Akiba Maid War – 12 (Fin) – Bacon Bad

Before Ranko went cold, I had a pretty strong inkling which way Nagomi would break in response. She tried to turn the other cheek and live by Nerula’s example, but losing Ranko was a pig too far. As a result, while her fellow Oinky Doink maids don black to grieve the loss of their 36-year-old big sister, Nagomi dons black to announce that she’s gone to the dark side—the way of the gun. She intends to kill Ranko’s killer with Ranko’s revolver.

Nagi didn’t order Ranko’s death—rather, it was someone who, like Nagomi, wanted revenge for the death of her fellow Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam maids, so stylishly slain in the first episode. In that regard, Ranko reaped what she sowed, which is why she died with a smile on her face. She owned what she did, and was happy to have found a home and family at the Oinky Doink.

But with Ranko gone, it’s once again open season for the pigs, as Nagi has ordered their extermination. Nagomi is jumped in the street by the cow maid she shot in the foot and beaten to a pulp, and after the police release her, she goes through Ranko’s bag and finds little mementos that turn her away from the darkness and back to the light.

The head maids under Nagi’s employ don’t want to shed any more blood lest they attract too much police attention, but Nagi wants this done, and she kills the head Bear and Cow maids to impress upon the others the price of questioning her orders. The next morning Nagomi, rejoins her fellow Oinky Doink maids in her normal maid outfit

They’re ready to join her in taking a last stand right there at their home against the other Creatures, and she tells them they’ll give their enemies a real “maid war.” They tuck into what may well be their last supper at the ramen joint below them, buying an extra bowl for Ranko and each of them taking a slurp from her bowl. Meanwhile, Nagi and her army are on the march.

When Nagi enters the ramen joint and the owner gets a little too sentimental, she kills him. He was one of the few people who knew her when she was an orphan taken in by Miss Michiyo, and who ordered a hit on her adoptive mother when she went non-violent … due in no small part to the arrival of young Ranko.

I thought we’d get one more elevator gag, but Nagi is all business as she walks down the hall to the entrance of Oinky Doink, her soldiers standing at attention. But even though she envisions herself being shot in the head before opening the door, she’s met by an entirely non-violent and very moe Oinky Doink welcome.

Following Nagomi’s lead, the Oinky Doink maids treat Nagi and their would-be murderers just like any other masters or mistresses who walk through that door: like they’ve come home to the pigsty. And to most of the maids’ shock (including Ranko’s killer), Nagi actually humors them, ordering everyone to sit down.

The main event of their hospitality is a song-and-dance by Nagomi that embodies the gentle, immortal spirit of moe moe kyun from which she, Ranko, and Michiyo all believed the maids of Akiba had strayed. Watching Nagomi perform…not so greatly reminds Nagi of Ranko when they were still sisters. She shoots Nagomi in the side, but it’s apparently only a grazing shot, because Nagomi keeps on going.

Nagomi’s performance briefly captures the enthusiasm of the crowd, but when it comes to a close it’s met by cold silence and a light smattering of applause. Nagi responds by shooting one of her own Dazzlion maids in the hands. Nagomi tries to get through to Nagi with sentiment and words, even telling Nagi that if she ever feels lonely she’ll always find cozy companionship at the pigsty. But Nagi simply doesn’t want to hear it.

The fact is, she’s seen and heard enough, so she fires the rest of her bullets at an off-camera Nagomi. But then something happens that she never expected in a million years: the former Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam, now Axolotl maid, who killed Ranko, shoots Nagi in the head.

Apparently, Nagomi got through to her. And getting through to one among the dozens was enough. Okachimachi finishes the job by throwing Chekhov’s sharpened bamboo spear through Nagi’s gut. We didn’t get any more Hirano Aya, but the panda had her day.

After a credit sequence altered to include visuals of and vocals by Nagomi, we flash forward to 2018, where we learn that in the end, Michiyo, Ranko, and Nagomi won. As it was when I visited, Akiba is a vibrant but peaceful place, where the maids are no longer packing heat. In a final welcome surprise, a wheelchair-bound but alive Nagomi carries on Ranko’s legacy at the New Oinky Doink Café—as a 36-year-old maid everybody wants to meet.

Akiba Maid War was exactly what was advertised on the tin, and more. At times totally ridiculous and bonkers and at others genuinely moving and compelling, it held true to its weird and novel premise to the end, framing those bloody times we witnessed as a dark chapter in the history of animal-themed café maids. The doves beat the hawks, not with swords or bullets, but with the boundless power of moe moe kyun.

Akiba Maid War – 11 – Reservoir Hogs

Business at Oinky-Doink is booming thanks to Nagomi’s Lady Omoe status—call it the Michelin Star of Akiba Maid Cafés—but just when things seemed to be looking up, the maids find their Panda (or rather the empty suit) strung up on the iconic Radio Building sign.

On the panda suit’s head is a letter from Creatureland formally disowning the Oinky Doink—an almost certain death knell for the Café, and possibly its staff as well. The outside of the Café is covered in slanderous flyers, and higher-ranked maids come to scare off customers.

This is an untenable situation, but Ranko believes it to be entirely her fault; her former sister Nagi, the head of Creatureland, has a beef with her, so she’ll go to Nagi and settle it once and for all, even if it means her death. The other Oinky Doink maids except this, except for Nagomi. It takes Ranko pulling a gun on Nagomi to make clear that where she’s going, Nagomi can’t follow.

But while everyone seems grimly resigned to letting Ranko sacrifice herself, the next morning they’re waiting for her at the entrance, ready to throw down right beside her. Ranko issues a heartfelt thanks that is interrupted by the elevator door closing on her head (this has been a very good running gag).

The plan is pretty simple: Yumechi, Shiipon, Zoya, Tenchou and Okachimachi storm Dazzlion and take their top maid hostage while Ranko and Nagomi infiltrate Creatureland HQ. Nagi sends an army of maids who have no compunctions about killing their hostage.

Ranko and Nagomi initially believe that leaves the coast clear for them, but HQ is also packed with maids, who escore them to Nagi’s office. Nagomi returns the Lady Omoe statue and sash and apologize for taking them, but in response Nagi simply smashes Omoe on Nagomi’s head.

