Generally speaking, I like to focus this column on shows that have finished airing, or at least have completed a season in full. This is not to say that I will never cover currently-airing shows, just that if I do cover them, like I am this time, there is always the caveat that the show could end up not living up to whatever promise I thought I had seen in it. Consider this an “audition” post: an early preview of a show that could later on become a full-fledged star. And in the case of Shounen Maid, I think its chances of stardom are extremely high.
Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people were turned off to Shounen Maid from reading the premise: a ten-year-old boy who loses his mother and only parent gets taken in by someone who claims to be his uncle, on the condition that he cleans his huge mansion for him… and said uncle makes him wear a women’s maid uniform. From just reading that, one would think this show is just there for that sort of comedy that walks the line between creepy and funny. However, if you actually watch the show, you will find a show that not only is not even close to being creepy, but also has quite a lot of heart to it.
In the story, Chihiro, the ten-year-old boy, gets a final letter from his late mother that tells him to basically go and find work to earn his living. His mother was the very independent sort, to the point where she defied her parents to marry someone other than their choosing and ended up disowned from her rich family, instead living a humble, relatively impoverished life with Chihiro. This also explains why Chihiro never learned about his uncle, Madoka, until he visits one day to try to help out his late older sister’s son. Chihiro, still under the mindset of having to work for a living, hesitantly goes to Madoka’s mansion, and, being quite the clean freak, immediately gets to work once he sees how much of a mess it actually is. However, he is still unwilling to stay at Madoka’s place for free, so Madoka comes up with the idea of “hiring” him as his housekeeper so he can stay while keeping his pride. As for putting him in a maid uniform… well, Madoka is a costume designer, and the whole thing comes off as his being silly more than anything else.
All of these events frame the heart of the show: a show about coming to terms with the death of a loved one, and the conflict between pride and grace.
In the case of the former, in Chihiro’s case the loss of his mother is something that has not really hit him fully, which plays a large part in why he stubbornly clings onto her final words and tries to keep some distance between himself and Madoka. Madoka, on his part, is far from unaffected by his sister’s death, as his motivations for adopting Chihiro seem to largely involve his own feelings of grief. This is probably the reason why his making Chihiro dress up as a maid does not really come off as creepy: that extra depth of character makes it clear that his relationship with Chihiro is far more complicated than just some kind of weird fetish.
For Christians, the conflict between pride and grace is probably even more important. In trying to adopt Chihiro, Madoka is clearly trying to extend grace to him–and quite a lot of it, too, considering how wealthy he is compared to where Chihiro came from. However, Chihiro’s pride makes him feel like he does not deserve to accept such a kindness, which is why Madoka comes up with the idea of letting him work for him while he stays. However, Madoka still wants Chihiro to see him as family and his house as home, not just a place to work and stay, so he continues to extend his kindness (and silliness) in ways beyond what Chihiro might feel like he deserves, and it does seem like Chihiro, still hoping for the home that he lost along with his mother, might be slowly starting to accept his uncle’s grace.
While Christians are taught how our salvation and relationship with God are based on His grace for us, our pride can sometimes get in the way of fully accepting His grace as we feel like we should work to earn God’s favor. God certainly allows for us to work for Him as a way for us to show our love for Him, and he will not stop us even if our motivations start leaning toward personal pride rather than love. He will, however, continue to shower us with His grace until we slowly let go of our pride and come to realize that His grace for us far exceeds any amount of work we can do to earn it. While there are definitely areas in life where wanting to earn something for ourselves is not a bad thing, understanding when our own pride is getting in our way and when accepting the graceful help of others is perfectly okay is important.
Shounen Maid is still early in its run, but with a strong foundation on the struggle of a boy’s acceptance of grief and grace, as well as a fair focus on the feelings of those around him, I believe this show can really turn out to be the surprise of the season. If you passed over this show because of the off-putting premise, I recommend you give it another shot. There is far more to this show than first appearances might suggest, and while there is plenty of silly comedy revolving around Chihiro’s neat-freak personality, his struggles to come to terms with the new reality he is in is one that just might capture your heart.
Shounen Maid is being simulcasted on Funimation.com. Outside of the whole “boy wearing a female maid outfit” aspect, there’s no potentially objectionable content of note.