Hand Maid May

June 28, 2004 on 8:16 pm | In Hand Maid May | 1 Comment

Warning: In this review I “spoil” a plot point that saves the series from being dire tosh and makes it highly watchable. I think that it’s okay to read this as it suggest that there’s light if you don’t like the first four episodes.

Every so often in anime, a new fad becomes popular and many titles are produced to reflect this. Unfortunately, these fads are generally based around fetishes. This is why, a few years back, there was an influx of anime about maids. Then it went one step further: robot maids. Hand Maid May “challenges” the genre further by making the robot maid … one foot tall! Despite her diminutive stature, poor May still can’t escape being objectified.
It’s tough being the victim of a fad.

Kazuya is a university student who plans to create an intelligent robot. His arch nemesis and best friend, Nanbara, gives him a DVD which causes a virus to manifest on his computer that somehow leads to his ordering a 1/6th scale robot maid (a Cyber Doll, or CBD). Then, just when he wants to develop a relationship with this maid, more (human sized) CBD move in! And another CBD desperately wants to collect the $1.4 million payment owing on May!
The only party to these antics if Kasumi, Kazuya’s landlady and unspoken love interest of several years.
Oh, how wacky it all is.

I was going to write this off after the first four episodes, but then with the fifth it gets … better. Suddenly things start making sense, there’s some genuine visual creativity, some of the weaker characters become somewhat substantial, and the fan service services without disturbing.
See, that’s the thing; in the first four episodes, a twelve inch robot in maid clothing is just too kinky. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that the series becomes much better when May is remodelled at a human size. Okay; so it is a spoiler, but as far as I’m concerned if it hadn’t happened the whole thing wouldn’t have been worth it at all. It’s another series where, if it hadn’t been planned all along, you get the impression that the writers realised that the direction they were taking wasn’t working; where can one go with a 12 inch robot? Romance is impractical, so …
The good thing is that it quickly dispenses with this romance. When you’ve got an army of robots and one human girl to choose from, I know which I’d choose. The fact that they try to present it so that Kasumi and May are competing for Kazuya’s love was slightly disconcerting, so it becomes a tale of friendship and development of human characteristics, and completely abandons the basic conceit of the opening episodes.

So initially it’s infuriating. Nanbara is annoying, May makes a horrible rattling sound every time she moves, the one character who can provide guilt free fan service wears terrible clothing that’s both revealing and unappealing. You can miss the fact that the story becomes interesting very easily, however; the turning episode has lousy animation and all the characters are hideously off model.
So, Hand Maid May shed its skin and became something sweet. When the creative spirit within is unleashed, then it’s something to enjoy and laugh at. Even the too fast, too high OP grows on you. There’s even a hilarious drama that all of the CBDs are addicted to.
Of course, it’s still not without problems; the DVDs have the most bizarre subtitling tactic ever. Mami is a character who occasionally spouts English dialogue. When this happens, the subtitles translate this English into romanji. It’s generally not too hard to follow, but in anime you should always subtitle the English dialogue because it doesn’t always sound like the English it represents. It was definitely an odd experience.

Hand Maid May is, indeed, something that has been done before. But it’s done well here, so that doesn’t matter. Only when something’s been done before and this time around it’s done poorly do you have a problem. Despite its abhorrent start, after “the change” Hand Maid May becomes watchable without leaving a horrible dirty feeling in the pit of your soul.

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