Surprisingly, Nagi would rather not kill Ranko, just as Ranko would rather not kill her. Unfortunately, her one and only compromise is completely out of the question: she’ll give Ranko a leadership role if she kills all of the Oinky Doink staff.

Ranko instead prostrates herself and offers her life in exchange for letting Oinky Doink off the hook. Nagi stabs her in the hand, and she draws a pig with her blood, explaining to Nagi that she’s enjoyed her time with the Oinky Doink maids and wouldn’t trade their lives for anything.

When Nagi threatens to slash Nagomi’s throat, Ranko does something we’ve never seen her do: cry and beg, not for her life, but for Nagomi’s and the others’ (who are besieged at Dazzlion). She admits that Nagomi reminds her of their old gentle boss Miss Michiyo, the kind of maid Akiba needs.

When offered the chance to shoot Nagi before Nagi kills Nagomi, Ranko chooses neither; both women are too dear to her, while Oinky Doink is her cherished home. Her display seems to finally get to Nagi, who loses interest in the whole situation and withdraws the order of disownment…in exchange for ten times the sweets money.

When Ranko and Nagomi reunite with the other Oinky Doink maids, Tenchou asks why they couldn’t haggle, but the bottom line is everyone escape with their lives and the café is still in one piece, so it’s a win. They’ll find a way to make all that extra money. They wouldn’t have been able to do anything if they were dead.

But just when my guard was down, and Ranko and Nagomi are shopping for a hairpin to replace the one Nagomi lost, a pink maid assassin drives a blade through Ranko’s gut from behind. She knew what she was doing, as Ranko quickly bleeds out and dies in Nagomi’s arms while stunned bystanders refuse to call an ambulance, as that would be interfering in Akiba maid affairs.

Whether Nagi changed her mind and sent someone to kill Ranko, or someone acting on their own had a score to settle (Ranko did kill a lot of maids in her thirty-six years), her sudden death is a gut punch. The question is, what happens next? Will Nagomi hew to the nonviolent ideals that endeared her to Ranko, or will she seek to find and take revenge on her friend’s murderer?

Akiba Maid War – 10 – Swine and Punishment

“Romance is a no-no”, it’s right there in the opening theme. But while forbidding maids and masters from dating is a matter of professional boundaries, in this mobbed-up Akiba, a maid falling in love can lead to disownment, even death. It’s in this context that we watch Ranko, finally finding someone she likes, and who likes her, in Suehiro.

Sure that man happens to be a maid assassin, and it’s heavily implied from the start that she’s his next target, but we can’t choose who we love, can we? While Nagomi wants to cheer Ranko on, she’s opposed in principle due to the danger involved. But Tenchou is fine with Ranko going on one date—especially if it’s with a banker who might loan her money (fat chance).

The next day all the girls pitch in to help make Ranko look her best, and she wears, and what do you know, it’s the noir-y outfit she dons in her the Enko ED. The one member of Oinky-Doink resolutely opposed to the date is Okachimachi, blocking her way and even going so far as to speak up.

But Ranko wants to go on the date, and she and Suehiro have a great time in and around Ueno. They stroll the market, visit the zoo, and brings omelet rice and a ketchup bottle with which to draw on it.

The date only reinforces that the two would be quite comfortable and happy together, sharing a love of heater fans and dreaming about getting cozy under a kotatsu. He’s as upfront and earnest as she is, and loves the stoic way she talks. He had been worn out emotionally from his job (as an assassin) but at Oinky Doink Ranko gave him a place of peace and solace.

Something to look forward to. He wants to experience that every day, so he proposes that they take tomorrow’s night train and leave Akiba behind together. When the wind catches Ranko’s hat and she reaches out towards him to catch it, he instead takes her hand and shoulder and kisses her, leaving her with the train ticket in her hand.

After he leaves, Okachimachi shows up again, and speaking in Hirano Aya’s voice (such a great casting choice). She’s holding a gun, and has a story to tell about a maid who came to Akiba to be a maid and was disillusioned until she befriended one of her Masters … our trench coat-rockin’ Suehiro.

Eventually Okachimachi was ordered to assassinate a rival maid cafe’s manager—Ranko’s Miss Michiyo. She was nervous and terrified when she killed her, but Okachimachi ran away thinking she finally had it “maid” in this cuthhroat town.

She was wrong. Suehiro had only grown close to her so her guard would be down when the time came to eliminate her after she killed Michiyo. Okachimachi was lucky a cop entered the ally before Suehiro could kill her, but ended up getting hit by a car while on the run. She survived, and from that point on, decided she’d live life as a panda, eventually being brought in by Tenchou.

This is, needless to say, quite a damn twist: for the murderer of Ranko’s beloved matron to have been hiding under her nose all this time as the café mascot. Okachimachi brings Ranko a warning—that Suehiro will kill her too—as well as a pistol, so Ranko can take the revenge she’s owed. Ranko seemingly doesn’t hesitate for a moment in “sending her off.”

But as the kill happened off-camera, I wasn’t confident it was really a kill. Sure enough, we see that she only shot the panda mask in the head, no doubt correctly assessing that Michiyo wouldn’t want her to spill more blood for her sake. Ranko loves Michiyo more than she wanted revenge.

She also loves Suehiro, which is why it gives her no pleasure to wait for him at the train station with a gun in her pocket, ready to take him out before he can take her out, but perhaps also hoping against hope that no one has to be taken out; that there could be a happy ending.

Unfortunately, Ranko’s mercy has an unintended side effect: Okachimachi is still alive to take matters into her own hands and protect Ranko, both physically and emotionally, by killing Suehiro for her.

But here’s the thing: as we learn after we see Okachimachi shoot him, he called Nagi to tell her he wouldn’t be going through with killing Ranko. In fact, when Okachimachi shoots him, he’s not taking a weapon out of his coat, but a case containing a ring—a pearl ring, for his pig bride.

That’s a gut-wrenching end, especially as it unfolds while Ranko is waiting in the rain and growing more and more miserable. When she returns to the cafe drenched, she sees Okachimachi beat her there. Okachimachi tells her that Nagi isn’t just the one who ordered the hit on Ranko, but on Michiyo too.

While Okachimachi was merely a tool in Michiyo’s hit, Ranko likely won’t be so merciful of her former friend and colleague. Aside from the panda costume, this episode played everything straight, and was better for it due to the dissonance of the bizarre costumes and serious themes that make AMW so great.

