Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 13th 2005
Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite
DVD 1: How Do You Do, Master?
Upon the death of his mother, third-year middle school student Taro Hanaukyo is set to live with his grandfather, but upon being picked up to be taken to his grandfather's estate he learns that his grandfather has taken off, leaving him in charge of the Hanaukyo family and its enormous estate. What's more, the estate is maintained and protected by a large staff of cute young maids who are ready to attend to Taro's every need! Ah, the troubles of being a disgustingly wealthy young man. . .
I'm sure I can guess what the pitch line for this series was: take two popular elements of anime romantic comedies – the “harem” structure and girls/young women in maid outfits – and carry them both to the ultimate extreme! Unfortunately the creators apparently decided that quantity was more important than quality (or creativity) here. Being obscenely wealthy and having a corps of cute young women constantly fawning over you while they attend to your every need may be a common adolescent male fantasy, but that doesn't mean that projecting those fantasies into animation is going to make for an entertaining series. This kind of thing has been done before, and done much, much better.
The single biggest problem with the first volume of HMT is that it has only the barest shred of originality. The utterly predictable plot (if you can call it that) focuses mostly on Taro's acclimation both to a Western-style estate that would make Versailles look modest by comparison and to the presence and company of the maid denizens of said estate. (Apparently Grandpa Hanaukyo didn't believe in having any male staff or any female staff over the age of 25.) Taro's a faultlessly nice and gentle guy with no spine, of course (would it be a harem series if he actually had a backbone?), so there are the expected scenes of him showing the staff members exactly how nice a guy he is, thus winning over the few that hadn't already been enamored with him. There's even the expected episode featuring the combative, conceited potential wife from another prominent family who, of course, gets taken in by Taro's niceness even while abusing him in traditional anime romantic comedy style. There is some hint that Taro's absent grandfather might have an ulterior motive in setting Taro up as the new head of the family, but this is only barely touched on in this volume.
The cast of maids mostly consists of a checklist of common archetypes borrowed from nearly every other harem or maid anime title you can think of. Present are:
. . . and of course the complete computer/security staff, and the cooking staff, and the medical staff. . . well, you get the idea. The only one amongst them which is in any way fresh is the child maid, who has a split personality where one persona (Cynthia) is completely innocent and childlike and the other (Grace) is a sharp-witted, practical prodigy who looks out for Cynthia. The best move the series does in this volume is to focus an entire episode on this character, but even that story descends into predictable melodrama, as does the very ordinary episode focusing on Taro winning over the gruff and disapproving maid. The only thing which makes the series even mildly entertaining is that it is occasionally very funny; each of the four episodes in this volume has two or three truly good jokes, a couple of them even inventive. That is not enough to sustain a series of 22-minute episodes, however.
Despite its writing faults, HMT is a good-looking series. Most of the creative juices used in its production went into the designs of the maid uniforms, which vary in color and style depending on what role the maid plays within the household. (Maids who were black uniforms are security, for instance.) “Name” maids are varied and attractively-rendered, although most of them also have stereotypical looks. Colors are sharp and vibrant and lines are smooth, while background art has sufficient detail to be convincing. Animation is done reasonably well, although it is loaded with common anime shortcuts and artistic conventions. Both the opener and closer are entirely uninteresting unless you go in for the cutesy lovey-dovey stuff.
The English dub does a surprisingly good job of matching voices to characters and original performances, given the number of high-pitched female voices required for this series. Wendee Lee in particular is perfectly-cast as Ryuko, the arrogant, bombastic woman from the rival family, and young Taro actually has a male voice! Performances are uniformly competent, while the script does a pretty good job of sticking closely to the subtitles, with most variances coming in the use of equivalent slang. Most honorifics are carried over into both the subtitles and the English script, perhaps because there are a few places in this block of episodes where naming conventions for a character change in significant ways that would not translate well into English. Supporting music is appropriately cutesy or serious, depending on the situation, but overall is not especially noteworthy.
Extras for this volume are limited, consisting only of a clean opener, company previews, a double-sided artwork card, and a reversible cover. The fan service, however, is not. The first episode is a veritable festival of fan service, while the other three episodes have progressively lesser amounts of it.
Though it does look sharp and have a few good moments, the first volume of Hanaukyo Maid Team is too generic and unoriginal in content to merit a recommendation. Those who have a fetish for young women in maid outfits, and those who will watch a series just for its fan service, will probably take a liking to this one, but few others will. If you want to watch a much better (and more consistently entertaining) harem-maid series, go check out Steel Angel Kurumi instead.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Good artistry and good (if unoriginal) character designs
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