「少年よ, 大志を抱け」 (Shounen yo, Taishi wo Idake)
“Boys, Be Ambitious”
Shounen Maid is a pretty amazing show, all things considered. No matter how carefree and upbeat it can seem for most of an episode, it can always nail me with an emotional kick to the solar plexus in the last moments. It’s so relaxed and low-key in the way it goes about setting up the story that when that transition happens it never feels forced, but it always feels natural.
This is always a sad time of the season, but the ending of Shounen Maid is going to hit especially hard. As Chihiro says there is indeed plenty of manga left, but as of now no one is translating it into English and hasn’t for going on four years. So when the anime is over, for those of us that can’t read Japanese fluently Shounen Maid is over – there’s no option to jump into the manga like one could with Akatsuki no Yona or Akagami no Shirayukihime. And while the anime has given me complete confidence that it’s capable of delivering an ending that feels like a real ending – and a good one – it’s plain that this premise is a rich vein of good storytelling, and there’s so much story left to tell.
I really think the emotional ante in Shounen Maid (as good as it was already) has really been amped up since Kazusa-san came into the story. This really is a series about the gaps between people we love – be they emotional or physical – but the opposite of love here is definitely not hate. Kazusa clearly isn’t a bad person, just a flawed one. She obviously understands that she played a major role in the breakup of her family, and indirectly in Chiyo’s passing, and she’s caused a major upheaval in Madoka and Chihiro’s lives. But she didn’t intend for that to happen – she just wanted to know her grandson. And didn’t Chiyo’s stubbornness play a role in the schism in the Takatori family too? In the end, blame doesn’t matter because once someone is gone, you can never get them back – and you can never get the time back that you could have spent with them, and didn’t.
Madoka and Chihiro are loved, there’s no question about that. I might even say that Chihiro’s arrival seems to have sparked a new appreciation for Madoka in Miyako’s eyes, but at the very least those in Madoka and Chihiro’s circle know them well, and their obvious angst over the happenings at the cemetery has them worried. Chihiro even has a female admirer at school, it seems, though it’s Hino who takes it on himself to try and bring some cheer into Chihiro’s life. He’s already figured out who the old lady at the tea shop was, and he knows Chihiro’s full history.
The O-hanami at the mansion is the classic “one” in Shounen Maid‘s classic one-two punch. It’s gently funny and heartwarming, a reminder of how lucky Chihiro is in many ways and of how much Madoka is loved by those few who know him well. From Uchouten Boys to Chihiro’s future girlfriend and her two matchmaking allies to all of Chihiro’s friends, everyone gathers around two potted cherry trees (Hino’s family, being landscapers, really pull out all the stops) for a classic Japanese spring tradition. Everyone, that is, except for Madoka. Despite his carefree manner he’s clearly always been a fragile soul – awkward with crowds, nervous with strangers. He stays put in his room until Chihiro (naturally) comes to draw him out, offering him the same rolled omelettes that Chiyo used to (disastrously) make for him. Who’s taking care of who in this relationship, anyway? The answer, I think, is both of them are taking care of each other.
I think the anime version of Shounen Maid was always destined to close with an ending involving Kazusa, and her relationship with her son and grandson. These two have obviously always been “at odds”, as Miyako puts it, and maybe Madoka is truthful when he says he “doesn’t like her”. But the last dream he has – not of Chiyo, but of his mother watching over him as he recovers from an anxiety attack – is an indication that he knows the truth is larger than his own resentments. She’s his mother, and we only have one of those – and Madoka knows he won’t have her around forever. Does he want to be the one to decide for Chihiro that he never knows his family? I don’t think so – and I think Chiyo must have known full well that if Chihiro went to live with Madoka, he would eventually meet the rest of her family. In the end this will be difficult and painful, as families often are – but surely that’s better than the alternative?