While Michiyo abhorred violence—and so did Ranko—against a foe as unrelenting as Nagi, is there any choice but blood? Will Ranko have to lose another piece of her humanity to keep Nagomi and the others at Oinky Doink safe?

Akiba Maid War – 09 – Raiders of the Lost Oink

Leave it to Akiba Maid War to infuse some alternate history into its alternate timeline, as it introduces Omoe, the first maid from the Meiji era, who inspired the Lady Omoe Climb, which to the present day remains the crowning event of the annual Akiba Maid Festival.

Now that Maidalien is no more, it’s a very special festival for Creatureland, the only game in town. Nagi wants everything to be perfect, which for her means the café she manages, Dazzlion, will win the climb. Her otaku errand boy assures her everything will be arranged.

Nagomi is pumped up for the festivities, but Yumechi and Shiipon tell her not to bother. For Oinky Doink, the festival is all about knowing their place, keeping their heads down, and simply getting through it.

The seriousness of working within the highly structured confines of the “ecosystem” Nagi has set out means the Pigs occupy the very bottom of the creature pecking order, even below the newbie Axolotls. The Otaku distributes the guidelines, which are in extremely small print, warning Tenchou that Oinky Doink will be disowned entirely if they deviate.

Meanwhile, Nagi’s head lion maid sits in her throne like a queen while other lion maid give her a mani-pedi. She assures the Otaku that they won’t need any help climbing to the top of Lady Omoe, where the king of beasts belongs.

None of these elites imagined that their carefully controlled narrative would be completely usurped by the end of the festival by one of the bottom-feeding pigs, namely Nagomi. She stays up all night to make their stall (which is next to the bathrooms) look nice.

As for the guidelines, since they were thrown out with the trash Tenchou never relays them to the others, and spends the entire episode apart from them, fishing and wondering if she’s even really needed (a fish tells her no). Ranko has a steamy little interaction with one of her regular (and age-appropriate) masters, while their other regulars sample pigs’ feet (the only fare they’re allowed to sell) for the first time.

But sales are slow, because everything has been done to make Oinky Doink fail and keep them at the bottom. Nagomi ain’t about that, and in keeping with her commitment to her late sister to be the best damn maid she can be, she decides to walk about the festival grounds, taking the pigs feet to the people. For this, the higher-ranked Cow, Cat, and Bear maids punish her and the others.

After prostrating themselves in deference to their bullying “betters”, Ranko asks why things are this way, when in her experience they’re all top-notch maids. Nagomi wonders the same thing, and believes that this is their chance to leave the truffles alone and climb higher.

The last straw comes when the starting gun fires for the Lady Omoe Climb, and because the Pigs are at the very end of the line they’re not even able to move. Zoya picks up Nagomi’s baton of rebellion and dashes into the street where she and her fellow pigs have a clear path to the front of the race. Are they butting in line? Yes. Do they not care? Also yes.

The Pigs employ teamwork, with Zoya clearing the way at the bottom while Yumechi, Shiipon, and Nagomi start their ascents. the latter two get all tangled up in fights of their own. Nagomi manages to evade the pouncing lions and ends up near the top with their boss, and everything we need to know about her we learned when she slapped the shit out of one of her own maids for no reason.

Nagomi tries to hold her own but is no match for her, but Ranko gives her a clutch assist, grabbing the lioness and leaping off the megamaid to enable Nagomi to grasp the victory she worked so hard to attain. She plants the pig “flag” in Lady Omoe’s head, and just like that Oinky Doink has prevailed.

At the victory ceremony, Nagi plays it cool rather than disemboweling Nagomi right on stage in front of thousands of citizens. She tells New Lady Omoe Nagomi that she has “plenty of promise”, but says only time will tell if she’s truly worthy of the honor. Interestingly, Ranko is way off to the side, and she and her former colleague don’t interact at all.

Nagi takes out her frustration over Dazzlion’s defeat in the shadows, by having Otaku guy killed. I’d say RIP, but this lackey has been nothing but a menace to our Oinky Doink girls, so to him I say good riddance to him and his stupid backpack. Unfortunately, I highly doubt Nagi will stop there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 08 – Maid-jor League

Akiba Maid War’s opening stingers can be misleading, but this week’s made it abundantly clear it would be a baseball episode. I’ll go on record here: I love baseball, but I’m not really into anime that are predominantly about baseball. The occasional standalone baseball-themed episode of AMW? Oh hell yeah. Sign me up and play ball!

Honestly any old conceit would do, but the leader of Creatureland (and the recently absorbed Maidalien) visits Manami’s funeral, picks up her red bat, and decrees that Oinky Doink will play a game of baseball against the former Maidaliens (now Axolotls) to bury the hatchet. No one on either side is as enthusiastic about this as Nagomi.

But while she’s excited to honor Nerula’s memory with a nice clean game, everyone else either doesn’t want to be there or have no intention of playing a nice or clean game. The first casualty is Manami’s bat, which proves too old and worn out to withstand even one Zoya fastball. The next blow is struck by the Axolotls, who plunk Yumechi hard on the bum.

Despite being the most obnoxious taskmaster and cheerleader, Nagomi proves rubbish at the plate, while everyone else is decently talented, save the three random Venezuelan tourists manning the outfield—who ironically are terrible at baseball. When Oinky Doink builds a good lead, an Axolotl batter smacks Nagomi on the head.

Nagomi turns the other cheek even as Shiipon trips her assailant, and from there on things start to unravel. Tagging out runners with brutal punches, hard slides and trips, and ample trash talk are the order of the day, and the Axolotls soon take over the lead.

When Nagomi protests the game’s descent into violence, even her own teammates tell her she’s the only one playing baseball here. Everyone else is acting like maids—Akiba maids—and treating this not as a simple pasttime, but a battle in a war—an Akiba Maid War!

Despite this, Nagomi doesn’t stoop to everyone else’s level. Even if no one else will, she’ll honor Nerula by playing fair, even taking first without protest after getting plunked in the face. One by one the top Axolotl players see Nagomi, develop a measure of shame and admiration, and decide to start playing fair themselves.

By this time, Oinky Doinks have retaken a slim lead, but Zoya’s nail is split and she can only continue pitching if she rips the nail off—something she’s all too ready and willing to do! This is when Ranko, who has baseball experience from being in the joint, takes over. We also learn that she’s a southpaw, like me, which only endears her to me more.

