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The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
Akiba Maid War

How would you rate episode 1 of
Akiba Maid War ?
Community score: 4.3

What is this?

Spring, 1999. At the end of the century, Akihabara is filled with various kinds of maids. The maid café "Tontotokoton" a.k.a. "Pigsty" is open for business today! This is a story of the struggles of maid work, presented to all masters and ladies.

Akiba Maid War is an original anime and streams on HIDIVE on Thursdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

There were a few things that tipped me off from the jump that Akiba Maid War would probably get weird. It's a Cygames/P.A. Works coproduction, and both companies have proven themselves unafraid of taking risks, like giving the protagonist of Princess Connect! Re:Dive serious cognitive impairments or adapting a manga about Kongming becoming the manager of an upstart EDM singer in modern-day Shibuya. Also, I saw the trailer, which was full of censorious pixilation and bleeped-out lines. I knew I was in for a wild ride, but could not have imagined anything quite this unhinged. I mean that in the best way.

It's actually kind of fun to think about how it reverses a lot of current media trends and expectations. We've been awash in series about cute and cuddly or noble yakuza bosses who are just having a good time hanging out and being silly with their men—here's a story that's basically an old-school yakuza movie skinned over with late-90's moe culture. Lycoris Recoil gave us a girl with guns story brimming with sincerity, bloodless violence, and redemption set in a café; well, Akiba Maid War is a blood-soaked absurdist tale of a girl who thinks she's getting a job at a café and ends up fleeing through the streets of Akiba as her new coworker mows down their rivals.

It's the kind of episode where you spend 25 minutes with your jaw hanging open as your brain scrambles to process everything happening on the screen. Every time you think you have a handle on the latest twist, the plot one-ups itself in some way, either playing with yakuza movie tropes or just going balls-to-the-wall wild. You may laugh at a joke where a maid is being forced to cut her hair that is clearly a play on gangsters having to cut off their fingers in atonement, but now someone is being murdered and okay you've just wrapped your head around that but now there's mass murder choreographed to a cutesy idol song with terrifyingly violent lyrics.

I'm not an art historian, so I don't know if it would be accurate to categorize Akiba Maid War as ero-guro nansensu, but that's the term that kept popping into my head. It is erotic, grotesque, and nonsensical. Normally, I wouldn't consider that praise, but here? It just works.

Richard Eisenbeis

When it comes down to it, the key to humor is “the unexpected.” It's the surprise that makes the punchline work—the shock that makes you re-examine not only the joke's setup but your own preconceptions as well. One of the go-to ways to create humor is by combining two usually unrelated things: a demon king and McDonalds, zombies and singers, or, in this case, maid cafés and the Yakuza. Then all that's left is to lay out the numerous, ridiculous situations that would occur with such a combination to comedic effect.

So what we get in Akiba Maid War is the normal maid café setup but with each café being treated as its own loan shark agency or gambling den that gives a share of their profits to those further up the chain. Of course, since the cafés are beholden to different groups, each maid café is basically its own low-level street gang fighting for survival.

This means that, on one hand we have a slice-of-life story about what it's like to work at a maid café. On the other we have an ultraviolent crime epic. And while the setup is worth a few laughs on its own, it's at the point where the two genres meet that the show finds its groove. From the stereotypical otaku guy shaking down the café for the month's “protection money” to the bunny girl maids talking smack to their pig-themed rivals, its hard to stop laughing.

But nothing holds a candle to the climax of the episode where our 35-year-old grizzled, experienced maid, guns down dozens of bunny maids while doing gun-kata based on popular idol dances. Personally, I found the glinting knives in place of glowsticks particularly inspired.

If I had one note, however, it would be that I feel the opening scene let the cat out of the bag a bit too soon. Anyone familiar with Yakuza films would immediately know what's going on. Moving that scene post-credits would allow the premise to slide into the episode more subtly before exploding into the violence of the climax. However, let's be clear, this amounts to a minor gripe in a highly enjoyable, often hilarious first episode. I can't wait for the next one.

James Beckett

My original version of this preview was simply a bunch of disorganized and barely coherent Tweets, wherein I rambled about the pure, righteous, and inarguable power of seeing a thirty-something murder maid lay waste to a dozen killer bunny girls with a pair of pistols and a pop idol's dance choreography. Now that I have composed myself in a manner that is consistent with the laws of public decency as upheld by our state and federal mandates, I can formally announce that Akiba Maid War does indeed own, and Ranko is officially anime's reigning Boss Bitch With A License To Kill.

Okay, I guess the manager is technically the boss of the dingy, pig-themed maid café that Ranko has just started working at as of twelve hours ago, and Ranko is technically terrible at her job in almost every conceivable way, and that's even when you compare her to the other new hire, Nagomi, who can't even watch a dozen women get horribly slaughtered in the middle of the street by her ruthless new coworker without getting all traumatized about it.

