by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Shōnen Maid ?
This week's Shonen Maid introduces us to the members of Uchoten Boys, the boy band that's prominently featured in the show's end credits. In stark contrast to other anime comedies, this series has thus far kept the spotlight squarely on its main cast and abstained from introducing new characters left and right. Still, with only four key players to focus on, things were starting to feel constrictive, so I have no problem with Shonen Maid throwing a few more quirky characters into the mix—provided they're entertaining, of course.
The first half of the episode focuses on Ryuji, the youngest and most “boyish” member of Uchoten Boys. At sixteen, Ryuji is tired of being regarded as a child and demands that Madoka, the band's official costume designer, stop dressing him in shorts. However, as we quickly discover, his personality is considerably more childish than his on-stage attire. After receiving some valuable advice from Chihiro, Keiichiro, and Madoka, the headstrong Ryuji eventually dials back his anti-shorts rhetoric and embraces his signature look. This segment doesn't so much tell a story as function as a vehicle for Ryuji's quirkiness. Like the rest of the show's central characters, nothing about him is particularly original, but his temper tantrums and general shortsightedness are surprisingly amusing and carry his introductory episode nicely. Hayato and Ibuki, the other two-thirds of Uchoten Boys, only make brief cameos this time around, but I assume we'll see more of them in future installments.
The lesson Ryuji learns is somewhat vague. Does seeing Chihiro rock his maid outfit teach him that he can be manly no matter what he wears? Did the prospect of hurting Chihiro's feelings simply prompt him to suck it up and stop whining? While the connection between the show's characters and the boy band is finally clear, the role they'll play moving forward is anyone's guess. If this were a Western sitcom, I'd regard this episode as a backdoor pilot—and since these boys apparently have their own spinoff manga, I suppose it kind of is.
Shonen Maid tries its hand at yet another classic sitcom setup in the latter half of episode 6. With Madoka's birthday fast approaching, Chihiro has no idea what to get his flighty uncle. While visiting the Otori estate, Chihiro encounters the same old woman he briefly laid eyes on last week—the one who's almost certainly his grandmother. Shonen Maid is nothing if not predictable. The first time this woman appeared, it seemed pretty obvious that she was the mother of Chiyo and Madoka. Throughout her latest appearance, the show was practically hitting the audience over the head with more clues to support this theory. In a moment of pure sitcom schmaltz, the fiercely driven mini-maid learns that a birthday gift isn't something you buy from a store; it's something that comes from your heart. This prompts Chihiro to organize a cat-themed birthday party for Madoka, who's absolutely over the moon upon discovering the gang's handiwork.
This segment is yet another example of an uninspired story serving as the backdrop for fun character interactions and amusing jokes. Miyako's abundance of Antaro-inspired garden décor and Chihiro begrudgingly allowing Madoka to cut loose at his birthday party were particularly effective gags. Furthermore, while their conversation was laced with not-so-subtle winks to the audience, Chihiro and the “mysterious” old woman have an interesting rapport.
All in all, this was one of Shonen Maid's better efforts. While the show still refuses to step too far outside of its comfort zone, its overarching story took a small step forward this week. If we can expect this level of quality moving forward, Shonen Maid's second half is sure to prove consistently entertaining.
Shōnen Maid is currently streaming on Funimation.
Amy is a YA fantasy author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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