At this point, an increasingly frustrated Uzaki steps in to pinch hit for one of her fair-playing colleagues, and after taking one pitch she charges the mound to take a swing at Ranko. Zoya takes her out and threatens her, incurring the rage of the other Axolotls.

It looks like Nagomi’s dream of a clean fair game will be dashed after all … and then Uzaki is stabbed in the back by the Axolotl mascot that had been sitting in the stands until then. The Axolotl removes its head to reveal it’s Miyabi, Manami’s disgruntled right-hand-maid.

One of the other Axolotls stabs Miyabi, and suddenly there are two corpses on the field. Rather than end the game without an official result, the other Axolotls, seeing that their only obstacle to playing a fair match have been removed, insist on completing the game, pretending Miyabi and Uzaki aren’t dead and carrying them back to the dugout.

While the two dead maids start to decompose, the Axolotls attempt a last-ditch rally and come of just short. That said, they admit it was a good-ass game. An elated Nagomi hopes her dearly departed sister is smiling down on the victory they won in her name.

After singing an Oinky Doink-themed alma mater, the two teams depart without any further violence. As Ranko washes the blood from her battered left arm, she’s approached by a maid she knew as Uzuko in the past, who now goes by Nagi and has risen to the very top echelon of the Akiba underworld.

Nagi notes that Ranko didn’t kill Manami, just as she didn’t act with lethal force to save their old senior maid back in the day. She warns Ranko that her reluctance to kill when required could spell the end of her one day. Nagi knows what Ranko can do with her hands, she just has to do it. But just like Nagomi wouldn’t resort to violence, perhaps there are boundaries past which Ranko simply won’t go out of personal honor and principle.

Ominous ending aside, as someone who is never not extremely there for any and all standalone baseball episodes, this was a triumph. Not only was it a sweet spiritual sendoff for Nerula and a way of Nagomi finding closure, it was packed with excellent sports animation, postcard memories, adorable uniforms, and tons of great little details. Like the Oinky Doink crew, AMW has proven it can pull off anything it puts its mind to.

Akiba Maid War – 07 – RocknPorkRolla

A week has passed since Nerula was gunned down in an alley, and Nagomi has run away from the Oinky Doink. The others, particularly Ranko, are worried about her, especially since Manami and the Maidalien war hawks aren’t finished. While Ranko is out distributing flyers, she spots a pink ninja who claims not to be Nagomi, but clearly is.

Since Nagomi insist’s she’s not Nagomi, Ranko tells this “mystery ninja” the situation: she and the Oinky Doink maids are worried about her. But if Nagomi fled out of fear to the oddly safer ninja café business, it wasn’t fear of being hurt or killed. It was fear of standing by and doing nothing while another friends of her dies.

This is a typical action movie protagonist pattern: after a great defeat, the hero withdraws, suffering a crisis of purpose. But outside forces, like Nerula’s grieving fans, conspire to bring her back to where she needs to be: at Oinky Doink, as the new kind of Akiba maid Nerula knew she could be.

But how? The ramen guy gives Nagomi the other piece of the picture to bring her around. It’s something he’s learned being in the ramen business with the reputation as someone whose ramen never changes: staying the same actually requires change. So Nagomi returns to the dojo and considers what that means.

That night, Manami and over two dozen of her henchmaids advance on Oinky Doink, outnumbering them over two-to-one. I knew Ranko and Zoya were worth ten of the average maid in fighting ability, but that’s still a lot of maids and a lot of bullets. The pig maids make use of homefield advantage and the element of surprise as much as they can, diverting and splitting up Manami’s maids.

This is the first time we see Shiipon and Yumechi in sustained action (their attack on the Sheep happening off-camera) but they handle themselves well. Even so, eventually the Maidaliens surround the Pigs, and Manami’s machine gun looks like a decisive advantage.

Ranko prepares to make a desperate charge to take Manami out or die trying (as far as she’s concerned protecting the café is worth it) but suddenly the elevator opens and a cloud of smoke gets off. Dozens of smoke bombs explode and disorient both sides. And through the smoke, Nagomin appears, prepared for battle.

With her almost preposterously hastily-acquired ninja skills, within seconds she’s disarmed Manami and claimed the machine gun for their side. Manami switches to her trademark bat, but once she’s in the pigsty, the maids of Oinky Doink and their ninja maid savoir are ready for her.

True to who she is, through the ensuing chaos, many bullets fly, but none of them from a gun held by Nagomi. Instead she uses the tools of the ninja trade, like kunai and nets, which buy her co-workers time to go on the offensive.

When the dust clears it’s just a wounded Manami and her lieutenant Miyabi, surrounded by the bodies of their fallen comrades. Miyabi gets Manami to retreat before they too are killed, but after Miyabi dresses Manami’s leg, Manami dismisses her and she departs in shame.

Nagomi shows up with Ranko as backup, and despite her sorry state Manami is still ready to throw down. But Nagomi isn’t there to fight. Nor is she there as a ninja. She’s a maid, and she reminds Manami what maids are truly all about: not dying in glorious battle, but serving their masters with moe moe kyun.

When Manami rises to shut the young whippersnapper up, Nagomi again uses her new ninja skills to lay the smackdown on Manami. Again, Nagomi demands that Manami feel the moe moe kyun, and she finally relents, deciding that pig hunting time is over.

Ranko lets Manami withdraw, and welcomes Nagomi back into the pigsty. But Manami gets a rude awakening back at Maidalien HQ. Not only did the boss Ugaki refuse to commit any more forces to this silly war, but she got all the Maidalien brass to agree to a merger with Creatureland.

Manami could not change like Nagomi did, and ends up gunned down by her former allies who are sick of her bloodlust. They want to make money, and they’ll make more if she’s dead than running around shooting people. So she meets her end in a swirling puddle of her own blood. Unfortunately for Oinky Doink, their next foe looks to be their own Creatureland masters.

This was a great step forward for Nagomi, but it wasn’t perfect. I kinda wish Manami had stuck around a bit, as small a chance as redemption for someone her would have been. Also, the animation of the raid, aside from some fun moments, was also surprisingly underwhelming, considering what I know the show is capable of from the premiere and the MMA episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 06 – The Batmaid

Rather than a stinger that shows some kind of absurd situation our Oinky-Doink maids find themselves in, we get some narration about the delicate balance struck between the Creatureland and Maidalien groups. Ranko’s slaughter of Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam upset that balance.