In all seriousness, I already knew that I was going to dig Akiba Maid War before Ranko shot a half-dozen slugs right into my heart. This is just a top-notch production, from stem to stern, and it was a pleasure to watch even during the protracted introduction to the Pigsty crew, during which the anime tried mighty hard to pretend that it hadn't already revealed that this cutesty-pie workplace sitcom was actually about the savage turf wars that have consumed the maid cafés of turn-of-the-century Akihabara. The team at P.A. Works has clearly put a lot of work into making its late-90s nightmare version of Japan's otaku paradise into a truly grimy and lived-in battleground, and the cast of adorable maids would be right at home in a comedy that wasn't black as pitch. The fact that these girls have to put on their customer service smiles in between kickass battle marches and gory gun battles only makes the humor that much funnier.

So, Akiba Maid War already had the makings of a four-star premiere, but that final star? That's all for Ranko, baby. I'm sorry, but do you know how rare it is for an anime to feature a cool, funny, and badass action heroine that is older than me? I know its easy for all of you whippersnappers to be horny on main for the thousands of preternaturally attractive high schoolers that the anime industry spits out every season, but I cannot tell you how excited I am to stan a gorgeous anime queen that's actually an adult. The anime is also really good, which is cool.

Rebecca Silverman

I am reasonably sure that this is supposed to be a comedy. It's got many of the hallmarks of one, from the ludicrous maid cafés to the perfectly synchronized gunfight/idol song at the end, and it dips into parody territory as well, particularly with primary heroine Nagomi's too-enthusiastic attempts to be the perfect piggy maid. The problem is that while I can see what it was going for, I did not find this funny or engaging on any level, and basically one star of my grade is for the bloodbath at the end, because if you can ignore (or revel in) the violence, it looked amazing, and I can appreciate a good juxtaposition as well as anyone.

The rest of the episode, however, felt stuck between trying too hard and thinking that the story's premise is enough to carry it. The basic plot appears to be that the maid cafés of Akihabara circa 1999 are all just elaborate customer-pandering fronts for vicious gang warfare, with the hapless maids playing the role of foot soldiers. The ridiculously named Creatureland Group is one side, and their as-yet- nameless opposing factions also run maid cafés, albeit decidedly less seedy-looking ones. Owners pay protection money, and because the manager of Oinky Doink Café hasn't, they have to go confront the bunny maids of a different café. And by “confront,” I mean “have a deadly shootout.” To say that poor, perky seventeen-year-old Nagomi is in over her head might be an understatement. The implication is that these maid wars have been raging since at least 1985, when Ranko, another new hire at Oinky Doink, saw a maid gunned down one dark rainy morning in true hard-boiled fashion. Ranko therefore apparently knows what the real deal is in Akiba and is ready to rumble, no matter how bad she is at the cute maid thing.

Like I said before, I can really see what this is trying to do, and I can definitely appreciate that it will work for other people on a dark comedy level. But some visuals and the odd joke aside, the level of violence and absurdity just don't combine properly for me.

Nicholas Dupree

There's an art to subverting expectations with a TV premiere. More than a few shows this season have struggled with the desire to throw a big twist in right before their end credits, and frankly most of them haven't really worked. It's obvious why – you can tell when a show is pretending to be something it isn't, and when you have to wait until the second episode to actually find out what kind of story you're following, it often inspires more frustration than curiosity. So, Akiba Maid War wisely tells you what's up immediately, with a cold opening feature 80's maid café assassination and an opening theme that remixes a moe call and response song into an exert from the Black Lagoon soundtrack. It wants you to know up front that yep, there's a big bloody twist coming, so you can be excited waiting for that shoe to drop instead of impatient.

But the fun part is all the stuff before the bullets start flying is pretty entertaining too. To the point I kind of want a version of this show that's just a workplace comedy built around the ins and outs of a realistically depicted maid café. What's it like to have to always be “On” as an inhumanly cutesy anime personality? Just how cringe-inducing is it when either employee or patron can't get over the inherent performative nature of it all? How does Nagomi's surprisingly earnest love for all things Maid-related clash with the inherent cynicism of this kind of establishment? The time we spend in sitcom mode is short, but also unique enough to work all on its own. Rather than feeling like something we have to sit through to get to The Good Stuff, it's an equally engaging, if very different, story.

Then the other shoe drops, and the real show starts, but not in the way you might expect. Plenty of shows that pull the cute-to-cutthroat twist go hard on gory violence, but Maid War makes the inspired decision to add in god damn slapstick comedy to the whole thing, pairing cartoony blood physics and wacky sound effects with its stone cold murder. The sequence where Ranko guns down an entire rival maid café while performing a cutesy dance had me howling, much the same way the death metal performance in the premiere of Zombie Land Saga did. The sheer presentation of it all is just pitch perfect, marrying gritty violence, Ranko's stone-faced seriousness, and the absurdity of it all being performed in pig-themed maid outfits is something you have to see to really understand. Match cuts between the café patrons' glowsticks and the enemy maids' knives, or the way they sync up gunshots with breaks in the verses of the song make it absolutely sublime.

Granted, enjoying any of this is heavily reliant on how funny you find this particular brand of tongue-in-cheek violence. This may share a lot of tonal territory with Zombie Land Saga, but there's no “they're just zombies” excuse to help suspend disbelief. This is all real murder with very present corpses, and if you find that more disturbing than amusing, I can't really blame you. It's just abstracted enough to work for me, but others may just find this in bad taste. Akiba Maid War is a pitch-black comedy in a frilly white apron, which is certainly an acquired taste, but it's exactly what my appetite is craving right now.

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