Suzuki. Ikuyo is an intelligent girl, but her main flaw is that she’s a pathological liar, which makes it very difficult for Taro to trust her. She makes up stories about her past as well as the other maids, while slyly winking all the while and keeping close tabs on things. Finally there is Cynthia. Cynthia is the youngest of the maids; she’s pure and innocent but she also has a split personality disorder. When Cynthia “sleeps” Grace awakens. Grace is the more mature and intelligent half of Cynthia, whose job is to suppress Cynthia’s painful memories, while providing the estate with its technology. The rest of the mansion is made up of hundreds of maids who work under these separate divisions and are called upon to help Taro with other duties, such as going to the toilet or taking a bath. The only additional character work mentioning is Ryuka, who turns up in episode 2 and seeks Taro as a husband, even though she has no idea who he is and what he looks like. She comes from a wealthy family and as it turns out their power is split with the Hanaukyo estate. The only way that Ryuka is ever going to become the head of the Jihioh family is by marrying Taro. This soon raises inevitable questions and gives the series a little extra push. We know that Ryuka is going to return and when she does I’m sure she’ll bring more of her fiery attitude.
There’s perhaps a touch more poignancy than to be expected, particularly in relation to Cynthia/Grace. At the moment she’s about the only character that has actually been given a deep enough background, while others are largely glossed over. Even Taro as the main character is given very little attention, which seems more than a little strange. At no point do we learn about his mother, where he’s from, how his heritage comes about, although it’s here that I maybe getting ahead of myself. We do witness a very brief moment that suggests his Grandfather might be up to something, but there’s little to go off and saying that we don’t even know if the mysterious character in question is his Grandfather. I’m speculating of course, but the signs are beginning to show.
With all these quirky characters you can be sure that Hanaukyo Maid Team crams in the visual gags, and although it isn’t a consistently humorous show (and neither do I believe it is intended to be at all times) it does have its moments. Aside from the vast amounts of sexual aggression it tends to rely on recycled material from other anime, such as the obligatory decisive battle and hard nosed characters becoming big softies. Interestingly though, in light of the situation there’s surprisingly little bickering going on. Aside from Taro’s personal staff there’s no competitive streak running throughout the series as the girls would ordinarily vie for his affection in any other show, bar Ryuka coming over to stir trouble. It’s as if they all know that Mariel is the one, and for those who don’t they are simply more concerned with other people. Meanwhile Mariel just gets on with things and as long as her master is happy then so is she, no matter what his decision may be.
How Do You Do, Master?
Taro Hanaukyo’s mother has recently passed away, and now the young boy must travel to Tokyo to live with the Grandfather that he’s never met. When he arrives he is greeted by a beautiful maid, named Mariel, who takes him to the Hanaukyo estate and informs him that he has been entrusted with it. Much to his surprise, Taro finds all of this hard to take in, but matters continue to worsen when he learns that he is to be in charge of an entire mansion full of doting maids, waiting to fulfil his every need.
A Ten-Game Match
Barely having settled into his new home, Taro is soon visited by a young lady named Ryuka. Ryuka belongs to the Jihioh family, who are considered to be the Hanaukyo family’s main rival, sharing equal power. Ryuka’s intent is to marry Taro so that she can become the head of the family, but she is dismayed when she learns that Mariel seems to be the object of Taro’s affection. She immediately challenges Mariel to a ten-game match, which will decide who is the more worthy to take Taro’s hand.
Cynthia and Grace
Taro asks about Cynthia and learns that she was once a child prodigy, who was taken away and researched upon. Around that time she developed a second personality, which she referred to as Grace. Grace would take away all of the bad memories and provide Cynthia with the strength she needed, but after some time it became apparent that this would take its toll physically. Taro attempts to befriend Grace but he learns that she has no interest in childish things. When Grace overhears a conversation about the possibility of a personality integration she becomes worried and soon locks herself away in the main computer hub, “Memol”, which is in the sub-room for data processing.
Konoe transfers Yashima over to Mariel’s division, so that she can keep an eye on Taro and make sure that the other girls are not allowed to get away with anything they want. Soon, Taro decides that he’d like to buy a gift for Mariel and he heads into town. Konoe follows him and eventually the pair end up looking after a little lost girl. Here Taro realises that Konoe isn’t quite the ice queen he always thought she was.
Geneon Entertainment live up to their usual standards by bringing Hanaukyo Maid Team on another fine disc. The amaray package is standard stuff, but comes with another nice reversible cover. On front you get Mariel standing shoulder to shoulder with Taro, while on the reverse Cynthia and Grace stand side by side.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 Hanaukyo Maid Team looks very impressive. Initially the main menu was a little worrying, as it features some heavy aliasing, but thankfully the actual episodes aren’t plagued with such a deterrent. Being so recent the image exhibits marvellous detail and fine edges, albeit with some minor enhancement, along with brilliant colours and solid brightness and contrast levels. This is one of the more colourful shows of late, with plenty of outdoor action, so it’s nice to see excellent blues and greens also. Digital banding is present, although slight and the occasional scene can become soft due to stylistic choices, but all in all this holds up very well indeed. The final credits that play out each episode show some dot crawl, which seems to be a result of the newly created English text.
Sound-wise we have native Japanese DD2.0 and a newly recorded English dub, also in DD2.0. Hanaukyo Maid Team isn’t exactly action packed, but it does feature many a moment where dialogue becomes raised, particularly when it’s Taro screaming at the top of his lungs, and for this the track makes good use of the forward speakers. Conversational pieces are also directed to the central speakers and are clear, with no noticeable defects. Episode 2 is a good showcase for the surrounds, providing some nice directionality during the ten-game showdown.
Hanaukyo Maid Team might not have the greatest theme song or the most impressive opening animation but it’s pleasant nonetheless and good to see without the overlapping credits.
Here you’ll find trailers for Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Ikki Tousen and Popotan.
Hanaukyo Maid Team doesn't break any new ground, but there is still enough going for it which prevents it from dying a horrible death. Maids are still big business these days so if you like ‘em go get ‘em.