Seven anime Christmas favorites to watch with a cup of hot cocoa.
Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 13th 2005
Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite
DVD 2: Lost in Kamakura
Ikuyo drags Taro and part of the maid team off to Comake (a major fan convention) to help her sell her doujinshi, where Taro bumps into Ryuko. Later, Ryuko decides to join the Hanaukyo Maid Team, allegedly in order to “learn what it's like to work,” though finding a place on the team proves difficult. Soon after is the annual softball tournament, where the various divisions of the maid team compete for a greater share of the annual budget. Calamity nearly strikes when Cynthia goes missing around the time that an earthquake reveals access to a previously unknown – and heavily-trapped – series of underground passages and chambers, but the secrets revealed by them are more troubling to Konoe, the security chief. Even more troubling is the loss of contact with Taro when he decides to venture out on his own for a while. And just who is the mysterious woman in the sports car?
The first volume of HMT was most noteworthy for its utter lack of originality and creativity. The second volume doesn't fare any better. This is not to say that it isn't occasionally entertaining; the whole sequence set in Comake in episode 5 is actually rather funny and Ikuyo's menacing laugh is always good for a chuckle. The lack of effort in coming up with something fresh and different is so obvious, though, that some of the characters actually joke about it in one episode – but even that doesn't come across well. The only element in this volume that is in any way clever is the cosplay costumes worn by the maids and TARO in the Comake piece. These are not just generic cosplay outfits, as are seen in most other anime dealing with cosplay; they represent major, identifiable characters from at least seven prominent anime titles likely to be familiar to American fans. (There's probably actually eight titles represented, but I could not place who Sanae was supposed to be.) The biggest hoot, and possibly the most endearing moment in the series so far, comes from seeing who TARO is portraying. It's a costume that viewers probably will not see coming, but he just looks so right in it.
Plot development in this volume is almost nil until near the end of episode 7, when a great mystery about one of the key maids suddenly surfaces. Given what happens in episode 8, it seems likely that the series is finally developing a storyline after several episodes of mostly mindless filler. Character development is also minimal and unfortunately includes the prominent presence of Ryuko, who is much more annoying than entertaining. We do get to see a new and amusing side to Konoe, which makes her seem a little more human, but that isn't enough. As with the originality issue, the writers could have at least made an effort here.
The artistry for HMT continues to be pretty good, with quality backgrounds and character designs which are mostly pleasing. The exception here is, again, Ryuko, who does not look right in a maid outfit and bears a ridiculous hairdo which might look fine on a girl but is unbefitting a more mature-looking woman. The fan service inserted in this time around is entirely of the panty-flashing and “hands in awkward places” variety; no nudity in these episodes! The animation also decreases in quality, with a heavy emphasis on still frames, shortcuts, and (in the softball contest episode) sports anime gimmicks.
The widely varied musical scoring sounds fine on its own and does a reasonably good job of supporting the story everywhere, except what are supposed to be the more touching scenes. The fault for that, however, lies much more with the writing. The English dub work continues to be competent; although the voices don't always match up well with those of the original Japanese performances, they are consistently appropriate for the role, and there are no significant flaws in the deliveries. The English scripting, while not tight, isn't loose enough to be a problem. It undertakes appropriate dialogue modifications in scenes where baby-talk is used and does retain most honorifics, an increasing trend in Geneon releases which I do hope continues.
As with the first volume, the second volume is short on extras. Only company previews and a clean closer are available on the disc, while an additional artwork card and reversible cover are included in the casing.
Although the second volume of Hanukyo Maid Team does show sparks of humor and some hints of developing a plot in its later stages, it is not enough to save a generally shallow, generic, and uninspired series. It is still primarily a series for those with fetishes for maid outfits and/or fans of “harem” series, and is unlikely to impress or much entertain other viewers.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : C+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good artistry, excellent cosplay gimmick
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