“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?