The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Well, I have to hand it to UzaMaid. I've watched bad premieres, and boring premieres, and gross premieres, and premieres that insulted my intelligence, but I'm not sure I've ever watched a premiere that made me so profoundly uncomfortable as this one. I had to take breaks during this episode, and getting to the end felt like surviving some harrowing ordeal. I don't know if the fall season will have a worse show than this one, but it's really hard to imagine it could.
The premise of UzaMaid is “a pedophile starts working as a maid and attempts to sexually assault a tiny girl.” That's it, that's the whole thing. The pedophile stalks the little girl from outside her home, physically assaults her when she gets inside, and generally makes her life a terrifying hell of perpetual vigilance. I'm pretty sure this show is supposed to be a comedy, but it only plays as deeply uncomfortable horror - in fact, the show's ability to situate us in the audience with the girl under attack would be commendable if it weren't in service of such a horrifying concept. Of course, UzaMaid isn't attempting to be horrifying; it wants to be a wacky romp where our sympathies lie partially with the terrified victim and partially with her cackling attacker. You have to kind of want the maid to win to enjoy UzaMaid, and I didn't want her to win, I just wanted the episode to be over.
UzaMaid has tremendously fluid and expressive character animation, but that only makes the situation worse. If I were forced to watch a snuff film in either blurry low definition or crystal clarity, I'd personally choose the video that kept things vague. UzaMaid's animation actually brings the terror of its tiny heroine to life even more vividly, meaning it helps the show “succeed” in a direction where success is failure. Combine that with the clearly leering eye of the camera, and you end up with a show where all of its aesthetic strengths only make it more horrifying.
I don't have any silver lining for this one, unfortunately. I'm just glad my experience with this show is over.
UzaMaid! is a notably well animated and directed show with a keen sense of comedic timing and slapstick humor. It has a few scenes that even echo some of the classic toons to come out of the heyday of Warner Bros. animation. So it's a shame that all of that is ruined by an offensively crass premise that I found absolutely impossible to overlook.
What's worst about UzaMaid! is that it doesn't even have the decency or creativity to couch its main character's predatory predilections in subtext or euphemism; that would still be off-putting to many people, of course, but you would at least have the impression that the story was framing its protagonist's behavior as reprehensible. Instead, the distressingly overeager Master Sergeant Tsubame takes on her role as Misha and Yasuhiro's new maid with the clear intention of using a cute young girl as her plaything, to dress up and bathe and fetishize to her heart's content.
This is never directly stated by Tsubame to be a sexual obsession, but it's clear enough that Misha picks up on it, and let's be real here. A flashback shows Tsubame rejecting another girl's romantic advances because Tsubame “isn't interested in girls that have menstruated or developed secondary sex characteristics”. Tsubame being a lolicon is not in and of itself a moral failing on her part; you don't get to pick your kinks, after all. But chasing around a terrified little girl like she was the roadrunner to Tsubame's Wile. E Coyote is a terrible choice that UzaMaid is playing up for broad laughs. The humor is explicitly linked to Misha's discomfort and distrust of Tsubame; one of the episode's jokes tries to mine laughs from Tsubame's enthusiastic cleaning of Misha's soiled underwear.
I've taught students who were the victims of predatory adults, and I've seen the damage it's done firsthand. This is why I can't endorse UzaMaid! even a little bit, despite the fact that it contains some of the best animation and direction I've seen in a comedy this year. If UzaMaid is the kind of show that's up your alley, I hope you don't take this review as a personal condemnation, but it is most assuredly, one-hundred percent, not for me.
So let's address the elephant in the room first. There are aspects to Uzamaid! that are really repugnant, to the point of creating a major barrier to enjoying it. For starters, one of the two main characters is pretty frank about the fact that she's a lolicon (she never actually uses that word, but her stated predilections make the truth clear), and the other is the subject of her affections. Some of the things that the maid does are pretty creepy, and one discussion late in the series about “pre-menstrual girls” hit the peak of discomfort for me.
And yet for all of that, I can't justify giving the series too low a score because it's also one of the most outrageously funny opening episodes I've seen so far this year. The whole thing plays as an extremely twisted version of Mary Poppins and basically boils down to a battle of wills between young Misha, who has chased off many previous maids, and the ex-military new maid who's frighteningly persistent. The implication is that Misha can't tolerate having another woman in the house if it's not her mother, but whether the series will bother to get serious enough to explore that at any point remains to be seen. For now it seems perfectly content to concentrate on outlandish stunts like having the tall and muscular Tsubame try to dress up as one of Misha's classmates or a sequence where Misha alternately delights in Tsubame's excellent curry and hates herself for liking it. The series also goes the extra mile to follow up on some jokes that seemed like throwaways, such as one case where the father talks about how ordering sushi in celebration isn't enough, he'll just hire a sushi chef – and then actually does it.
The visuals are nothing special, but there are a few nice cuts of animation, and Tsubame's muscular build stands out as unique. Overall, I found that the humor was effective enough to outweigh the icky factors, but mileage will definitely vary on that.
While I can absolutely see where UzaMaid is supposed to be funny, I have to say that it left me wanting a shower. The central joke of this episode, and presumably the series, is that former JSDF Master Sergeant Tsubame fell in love with pre-teen Misha one day when she saw the little girl playing in the snow with her mother. She lands a job at Misha's house (Mom having passed away and Dad not having time to cook and clean), where she immediately commences an assault on Misha in an effort to “get closer to her.” At first it seems like perhaps she just has no sense of personal space, but by the end of the episode Tsubame full-out admits that she only likes girls who haven't begun to menstruate yet and have no secondary sexual characteristics. So, without putting too fine a point on it, she's a pedophile.
That admission and her habit of doing things like minutely examining Misha's underwear in the wash, trying to take a bath with her, and scaling the telephone pole outside her second- floor window to see in makes this much more uncomfortable than funny for me. Again, I can see where the intention is humor – Tsubame is the least subtle person on Earth and her unbounded enthusiasm contrast with Misha's terror and attempts to get her dad to get rid of Tsubame in an exaggerated way that, under other circumstances, would be amusing. But Misha is terrified (not only her voice and body language, but also the music support this) and her dad brushing off his daughter's obvious fear isn't okay. We're supposed to assume that because Misha has pulled pranks on other maids before, Dad assumes this is the same situation with a different tactic, although his reaction at the end of the episode may put the lie to that.
Long story short, I found this episode more disturbing than anything. There are some beautifully animated scenes, yes, and Kumagoro the white ferret is cute and Tsubame's massive abs are funny, but for the most part, this felt like watching half an hour of a predator stalking a child, earning it a big “no thanks” from me.
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