When Crimson Supernova returns from seven years of prison to Maidalien’s HQ, she smells weakness and smashes it with her red bat. Whoever wiped out Wuv-Wuv will also taste that bat, which is why it’s ironic that she hits it off with Ranko at the ramen spot they both love.

Because Wuv-Wuv also wiped out Maid Sheep (never mind the sheep started it), Creatureland’s brass instructs Tenchou to take on Maidalien … all by themselves. It’s clearly meant to be a mission that will result in Oinky-Doink’s destruction, but they’ll also be destroyed if they refuse.

The increased tensions ripple through Akiba’s streets, and even Nagomi and Nerula are on edge; the distance between them symbolizing their allegiances to the opposing sides of the coming war. But when Tenchou lays out the situation, Nagomi refuses to fight Nerula.

Tenchou suggests that Nagomi and Nerula take an Oath of Sisterhood that will bind them together. For a moment I was worried Nerula would reject Nagomi’s outstretched hand, either out of loyalty to her group or fear of reprisal, but she turns out to be true blue, and before the ramen guy and Tenchou, they take their oath and exchange name cards.

When Tenchou tries to persuade Nagomi into spying on Maidalien through Nerula, Nagomi is truly disgusted … but Nerula takes the initiative, warning her new sister that her group is coming for Oinky-Doink, and even tipping off the cops to her violent new “acting” boss Manami’s plan.

Nagomi is terribly worried when Nerula goes to ground, but thanks to the ramen guy she and Ranko manage to find her hiding in an alley, not far from where her fellow Maidalien maids are hunting for her. Nerula is happy to see her sister “one last time”, a phrase Nagomi doesn’t like one bit.

But like Ranko (and unlike Nagomi), Nerula is clear-eyed about what it means to be a maid in Akiba. She betrayed her group, and is ready for the consequences when Manami and her right-hand maid show up to deal them out.

Only if Nerula is going to go down, she’s going to go down trying to take Manami with her. Manami is nothing but an agent of chaos who wants to flood Akiba’s streets with blood (never mind that Ranko kiiinda already did this in the first episode, thus creating Manami’s motivation for going after Oinky-Doink).

Nerula doesn’t let Nagomi interfere as she lunges at Manami with a dagger, hitting nothing but air. When Manami beats her down with her bat, she gets back up, which is when Manami pulls a gun and puts several bullets in Nerula’s midsection.

Ranko pulls her sidearm and reminds the Maidaliens of the code, and Manami and her colleague depart before the coppers come. But the die is cast and the war has begun, even if the first casualty is not from Creatureland. None of that matters to Nagomi in the moment; she’s just trying to stop Nerula’s bleeding.

Nagomi is heartbroken and devastated when Nerula raises her bloodied hand to her sister’s cheek before breathing her last. Ranko warned that oaths of sisterhood don’t always work out, but if there’s any consolation to Nerula’s death, it’s that she died never having to fight her sister.

AMW is no stranger to goofy, absurd, over-the-top climaxes to its episodes, but this is the first one that’s played absolutely straight for drama, and it succeeds. Could this tragedy be what finally motivates Nagomi to take up arms to prevent anyone else she cares about from being taken?

Or will Nagomi take Nerula’s last words to heart, resolving to stay the maid she is: a maid of peace and non-violence? Whatever path she takes, the goofy fun times are done.

Akiba Maid War – 05 – Crimson Swine

Tenchou has the maids making paper roses in their down time; anything to try to make the half-million yen needed to pay off their sweets money or the café will be shuttered. In other words, it’s just another day at the Oinky Doink.

After being as kind as she can in complimenting invitation cards printed with a bare minimum of ink, Nagomi’s acquaintance Nerura (one of the few genuinely nice people in Akiba … at least so far) Suggests she attract business with an event.

When Nagomi learns that Ranko’s birthday is coming up in two days, she asks Tenchou and the other maids if they’ll help her do an event … and they suddenly turn into mean assholes who don’t care about Ranko at all, and let a tearful Nagomi do what she likes.

Following Nerura’s advice to reach out to a fellow Creatureland outfit, Nagomi and Ranko visit Maid Sheep, and are warmly welcomed by its idol, Kaoruko (voiced by Ogura Yui, who can really turn up the syrup when she wants to). She’s friendly, at least, until she learns it’s Ranko’s birthday.

That’s a problem, because it’s also Kaoruko’s party, and these pig maids are stepping on her currently-in-progress birthday event. After enduring some heckling from both Kaoruko (delivered with all the requisite sweetness of a maid on duty) and the customers there, Ranko and Nagomi take their leave.

On the walk home Nagomi confides in Ranko how she’s just not sure she’s cut out for this whole maid thing, especially with their co-workers being so mean, and of course the fact that maids are expected to fight and even kill when called upon. Ranko looks back to when she was new to the game and violence was just starting to become a thing in the maid world. Just because she’s good at violence doesn’t mean she ever liked or wanted to do it.

But when her madame was killed, she accepted her fate as avenging angel, and so it is in the present, when they’re surrounded by Sheep maids. Fellow Creatureland maids aren’t supposed to fight, but Ranko and Nagomi pissed Kaoruko off, so she starts a fight. Ranko holds her own, of course, but Kaoruko takes Nagomi hostage, and Ranko has to stand down.

That’s what brings us to what was hinted at in the now-famous Outrageous Akiba Maid War Stinger: Nagomi and Ranko tied up and weighed down and drowning in a giant barrel full of blood with a damn lamb to keep them company. Turns out Kaoruko doesn’t want any other maids in Akiba to share her birthday, so she’s been killing them all off. Ranko’s next … it doesn’t seem to matter to her that it’s not Nagomi’s birthday.

Never mind that the flowing red liquid turns out to be tomato juice; Nagomi and Ranko are in serious trouble, so it’s a good thing Okachimachi (AKA the Panda) saw what went down. When we cut back to Tenchou and the other maids, we learn that they were only pretending to be mean in order to distract Ranko from the fact they were arranging a surprise party for her birthday. Not only did I sigh in relief, I smiled with joy at learning this!

