First Impression: Akiba Maid War

The story begins in the kind of back alley that makes it feel like nighttime when the noonday sun is still riding high. The crashes of thunder and sheets of falling rain work like a silencer when a gunshot rings out and one more woman falls victim to the gritty mob crime of 1980s Akihabara. No wait. Sorry. That should be maid crime. Because in this alternate recent history series, maid cafe girls are the new yakuza. One time skip and a massive shift in tone later, and it’s the end of the millennium! Nagomi Wahira has just arrived in Tokyo and is making her way through Akiba, jaw dropped in wonder at all the cute maids. This is peak Maid Cafe-era Japan, and she is there for it! Turns out she has a job lined up at a pig-themed maid cafe that looks a little worse for wear, though only to us viewers as Nagomi is still only seeing sparkles everywhere she looks. Those sparkles persist as much moe ensues, and even as things start to turn a little sinister when an underworld-type from the Creatureland Group shows up demanding payment or…a postal delivery? Nagomi oinky doinks off on her way to deliver the letter, accompanied by a fellow newbie maid Ranko who could pass for Major Kusanagi (but in a maid outfit), and who definitely has a secret wrapped up in that paper bag she got from the ramen chef. That’s when the sparkles finally shimmer away from before Nagomi’s eyes—when the spurt of arterial blood hits her in the face after Ranko executes the rival bunny maid cafe leader who started slapping Nagomi around. You see, that letter they were delivering? It was a declaration of war. Akiba Maid War.

So many yesses. But first a caveat: this is not moe and it is not for kids. That’s signaled pretty clearly with the film noir opening sequence and the raging punk maid rap OP though (which is so multilayered and downright awesome that I could have written this entire First Impression just on that sequence alone). It’s only following the time skip that one might be lulled into thinking this is going to be mainly a compendium of the cute sweet moments at LycoReco with a dollop of similarly bloodless violence tacked on, only explained using different lore. But nope. There is blood here folks. Lots and lots and lots of it. It doesn’t quite reach Kill Bill Vol. 1 proportions, but it does involve enough firehose arterial action to transform Ranko’s emotionless execution of the entire rival bunny maid cafe clan into a deadly idol dance with sprays of blood in place of smoke and handguns instead of glow-stick wands. And therein lies the potential for genius in this series: It is taking the two most common iterations of the anime girl—clutzy moe maid and impossibly deadly killer, images of womanhood that belong at opposite ends of the genre spectrum—and clashing them together violently and without any care for the havoc it may wreak on a certain painstakingly curated dichotomy that can be found throughout anime and culture more generally. Or it could just be a quirky new take on wish fulfillment—having your moe and your gun violence too. I hope it’s the former, because it could be profound. And indeed, my hopes are high because the studio once known for (let’s be honest, pretty sappy) melodramas and workplace slice-of-life blew me away in the Spring season with that unexpected, madcap mash-up of genres known as Ya Boy Kongming. So I see the potential for insightful, meaningful engagement with genre tropes here, and the chance that Akiba Maid War may end up being more a war on Akiba and all of that related commodifying, objectifying culture that traps anime girls as either maids or killers, than just a war between maids. Come on P.A. Works, don’t let me down!

Don’t trust that moe, folks!

Akiba Maid War is streaming on HiDIVE (NOT Crunchyroll, they are lying)


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