The Winter 2021 Manga Guide
The Splendid Work of a Monster Maid

What's It About? 

Sumire, a “nekomata” phantom, has lost her beloved master. After wandering alone, she stumbles into…a foreign demon world!? Now Sumire serves under the president of a company, alongside an undead named Rose and an android named Ivy. In order to get back that “certain someone,” Sumire's splendid work begins!

The Splendid Work of a Monster Maid is drawn and scripted by Yugata Tanabe and Yen Press will release its first volume on December 14











Is It Worth Reading?

Rebecca Silverman

Rating:

I will admit that the maid fetish is one I absolutely don't understand. That made me leery going into this volume, because it seemed likely to just be one of those “not for me” books, combining two tropes that don't often work for me. I was therefore delighted to be so pleasantly surprised by a story with a reason for having its protagonists work as maids, a heartwarming undercurrent of a cat looking for a home, and art that is detailed without feeling fussy.

The story follows Sumire, a nekomata who, like many of her kind of yokai, began life as an ordinary black cat. She was the darling of her owner, and after a long life together, Sumire became the two-tailed cat monster with the ability to turn human. Only…it was too late for her human, and the grieving Sumire went out into the world, eventually ending up in the demon realm. She was taken in by Mary the witch, but missed most of the danger signals because she was just so happy to have a place to belong again. Fortunately for her, a deposed prince and his two agents who masquerade as maids are after Mary, and once that little problem is taken care of, Sumire joins his employ and once again has a place and a purpose. It's very sweet, and the antics and fantasy trappings of the rest of the story still manage to leave Sumire's character path intact.

But yes, without Sumire's story, this is otherwise fairly standard fantasy. That's not to say that there's really anything wrong with that, although the second two jobs that the “maids” take on do suffer from being rushed through. The book does try to develop Rose (zombie) and Ivy (android) alongside Sumire, but all three are more or less two-dimensional characters. Still, the unfinished story arc that ends the book implies that there may be a lot more to Rose – and how she became undead – than there at first seems to be. There's also a really interesting variety of monsters and creatures throughout, and many of them are recognizable while still being very much the artist's own – this is especially true of the turnip-headed “lantern head” with his scarecrow body the ladies investigate in the second chapter.

The art is fairly striking throughout the book, actually. Nothing quite as beautiful as the purple-themed color pages that open the volume, but there's a nice attention to detail in all of the artwork, mixing art nouveau whiplash lines with Gothic curlicues and the standard Victorian maid getup. The demon realm is a mix of modern and old-fashioned and pages and panels are busy without being overwhelming. The story can be just okay at times, but the art is consistently worth it. That means that even though you may like this better if you're into maids and monster girls, it's still worth at least thumbing through in the bookstore, because it's surprisingly appealing even if both of those aspects do nothing for you.


Christopher Farris

Rating:

It's nice to let stories surprise you once in a while. I didn't really know what to expect, cracking open The Splendid Work of a Monster Maid. The opening chapter of this manga is structured to prime you for what seems to be a simple slice-of-spooky-life story. There are cute maids who are also cute monster girls, and Yugata Tanabe's art is exceptionally tailored to presenting the flourishes of their magical mystery world. The design sensibilities alone are such that I wouldn't mind getting lost in the looks of this thing for hundreds of pages, so I had no problem thinking that sort of time is what was awaiting me. Only after splendidly constructing such an appealing web does Monster Maid make apparent that there's decidedly more structure to be found in the adventures we're going to be following here, surprising the audience and thus drawing us in even further thanks to that kind of manifold engagement.

It is ultimately all in service of setting up a sort of client-of-the-week structure for our titular Monster Maids to work within, but the success of those opening depths lingers. It primes us for payoff; not only does main catgirl Sumire get several chapters of definition and development within this first volume, but the stories have made time for her coworkers Rose and Ivy as well, and it even pulls off a structure that ends on a compelling cliffhanger. In telling those interconnecting stories, the volume also successfully makes clear that the motivations of the 'clients' the maids are investigating may not be as black and white as the initial framework suggests. All that fancy, artistically-minded world-construction from the first chapter is still taking place, only now it's spiraling out further and more intricately than we could have expected from those initial expeditions through a single witch's mansion.

Monster Maid honestly isn't anything so exceptional yet; It's simply an extremely effectively-constructed intro for a piece within multiple appealing genres. It does everything a first volume should do to draw in unsuspecting or even uninterested new readers, particularly putting a strong artistic foot forward for that all-important eye-catching value. And while it's definitely seeking to appeal to those with an inherent interest in niches like monster girls or maids, I appreciate that it's thus far deployed those as strongly-rendered presentational flourishes more than anything else so far. Apart from that, it seems Tanabe has a smartly-structured story to tell with this one, and it certainly surprised me with how much I was drawn in by the end of its introduction here.


MrAJCosplay

Rating:

I must admit that the first chapter of The Splendid Work of a Monster Maid genuinely caught me off guard. What I thought was going to be a story about a catgirl living with a nice witch and discovering herself ended up turning into a very stylized yet badass magical maid crew. To use the descriptor from the series itself, the artwork is absolutely “sparkling” and extremely lively. It does risk getting a little bit cluttered sometimes when it comes to certain magical effects and action scenes, but overall the series is a pretty nice feast for the eyes especially if you lean more towards the cuter aesthetics. The character designs do act as a nice contrast to the way that magic and some of the creatures are portrayed, lending a disjointed ominous feeling to the proceedings. Despite this, the series never really loses that sense of playfulness, and that comes down to the relationships the characters have with each other. With every job that they do in hunting down these remnants of magic, you do feel this group of a catgirl, a zombie and a cyborg genuinely grow closer to each other. It's a very simple approach but the story doesn't seem to ask much from its readers. Rather it hopes that you'll grow closer with the characters along the way as well.


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