Ranko and Nagomi believe this might be it for them, so they exchange apologies and thanks for the time they’ve spent together. At first Nagomi feels like her path to maiddom has led to nothing but tragedy and sorrow, but as the tomato juice rises she gets more wistful about her time, and doesn’t regret that time with Ranko and the others.

But as nice as their fellow maids turn out to be, they did subside on nothing but stir-fried bean sprouts for weeks to afford a fancy custom cake for Ranko, so when she and Nagomi are late, they are pissed (especially Tenchou, who has to dress as a maid for the first time, and folks … I’m in love). Okachimachi arrives, shows them the dueling event invites, which (eventually) lead Yumechi, Shiipon, and Zoya to Maid Sheep.

After brandishing pipes, stating their intent, and charging the sheep in a Postcard Memory, we cut to a drowning Nogami hallucinating about living in Tomato Land before her friends bash the barrel open and free her and Ranko. They came through, just as Ranko knew they would. Hell, it’s likely she knew they were just messing with her all along.

When they leave the basement we get to see the carnage that three Oinky Doink maids wrought upon Maid Sheep, but a bruised Kaoruko promises retribution, not by them, but by Creatureland for this assault on an affiliated café. She just can’t keep her mouth shut and take the L, as she unleashes a torrent of insults directed at Ranko…until a bullet to the gut silences her forever.

That bullet is fired by Yumechi, who was not two days ago pretending to be as mean as possible to Ranko to throw her off any possible whiff of a surprise party. But that bullet (and the preceding unseen fracas that couldn’t have just been Zoya) shows us that Yumechi isn’t just fond of her fellow pig maid Ranko, she’s willing to kill to preserve her honor.

The other maids keep acting relatively mean and put-out towards Ranko right up until they enter a strangely dark Oinky-Doink, and then Taichou shows up with the lit (and only partially eaten) birthday cake, and she and everyone else sing “Happy Birthday”. Such a sweet, wholesome end to a day of violence, bloodshed … and tomato juice.

Oh, and Maid Sheep’s record revenues from Kaoruko’s birthday event? Okachimachi snatches them up and presents them to Taichou. Hopefully she won’t gamble them all away, but actually pay off enough of the sweets money to keep the café open at least another week or two! The credits roll as Ranko dances and sings a new number, looking nowhere near her thirty-six years. With friends like hers backing her up, may there be many more!

Akiba Maid War – 04 – Full Metal Piglet

It’s a blessing that there are no previews for this show because I have no earthly idea what this show is going to throw at me from week to week. When the 9-second cold open consisted of a very confused Nagomi being thrown off a building, I was still stumped, but that was a hell of a start…pigs are flying!

The Oinky-Doink Café’s parent company Creatureland comes into focus this week as there’s the maid yakuza equivalent of a corporate summit. The leader brings three managers up, including Tenchou (the only non-maid in the room aside from Otakuza), and shoots someone skimming sweets money in the stomach.

The message is clear: clean it up. Oinky-Doink doesn’t skim, but despite having a capable star in Yumechi and two heavies in Ranko and Zoya, they’re not earning as much as Creatureland would like. So they send Drillmaster Sano to whip them into shape. Her first act is to kick Tenchou and Panda out of the café.

The multi-day boot camp starts at 5:00 AM with Ranko calmly slapping Nagomi awake. The five maids go through a number of grueling drills and are constantly verbally and physically abused by Sano. Anyone who’s watched any show or movie with boot camp can see the pattern here.

Sano’s goal as representative of Creatureland is to increase the Oinky-Doink’s revenue, which means breaking down what she perceives as a bunch of undisciplined slackers and building them back up into frilly money-making machines. We also know that Sano isn’t just being a sadist dick; her own life depends on her results.

That threat gives the conflict between the Oinky-Doink maids and the corporate stooge Sano more dimension, to the point Sano almost seems to panic when the maids collectively decide to boycott day two of boot camp. She only asks to speak with each of them alone on the roof before she leaves them.

When it’s Nagomi’s turn, we know she’s being thrown off the building. What we didn’t know is that Sano catches her before she falls to her death. While she has Nagomi suspended, Sano tells her their two arms that are keeping her alive represent the relationship between the group and its maids.

Sano also shows her how scraped up and bloody her arm got when she caught Nagomi, showing her the depths the group will go to protect its maids. Nagomi is a crying mess, but returns to the cafe a changed person. Shiipon is the last of the maids to get “thrown” off the roof but shrugs it off, but the others have already fallen in line, and decide that Sano can stay and teach them.

The montage that follows consists of the maids gradually being shaped into the obedient automatons Creatureland intends them to be. There’s no more hesitation in their responses to Sano, and now that they know what’s expected of all of them, they’re quick to point out one another’s flaws throughout the day, and just as quick to accept criticism from each other.

The exception is Shiipon, who doesn’t like what’s happening to her colleagues or her café. The last straw is when Sano demands she stop doing her ganguro makeup. One night she tries to sneak out, but Sano is lying in wait and sounds the alarm, and all the other girls chase after her with rope and handcuffs.

When Ranko corners her in the kitchen with a screwdriver, Shiipon thinks it’s all over, but to her surprise Ranko unscrews the exhaust fan to let her escape, “if that’s what she wants.” When Shiipon asks Ranko what she wants, it’s to protect the café. Shiipon looks out the opening, sees Tenchou and Panda scrounging for trash in the alley below, and decides to stay after all.

The next morning, Shiipon shocks everyone by showing up sans blond hair dye and gaudy makeup. She applies herself and becomes one of the worker bees, earning not only Sano’s trust, but her affection. Sano, whose life is on the line here, is clearly relieved that the one bad apple in this Oinky-Doink group has fallen in line.

On the day Sano leaves, she unleashes a torrent of critical vitriol at her grunts calling them the worst maids ever, but finishes it up by saying they’re also the best, and they all pass. Nagomi, Yumechi, and Zoya all burst into tears, Ranko is her usual stoic self, and while Shiipon puts her face in her hands, it’s clear she’s not as affected as the others.

The Oinky-Doink resumes normal operations, only now the maids are wound up so tight by Sano’s training there’s no fun or joy in their work. Nagomi looms in on her master trying to upsell him; Yumechi’s face is gaunt and her eyes baggy from overwork.

