Apologies for the delay in posting this, reason for said delay being my going away over the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding, which also happened to be my first ever traditional English wedding . And speaking of traditional English things, the butlers/ footmen auditions in this week’s Kaichou reach boiling point as the strongest tag-team in town are reunited for their toughest mission yet: to serve Afternoon Tea. But not just any Afternoon Tea, mind. It’s The Most Awesome Afternoon Tea in the World. And if you think that sounds yummy, you should see what Misaki cooks up for Usui later…
This week’s epi continues straight on from last week’s, as the Evil Prez allows ‘Misaki-kun’ and Usui to carry on in the competition, despite having their former partners disqualified, by forming a new partnership. Reunited, their next task is to design and set a table for Afternoon Tea. After some swift debate over their choice of theme, food and tableware, Usui’s newly revealed expertise regarding traditional English things helps seal their progression into the final round, which is to improvise serving a ‘real’ customer. Meanwhile, the Evil Prez habitually comments to himself from on high that Usui (whom he seems to recognise and know more about than we do) is meeting/ possibly exceeding his expectations. Misaki, however, in her determination to dodge the recognition of an inquisitive Yukimura and Kanou who have also been auditioning, slips and falls from the stage on which the final round is to take place. She is, of course, saved by Usui, who breaks her fall, but injures his arms in the process. Despite Misaki’s vociferous concerns, Usui insists that he’s fine to carry on.
Soon, it’s their turn to serve and they, of course, get the Evil Vice Prez himself as their pretend (and pedantic) customer. Misaki covers for her injured partner as best as she can, rushing to do all the lifting and carrying tasks, however, E.V.P. soon clocks on and asks what’s up with that… To which Usui demonstrates his answer: which is apparently to do a bit of virtuoso violin playing, to the delight of E.V.P. However, after watching Usui’s increasingly pained expression, Misaki eventually forces Usui to stop, responding to E.V.P.’s annoyed questions/ dressing-down by challenging the ‘Caring Hearts’ name and theme of E.V.P.’s new restaurant by telling him that a work-place that does not care about the welfare of its staff is, in short, crap. Whereas Maid Latte is, of course, Win. The Maid Latte gang then go off to fuss over Usui while E.V.P. remains behind to brood over his hitherto beliefs and actions in light of Misaki’s words. Until E.P. cheers him up by suggesting that they pick a different location for their butler café.
The next day, Misaki goes to visit Usui at home in order to check up on him and attempt to pay back some of his debt that she’s in by doing the following Misaki-ish things: showing surprise at how huge Casa Usui is and how
hot different Usui looks with glasses; giving him tsuntsun hell for discharging himself from hospital when he still has a raging fever; then going deredere on him while cooking up and feeding him some dodgy rice; then somehow managing to almost strip him of his ‘sweaty’ shirt [smooth move, girl]; and getting hugged and almost blinded by Usui’s 100 watt smiley sparkles while he tells her that she is precisely his clueless cup of tea.
I thought this was a very entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the whole butler thing. Now, on the one hand, said whole butler thing might have appeared as a whole load of fluffy fan service. However, I thought that the comic timing and the voice acting, particularly from Usui’s seiyuu, was spot on and that everything romped along at a fun pace, and then, of course, at a gentler but just as enjoyable pace in the last quarter of the epi.
In terms of the fan service, this was largely of the food-porn variety, with a few more gags based on the reverse-traptastic Misaki and, of course, the BL undertones of Team Usaki. The whole vibe kind of made me think Ouran meets Antique Bakery meets Kuroshitsuji. With more sparkles. In particular, and as we saw last week, the food-porn once again (as we saw with the above series, and still (will) do with countless others, no doubt), allows the audience to enjoy a certain fascination with aristocratic English traditions of ‘genteel’ behaviour and also allows us (through characters like Misaki Vs Maki) to critique it.
Regarding the voice acting, I referred to Usui’s characterisation specifically because of that random, er, ‘English’ accent Usui (or should that be ‘Nott Usui’?!) puts on to throw Yukimura off the scent. I just found that sing-song voice, coupled with the weird pronunciation, absolutely hilarious. Mind you, that’s usually my reaction during any Usui-screentime, the guy is probably one of the few characters that I can think of, in any genre of anime, who completely steals the show pretty much every time he appears, with his mixture of expressions and his vocal range. I also thought that it was also funny that Mr Hypnotist was also convinced that it was Nott [lol] Usui either, unless he’d in fact cottoned on to Usui’s act and was playing along by getting Yukimura out of the way.
The many faces of Usui aside, the pacing of them and the rest of the comic elements of the show, was enjoyable, making sense that among the longest scenes focussed on the final task and Misaki and Usui’s (and thus our) knowledge of the reality of Usui’s injury versus the need to maintain their act. Though, I must say again this week, that I also loved the shorter scenes with the three bakas being baka in between/ in the background. I’m also very impressed that Shiroyan and Kurotatsu made it to the final round too. Though not as impressed as Kanou’s achievement at being selected; that one time bespectacled-bunny has clearly come a long way. One gripe, though, would be the lead up to Usui’s injury, which felt rather repetitive, especially since the whole Usui breaking Misaki’s fall (i.e. Usui saving Misaki for the Nth time) was so soon after the volleyball epi, where pretty much the exact same thing happened.
However, the ending certainly made up for that. That is, Misaki is aware of her accruing having-her-day-saved-by-Usui-debt and is determined to pay it back. And she probably could do so with relative ease, seeing as we know how strong and capable she generally is. Except when she tries to cook. Let’s just say she’s no Mogami Kyouko. Though, side-stepping the letting loose of any feminist rage at the possible critique of girls who can’t cook, Misaki’s (in my opinion) rather inventive cream of rice soup, and the whole having to cool it and feed it to her cheeky but charming patient, certainly allowed us some very nice moments with Misaki in deredere mode and Usui in complimentary mode. Speaking of which, I love the fact that he also called her clueless amidst the hugs and the latest of his confession-but-not-quite-confessions, when he tells her (or at least tries to) that he has also received favours from her (I guess he means the more emotional/ supportive kind, as opposed to his more overt knight in shining armour kind) and that she is just right for him. Kyaarific indeed, or at least those sparkles were…
…Unless the animators really were trying to blind her/ us with what is quite possibly Usui’s most heavenly smile yet?
Tsuruga Ren, looks like you may have some competition in that category…