Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hanaukyo Maid Tai (In Praise of M.O.E.)

Over at Kiteseekers, I edited the BluRay version of Hanaukyo Maid Tai (2001). This short series of half-length episodes is one of several lightweight ecchi comedies from M.O.E., the tongue-in-cheek acronym for the Japanese anime company Masters of Entertainment. M.O.E. was also responsible for a trio of shows centering around a fictitious live-action superhero show: Cosprayers, Love Love, and Smash Hit.

Hanaukyo Maid Tai is an all-out harem comedy, in which 14-year-old Hanaukyo Taro suddenly and unexpectedly becomes the master of the vastly wealthy Hanaukyo family, the Hanaukyo mansion, and the mansion's horde of lovely and affectionate maids. Unfortunately, young Taro is allergic to girls and becomes rather ill at the slightest physical contact, except with the beautiful, calm, and nurturing head maid Mariel. (This situation was ripped off pretty much intact for the later Girls Bravo, with the mostly female planet Seiren substituting for the all female mansion staff.)

There's no pretense of significance or even a plot. The recurring characters - the head of security, Konoe, the oujo-sama from a rival family, Jihiyo Ryuka, the crackpot maid inventor, Ikuyo - are all tropes played strictly for laughs. Taro's trio of personal maids, known as Ringo (apple), Ichigo (strawberry), and Sango (coral), are mostly interested in taking the concept of "service" to an entirely different level. (They try to get him to "climb the stairs to adulthood," to use Kouko's phrase from Golden Time, for his fifteenth birthday.) Even Taro and Mariel remain pretty much stock characters, and their romance hardly progresses at all. The animation is simple and inexpensive, and the music is generic, except for the earworm opening song.

Nonetheless, I have a sneaking fondness for Hanaukyo Maid Tai, precisely because it is so unpretentious. It's mostly comedic, the comedy mostly works, and at 15 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. It's neither self-indulgent or self-aware; there's no fourth wall cracking or gimmicks. It's cotton candy for the mind - enjoyable in small doses.

The series was remade in 2004 as Hanaukyo Maid Tai: La Verite. The remake adhered more closely to the manga and thus was subject to that most dreadful of anime comedy contrivances, The Serious Plot Development. I won't spoil you with the details (they're all in the Wikipedia article anyway), but suffice it to say that there is a Nefarious Scheme at work which explains the peculiar circumstances of a mansion full of willing servants. Personally, I regard the Serious Developments that occur in the last few episodes of most anime comedies as a blot, and for that reason I prefer the original series to the remake. I also prefer the original character design for Mariel, although La Verite clearly has better production values.

Kiteseeker's version of Hanaukyo Maid Tai is a vast improvement over the previous versions. The BluRay video is not surprisingly much better than the TV or BD rips. Equally important, the subtitles have been checked and are a lot more accurate; they're properly edited too. The timing is better, and the typesetting is completely redone. All in all, this is really the first decent release of the series. Kudos to the KiteSeekers' staff for all their hard work and care on the show.

So if you need a diversion and have 15 minutes to spare, download and check out an episode of Hanaukyo Maid Tai. It won't change your life, but it won't leave your tearing your hair out either.

A BluRay box set of the Cosprayers trilogy is now available. I'd really like to do BluRay versions of all three series, but for now, that will have to wait.

V2's Galore

In a previous blog, I looked fairly skeptically at the rash of v2's that were occurring at the time. Now, like the maids in the ending song for episodes 13-15, I must confess my errors: two-thirds of the Hanaukyo Maid Tai episodes have v2's in the batch. The changes stemmed from relatively few root causes.
  1. Inconsistent romanization. It wasn't until episode 12 that I noticed a discrepancy between the romanization of Hanaukyō Tarō and Jihiyō Ryūka. The former had been romanized by dropping the long markers, the latter by standard romanization, with ō becoming ou and ū becoming uu. We'd romanized Hanaukyō as Hanaukyo because the title , "Maid in Hanaukyo," showed it that way. Changing Jihiyou Ryuuka to Jihiyo Ryuka impacted half a dozen episodes.
  2. Inconsistent preview conventions. It took a few episodes to get the tag line ("Next time, we'll again serve our master to the utmost! Heart") correct. At the end, an error crept in about translating Tai, and it was copy-pasted through four episodes.
I'll be a lot more forgiving about v2's in the future.

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