Akiba Maid War
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Akiba Maid War ?
Community score: 4.3
"Some things you gotta change in order to stay the same." That's the advice the master of the ramen shop doles out to a despondent Nagomi in this week's episode of Akiba Maid War, and dang if that doesn't perfectly align with my metatextual take on last week's episode. The gritty crime stories of yesteryear had to put on frilly maid outfits to be more marketable in these modern times, but the specific spirit of their style still lives on in this show's presentation. A Yakuza thriller can still be a Yakuza thriller even if you do a find/replace on "Yakuza" with "Maid", just as Nagomi resolves this episode to let maids be maids even as she now seeks to shift the way she should approach being one in this underworld. More than last week's big attempt at the deadly serious, this episode feels like it represents a turning point for Akiba Maid War.
A lot of that is down to the show seeming to shift back into using its aesthetic juxtapositions for intentional absurdity again. Yes, Nerula's still been tragically killed, and Nagomi doesn't shy away from discussing that or expressing her grief. But it's demonstrated through mashed-up genre markers that are ridiculous on their face, like Nagomi retreating from Oinky-Doink to find solace in a ninja-themed café instead. It's such an obvious symbolic gag: She wants to hide, get it? Yet it still dials up the dramatism with her buried desires to be a maid alongside silly offhand bits like her peppering her speech with 'de gozaru' now, because she's a ninja, you see. Of course ninja are the peaceful antithesis of the murdery maids of Akihabara—that just makes sense for how things would work in this universe.
So we get to focus on the ordeal's aftereffects on Nagomi, but back within the wild stylistic confines of Akiba Maid War, and it works because of that. Far from simply playing the crime movie antics straight in cute costumes, the show explores the specifics of its setting, like how the fanboy patrons of a café feel when their favorite maid gets killed off. It's that recurring fusion of otaku culture and cartoon ultraviolence, of old and new.
It's important to remember that the sort of stories that Akiba Maid War is riffing on were hardly universally serious affairs themselves. They had plenty of camp and high melodrama. Yet they worked for the same reason Akiba Maid War works: Bald-faced commitment to the bit. Just as the master has had to surreptitiously refine his ramen recipe over the years to keep people believing it always tasted as good as it does, hard-boiled underworld stories can swap out any number of gimmicky toppings for a specific flavor of cheese while still feeling faithful to the base of the genre. This kind of thing is supposed to be fun, after all. In a moment where a pink ninja waitress confidently, sincerely declares her intent to be the kind of maid who doesn't murder people, making heart-hands and going "Moe Moe Kyun" immediately after dramatically punching a bat-wielding maid-triarch, well, how can we not be having fun?
In that spirit, Akiba Maid War does actually feel a bit hampered in its overall presentation this week, whether on account of time, resources, or other anime-industry measures. The raid on Oinky-Doink seems like a plot point in need of ambitious presentation, but little of it is on the level of the first episode's musical maid mow-down or the third's lovingly-constructed MMA rumble. Parts of the battle through the building are neat, but the animation remains very workmanlike throughout. Nagomi's arrival at least heralds some escalation in absurdity, courtesy of her ninja antics (and there's something to be said about her seemingly getting more effective combat training at the ninja café than Chief ever provided her at Oinky-Doink). The scene culminates with some colorful splash frames of the Oinky-Doink crew rallying back, nice character acting animation on Manami, and some great shifting in Nagomi's voice acting.
The show feels extremely at home in its own genre now, regularly re-applying its blood-red coat of paint over its well-worn but enjoyable story. Manami may exit this show sooner than I expected, but her blasted, bullet-ridden removal is the sort of thing that would be a spectacular finish regardless of her ridiculous space-maid getup. And it brings the themes full circle, showing how her efforts to fully return to the ways of the past left her behind the times after all. Compared to last week's trepidations, it leaves me enthusiastically curious about this show going where all institutions must if they mean to survive: The future.
Akiba Maid War is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.
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