There are just a couple of episodes left for Akiba Maid War after this one, so before everything goes down for good (though I certainly don’t think I’d complain about a second season), it might be important to step back for a bit. A moment to consider why the lives of everyone in this bizarre business look the way they do and what options they might have outside of the world of maids and murder. Knowing how we got here is a critical component of knowing where we’re going, after all, and there are just a few loose ends left in the pasts of characters like Ranko, as well as a particular panda, that need to be tied up before all is said and done.
Whether we deserve happiness, or even merely want to want happiness, can be a thorny pondering for anybody, least of all those in the organized crime-slash-foodservice industry. Nagomi has already been through a few iterations of hell as she came to understand what her dream job entailed. Thanks to her victory last week, she seemed to pull off a real achievement (wider-reaching consequences be damned). So it fits for those kinds of thematics to pivot over to Ranko, our other original focal-point lead, and the one whose story fits with Akihabara’s arc throughout this show. And it makes for a compelling exploration of her character since so much of Ranko’s immediate appeal was predicated on her being a badass maidly murder machine. Here we see her and the story asking whether she might want to…stop being that.
As with other stories told in the mighty Maid War manner, a huge portion of the idea powering this entry is based on doing some find/replace with a genre outing while still playing many of the technical dramatic beats straight. In this case, it’s the bittersweet tale of a hardened criminal like Ranko finding herself embroiled in a seemingly-sincere affair with hitman Suehiro, the pair dating and eventually conspiring to Run Away Together. Much of what’s done here could codify this episode as another ‘serious’ one, not unlike the consistent point of comparison that Maid War‘s sixth episode turned out to be. But in this case, it’s hitting all those pointed genre markers so pitch-perfectly alongside the understood absurdity of its existence that the whole framing gag just lands.
One trick, as we often see in stories like this, is that even as Maid War‘s inherent goofiness carries this stock crime-thriller plot, the love we’ve cultivated for a character like Ranko to this point, and the elements of her story we’re invested in, keeps us interested in how things unfold. We’ve known the other Oinky-Doink girls cared about her since at least that birthday episode, so it’s sweet again to see them all pitch in to help her prepare for her big date. But knowing as we already do from the opening that Suehiro is some sort of Maid Hitman, we have questions and concerns about where this is going. Sure, it’s inherently amusing to consider that, naturally, the type of guy Ranko can feel most comfortable with is a cold-blooded contract killer. But beyond Nagomi’s early misgivings about the limitations of love in the mythologized maid industry, the question alongside all of the more technical twisty elements waiting in the wings is how real this sort of shot at happiness could be for Ranko.
It all makes for an engaging, endearing lead-up that still had me snickering when Suehiro pulled out his “Let’s escape together” train tickets because of course, only to swerve into a calculated “holy shit” moment when who should emerge from the shadows with the truth but the friggin’ panda! Okachimachi has always been somewhere between oblique running gag and plot twist in-waiting, so alongside the incredibly amusing reveal of her voice actress being Aya Hirano, it turns out she’s way more densely integrated with Ranko and the overall story than we might have thought. I know I just called it a “holy shit” moment, but it’s more like a whole sequence of “what what” and “oh my god,” going all the way back to finding out that Okachimachi was the one we saw gunning down Ranko’s mentor Michiyo way back at the beginning of the series. Truly, she has been with us since the beginning.
It’s great because while this could have been a twist too far, it all ties in nicely with the theming and the broader setup for the rest of the show’s plot. Okachimachi came into this industry with the same dreams as Nagomi, wound up so ground-down and disillusioned that she rejected humanity and returned to being a panda. Her attempts to make amends with both herself and Ranko by protecting the latter from her new hitman suitor ring as thematically genuine, even as we’re chuckling while seeing how Okachimachi was sweating through her panda suit when Ranko first walked through the doors to work for Oinky-Doink. They even had me going for a second that Ranko had killed this particular endangered species, to say nothing of drawing out the truth of what Suehiro’s true intentions were. Compared to some of Maid War‘s earlier efforts at dramatism, which could come off as simple emotional manipulation at its headiest, the swerves in this one genuinely had me on the edge of my seat.
Maids may be able to consider ordinary happiness, but they can’t attain it here because nothing about Akiba Maid War is normal, which is awful for them, but pretty great for all of us watching along at home. We reach an understanding with this show’s tone as we see a doomed hitman smoke one last cigarette while having a revelatory chat with his panda-suited killer, all as a café maid waits in the pouring rain for her date fated never to arrive. It’s a cartoonish compounding of the climax you could play “The Real Folk Blues” over, tragically absurd and absurdly tragic like nothing else—bitter coffee with kawaii café latte art drawn over it.
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Chris is a freewheeling Fresno-based freelancer with a love for anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He can be found spending way too much time on his Twitter, and irregularly updating his blog.