But then Tenchou returns, flanked by Panda…and Shiipon. Notably, Tenchou is brandishing a bazooka, and declares that she’s taking back her café. She and Panda are quickly taken down, and Ranko neutralize Zoya, but Shiipon takes the bazooka Tenchou drops and races to the roof where the giant wood “Creatureland” carving they worked on all week.

To her, that carved sign represents everything wrong that’s happened to the café, and blowing it up is the only way to bring back the joy and the fun of their work. When she blows it up real good Nagomi screams with agony, but the spell—or rather her indoctrination—is eventually broken.

Life returns to normal at Oinky-Doink, only with Nagomi having gained some useful skills during the boot camp. Shiipon is back to her normal hair color and makeup, and when Sano shows up to check on their progress and protests how everything is back to the way it was, Shiipon answers her with a devastating takedown punch.

While not all of what Sano instilled in the maids was bad—see Nagomi leveling up—she took things way too far. Being a maid is the only thing the noncommittal Shiipon has ever stuck with, and it became something worth fighting to preserve. Ranko played a key role as Shiipon’s silent ally, while Tenchou also established the limits to Creatureland’s oppression she’s willing to endure. Panda…was just kinda Panda.

Akiba Maid War – 03 – Raging Boar

It didn’t take long to get on board with this episode, as the cold open shows us exactly what’s going down: Ranko in the corner of a boxing ring, looking battered but determined. Cut to a far gentler scene of Nagomi offering her roomie a cute hair tie to keep her hair out of her face while washing up.

While handing out cards on the street, Nagomi and Ranko encounter some unsavory figurine dealers (perfect for this Akiba), including one who talks to one of his treasured figurines in a cutesy voice. When this guy impugns maids, Ranko advances on him, but is stopped by an athletic woman with silver hair, who says she doesn’t acknowledge the stern Ranko as a maid.

They return to Oinky Doink to find Tenchou with the yakuza’s gun in her mouth. The café is behind on its payments, but in Ranko the guy sees a solution to that. I love how Ranko keeps pouring him water until it starts sloshing in his stomach.

Ranko is to report to the marvelously-named Akiba Fluffy n’ Sweet Club, which is actually an underground MMA club where maids beat the stuffing out of each other. It’s run by Madame Taira, who puts her cig out in Tenchou’s hand when she offers it.

Taira also happens to be an immense fan of “Gracey-poo”, AKA Inomata Grace, an obscure side character from an old anime who nevertheless inspired her to start her whole fighting enterprise. The figure of her watching from behind a tree as the protagonist trains reminds me of Nagomi: innocent and out of place in this temple of violence.

Ranko’s job isn’t to win, but to fall to Taira’s chosen champion. The only problem is, once she’s in the ring, Ranko finds it hard to hold back, and knocks the champ out with one punch. This is obviously a suboptimal result for both Taira and the Oinky Doink’s debtors.

As a naked Tenchou prostrates herself (we later learn she stripped of her own accord) she does manage to convince Taira into sparing her and Ranko’s life by proposing that Ranko win through to the finals, only to take a fall in the finals. We meet the serious silverhead, Zoya, who is Taira’s muscle. She and Ranko are at odds: Taira believes netiher of them are “true maids”, but Ranko says once one dons the uniform, anyone can be one.

Taira has Ranko dispose of the dead collector’s body (Taira killed him after Ranko won), and the genuine Gracey-poo figurine falls from his pocket (he sold Taira a fake). This episode is full of seemingly random yet ultimately extremely satisfying setups and payoffs.

Before Ranko and Zoya start tearing through one competitor after another on a collision course with one another in the final, Tenchou and Shiipon borrow betting cash from a bank that lets them put up their organs of choice as collateral, which is just…chef’s kiss. When the figuring dealer’s men come by, Taira shows them footage of Ranko disposing of the body, then promises them that her Zoya will kill her in the final bout.

The match between Ranko and Zoya arrives, with words from Ranko ringing in Zoya’s ears: “The only judge that determines whether you’re a maid or not is yourself.” Zoya, with her military training, is a far tougher opponent than the others, but Ranko is determined to last twelve rounds with her.

What follows is some truly splendid combat animation. Great care goes into depicting Zoya punching Nogami’s cherry hair tie off Ranko’s head, as well as the concussive force, bursts of air and sprays of sweat of each punch, block, and kick. Zoya talks shit not just about Ranko as a maid, but her fellow maids as well, which Ranko won’t let slide.

Borrowing a strawberry tie from her Gracey-poo Nogami to replace the cherry one, Ranko smiles and utterly rejects Zoya’s philosophy of “maidness”. As she fights Ranko Zoya looks back on the past that shaped that philosophy, from being denied cute dolls as a child in Russia, to moving to Akiba to be a café maid and giving up on it because she thought she wasn’t cute enough.

As the final round enters its climax, Ranko and Zoya come to a mutual understanding and respect, speaking telepathically with their fists and legs.

Ranko doesn’t need anyone to acknowledge her as a cute maid; she knows she’s a cute maid, especially with Nagomi-poo’s hair tie. Before Ranko lands the knockout blow to the side of her face, Zoya admits Ranko looks cute, and Ranko tells Zoya she looks cute too.

Ranko, of course, wasn’t supposed to win, which means it was only a matter of time before Taira killed her, Tenchou, and probably the other Oinky maids just for the hell of it.

But the figurine collectors come calling again, and this time they have evidence that their boss met with her: a note on the door to her office from Ranko mentioning the body she disposed of. Instead of showing us the ensuing bloody shootout and Taira’s demise, we watch only Gracey-poo watching from behind her tree, getting splattered with blood. Perfection.

But, as we know, that’s the fake Gracey-poo. The real one? Yumechi ended up with it. That’s a good thing, because it means they can sell it to recoup the cash Tenchou and Shiipon lost betting for Ranko to lose as planned. This leaves them just as deep in the hole with the yakuza guy, but as Nagomi says, at least they still have all their organs!

The cherry, strawberry, or whatever fruit you like on top of this deliciously epic sundae of an episode comes when Zoya reports for duty as the fifth Oinky-Doink maid. Freed from her previous work by Taira’s death and her dream resurrected by meeting Ranko, she’s ready to give the café game another shot, to which I can only say khorosho!

Akiba Maid War – 02 – Oink-cean’s Eleven

Being a café maid was a dream for Nagomi, but after one day it’s become more of a nightmare. She gets scant sleep after her traumatic experience the night before, and wakes to the grunting of Ranko sewing up a graze wound.

The breakfast table is accompanied by TV news reports of the dust-up, while Manager is punished for letting Ranko go too far by having to serve as a golf tee. Life’s hard out here for a maid.

Nagomi can’t reconcile last night’s violence with the calm of business as usual at the Oinky Doink, and the squirt of ketchup causes her to retch. Shiipon suggests she take a “stroll”, which for a maid means handing out pamphlets.

Initially, she’s bullied by rival maids into handing them out somewhere less favorable, but she gets an encouraging pep talk from a kind maid. Unfortunately, just when she’s feeling better about trying her hardest, the manager makes an announcement: the café is going out of business.

She got a loan from an obvious loan shark, using the Oinky Doink as collateral, then pissed away even the meager amount she got at said shark’s underground casino. But Yumechi isn’t about to give up.

The only way to save the café (and the maids’ home) is to win the money back at the casino, which caters specifically to maids. Using the day’s take (a handful of ¥10K bills), the maids hit the slots, table, and wheel, and…lose it all.

But there’s one last slight hope, which is clearly a mechanism by which the loan shark collects maids for human trafficking purpose: high-stakes maid poker using their potential futures as currency.

Shiipon, Manager, and Nagomi all lose their chips pretty quickly (Nagomi doesn’t even know how to play), but Ranko entrusts her chips to Yumechi, who uses them for one final all-or-nothing gamble.

Yumechi almosts pulls it off, with her 8-Jack Full House being beaten by a 9-Jack. But her dealer and opponents were cheating, so she and the others shouldn’t really be the shark’s property. Ranko asserts that position most emphatically…by pulling out her gun and shooting the shark between the eyes.

A gunfight ensues, with even Shiipon and Yumechi brandishing pistols, begging the question of why they weren’t frisked and disarmed on entry? Was it arrogance on the part of their casino maid hosts…or sportsmanship?

No matter: the Oinky Doink maids and the sloppy manager who got them in this mess end up getting out of it, and even when the head casino maid tosses a fuck-you grenade out the front door, Ranko catches it, throws it back, then turns and walks away slowly for that classic cinematic explosion stroll.

A speechless Nagomi watches the burning money fall and be astounded once more by the death and destruction wrought by her roommate. At the breakfast table the next day, the news reports and exploded underground casino, and all she can do is celebrate the fact that at least she’s alive…and not crabbing on a ship in the freezing Bering Sea. That’s something!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akiba Maid War – 01 (First Impressions) – Welcome Home, Master

We begin in Akihabara 1985, with a Mercedes Großer pulling up to a cafe. A maid gets out, opens the back door and a second, older maid gets out. A third maid approaches this older maid, and after a moment or two of acting nervous, she pulls out a gun and empties a clip into the older maid before fleeing. The older maid’s kohai shoots a look that promises vengeance.

Fourteen years later, in 1999, Wahira Nagomi has arrived in Akiba and is excited to start living her lifelong dream of being a cute café maid. When she arrives at the Oinky Doink Cafe just before opening, she’s initially greeted cheerfully like a customer, but when Yumechi learns she’s the new girl, the act drops immediately. No matter; Nagomi is just happy to be here.

Turns out she’s one of two new girls, the other being Mannen Ranko, who at 35 years old is clearly the maid with revenge in her eyes in the flashback. She and Nagomi join a team composed of the affable Tenchou, the two-faced Yumechi, and the ganguro Shiipon. There’s also a panda, despite the maid being pig-themed.

The rookies don’t get off to the strongest start. Ranko has all the lines and moves down, but delivers them in an uninspiring deadpan. Nagomi goes too far in the other direction, her ultra-enthusiasm and wordplay only overwhelming one of her masters. She’s also on the clumsy side, squirting omurice ketchup and drinks all over the place.

After closing, a suspicious-looking man arrives who treats Tenchou like someone who owes his bosses a lot of cash (which she does). As a compromise, Tenchou asks Nagomi to go on a little errand to a maid cafe owned by their parent company’s competitor. When Ranko offers to accompany her, I immediately felt better.

That opening scene in 1985 was ever in the back of my mind as the standard maid café stuff unfolded throughout the day, and I knew that Nagomi at least was totally unaware of the other side of Akiba café maiding. Ranko, on the other hand, knows the score. After ramen on Tenchou’s dime, Ranko gets a “doggy bag” and then leads the way to the space bunny-themed Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam.

After gaining access, they walk in on what is either an initiation of a new employee or a punishment for poor service: a girl being forced to cut off one of her pigtails. Their leader approaches Nagomi, immediately intimidating her. Nagomi presents her with the letter, which the lead bunny maid reads, then asks another maid to read it out loud. It’s an insult and a provocation.

After Nagomi gets smacked and slapped around a little, Ranko shoots through the paper bag from the ramen shop, putting a bullet right in the middle of the lead maid’s forehead. One, two, three blood fountains spurt out, landing conveniently on the paper apron a shocked Nagomi forgot to remove. From here…things get a little nutso.

The Wuv-Wuv maids, who suddenly number in the dozens are all mowed down and oblierated in a bloody ballet out in the streets of Akiba. The comically over-the-top bloodshed takes place while Yumechi is performing a J-pop concert for some rapt masters.

As someone who has never witnessed such violence, never mind committed it herself, Nogami is understandably no longer enthusiastic about being a maid in Akiba, and would just like to go home now if that’s all right, thanks!

When she and Ranko return to the Oinky-Doink,  Tenchou, Shiioin and Yumechi are amazed they’re still in one piece (Tenchou was already writing up want ads for new maids right after they left). Nagomi probably wants to scream after the horrifying sights she witnessed, but remains eerily calm and neutral, no doubt still numb from the experience.

In the room that’s been set up for her new live-in job, Nogami changes and then quickly packs up to get out of here while she’s still breathing, but that’s when she gets another surprise: Ranko is not only her new co-worker, but her roommate as well. She can’t go home. She already is home.

Will Nogami be able to maintain her sanity and innocence in this kooky scenario, or will her mature senpai train her to become as deadly as she is cute? I have no idea, but I can’t help but salute this show’s audacity and commitment to its bit, and will definitely keep watching to see where this goes!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: