「萌えの果て」 (Moe no Hate)
“At Moe`s End”
Akiba Maid Sensou’s final episode closes the book on Ton Tokoton as they are forced to contend with the inevitable swarm of maids ordered on Nagi’s watch. But while Nagi envisioned a bloody storm that could topple Akihabara’s maid industry for good, Ton Tokoton has one final gambit to save the heart, soul, and Moe Moe Kyun~ of Akiba.
I can’t complain about Nagomi’s vengeance mode as she squeezes one of the cow maids for information on the Wuv Wuv Moonbeam maid who killed Ranko. The show prides itself on breaking the cycle with regard to how revenge winds up passing the buck for more bloodshed to beget more bloodshed. It’s a deep fear the older maids had for the revenge cycle that was perpetuated through Nagi’s impulsive trigger fingers, but Nagomi had to contemplate this as she found herself exasperated by the bloodlust that never made sense for the maids to embrace.
She would only work herself up and get into spats with Yumechi as she did rogue missions to exact her revenge while Ranko was being laid to rest. It was only her old memories of what kind of happiness someone like Ranko got from the cafe. Even with her quiet, violent demeanor, she was still ecstatic to be a part of the maid culture and saw Ton Tokoton as a welcome change of pace that would help her work through her own revenge plot.
It was pretty interesting that things worked out merely by giving Nagi and Creatureland one last “F- You” by giving them a genuine maid cafe experience in the face of almost certain death. Deep down, the true Akiba Maid War wasn’t going to be won by a big bloody shootout like I would’ve figured would happen, but with the maids being pacified and won over by what should be expected of a maid cafe. If the gun glowsticks of Ranko’s dance from the first episode were a celebration of Akiba’s bloodstained history, the gun glowsticks during Nagomi’s dance were going to be a celebration of a new beginning where likeminded maids could revel in the innocence and joy of a maid concert.
Despite the body count rising to the point where so many loved ones and acquaintances were gunned down in cold blood, Ton Tokoton’s plea to take the maid cafe experience more seriously than senseless murder wound up being fought through treating them like customers that they need to appease through a full show. As awesome as it was to see Nagomi continue dancing through a bullet wound as if nothing happened, Yumechi was the best in their performance as she playfully poked at Nagi’s nose for long enough to make her and her army silently seethe as they vow to murder her personally.
Although Nagi’s overkill would’ve been a fun place to end things, I’m glad we got the flashforward to 2018, where we see Nagomi grown up and managing New Ton Tokoton at 36. I appreciated the positive cyclical ending where instead of feeling like an outlier entrenched in a violent revenge plot, Nagomi retained her undying optimism to usher in the maid cafe industry as it happened to appear back in the early aughts. It would’ve been interesting to see what the rest of the maids were doing while I was previewing Zombieland Saga and Vento Aureo, but knowing that Nagomi was able to make Nerula and Ranko proud by paving the way for a peaceful Akihabara was good enough for me.
CREATURELAND’S WITNESS ERA
Nagi proved to be a unique antagonist within the last batch of episodes. She spent so much time trying to kill through her past that she never took the time to work through her guilt over casting aside the people who loved and supported her. Ranko’s death made her go all-in on eliminating Ton Tokoton, but by this point, letting Ranko and Nagomi leave her office alive was already a tell-tale sign that she never let go of her attachments to her past life before she betrayed Michiyo.
Her anxiety and anger towards the people around her “going soft” come from her own bitter, resentful experience of the human condition. She holds onto the memories she has of fond times, but it also makes her increasingly upset because she constantly repressed that side of her, and is willing to kill if it means erasing those parts of her past. But killing only strengthens those memories, considering how Nagomi’s concert was an infuriating reminder of all of the people she was personally responsible for killing.
The ramen shop owner said as much when he told Nagomi that Nagi wound up alone because she never felt safe with the warm, comforting presence she was given by the people who loved her. Not when anyone could sweep in and try to kill them even in times of peace. It’s why she stuck with the unrealistic expectation of sustaining a maid cafe industry run on violence and crime even as her closest confidants were telling her to ease up or begrudgingly applauding Nagomi for dancing through a bullet wound.
AN OLD KLINGON VERB
I’ve been craggly about how the anime haphazardly throws the characters in a mixed bag of film situations, but I really love how they pulled off the last scene before the ending. It gave me fond memories of watching some of the ballsier crime films out there to see how they decided to kill Nagi and incapacitate Nagomi.
Nagi taking her pistol and firing off-screen as Ton Tokoton’s girls freak out over Nagomi only to be shot in the head by Ranko’s killer was definitely a play out of a pulpy crime drama. And then, you get the darkly absurdist punchline of Nagi being gored by a cartoonishly massive bamboo spear before she can even process that Ranko’s killer shot her. Yes, it allows the former Wuv Wuv Moonbeam maid and Okachimachi to end the revenge cycle, but it’s such a morbidly funny way of killing off the main antagonist of the anime.
And then the show just bookends the 90s with this. The way that such an absurd death was filmed with dramatic stillness is a move right out of a gritty 90’s dark comedy. It reminds me of the oddball twists at the end of dark comedies where there’s one last punchline that makes all of the violence that happened even more absurd and pointless. It’s surprisingly not as absurd as Dead or Alive finale where two gangsters accidentally decimate the entirety of Japan with a bazooka rocket and a soul fireball. But it definitely shares the same DNA as a Miike or Tarantino ending where a happy ending cannot be achieved without a quick ultraviolent bookend.
As a seasonal anime, Akiba Maid Sensou is very significant for its mere existence. Whereas season-in and season-out, we get plenty of the same cookie-cutter fantasy shows and romcoms about a dream girl getting with someone way out of their league, here’s a show that has maids shooting each other to death as they act out some of the most ruthless yakuza film scenarios. Much like the other stand-out hits this Fall, it shares the distinction of being beyond the pale by giving you a blood-soaked reminder that not all seasonal anime needs to be safe, inoffensive vaporware.
Because it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen in your typical anime, it makes it all the more special when you see moments in the show that genuinely shock you. As an anime original, every single creative decision is way out of left field, causing each new development to be as much of a nail-biter as the rest. It helps that, as time goes on, you start cheering louder and louder for Ton Tokoton to find a way to squeeze out of every hopeless situation they wind up entangled in.
As a parody, however, Akiba Maid Sensou is pretty lackluster. Rather than completely reinventing what maids do if they had mafia politics, it feels like the show is selective on which crimes the maids dabble in. There’s plenty of murder with a little racketeering and trafficking, but the latter is shown sparingly during the show as it leans on the maids being relatively normal aside from the killing. They have festivals, baseball games, and birthday events, and aside from the weird underground crime basements, they are all intended to run clearcut maid establishments with their only goal being to meet their quota in sweets money.
It makes it all the more confusing when their day-to-day routines seem to focus more on killing other maids than running their cafes. They have a murderous twist, yes, but it never feels like any of the new ideas presented belong in the same universe. A gambling den designed to traffic girls into crab fishing, a boxing ring designed for rigged fights, or a sheep cafe with a giant vat designed to drown people feel like they have no purpose when these cafes should be more concerned about making the head honcho more money through customer service. They feel like death traps designed specifically for Ton Tokoton to navigate out of rather than having any ideal purpose for their cafes.
You could easily swap in idols or fashion models and you would have the same exact show with only a few lines to revise. It makes it feel like the maid concept has little to no meaning within the context of the show aside from giving you shocking scenes where you watch girls die. In fact, Ton Tokoton as a group is so poorly developed because it seems like the show’s main attraction is watching them slaughter other maids rather than getting to know why the other non-Ranko characters fell into the maid life.
As cool as Ranko is, because she’s a killing machine who discarded her emotions years ago, it felt like most of her scenes were copy-pasted moments from yakuza films about honor, nobility, and killing with intent. Once the novelty of maids dying wears off, the show leaned into the gangster film parody hard enough that the maid experience was rarely touched upon until the finale. It shares the same issue as the film Gangster Squad where its premise of being a stylish send-up to classic gangster flicks is heavily contradicted by its lack of soul. You can laugh at the camp and the nuttiness, but the stakes are so low because nobody and nothing is worthy of taking seriously.
The collaboration with CyGames serves to both sanitize its crime-heavy theming and to have the show’s story play out like a video game. You don’t really care about whether Tommy Vercetti or CJ is able to navigate through their unfair circumstances where the odds are stacked against them; you just want to topple all of your enemies down like dominos while you have a blast watching them all fall. At some point, you stop feeling as horrible about all of the death that surrounds Ton Tokoton and just want them to get rid of everyone and wipe the slate clean so that we can actually have a maid cafe industry that isn’t settling every conflict with wanton murder.
Nonetheless, as long as there is a blast, to begin with, it’s not all for naught. Needless to say Akiba Maid Sensou made quite the blast. Even without the first episode’s musical slaughter montage, it managed to be a gangster parody that aimed to shock, stun, and make you second-guess what’s coming up next. I might’ve thought the payoff for said shocking moments could have been better and could have added more depth to the characters beyond what you might’ve seen at the movies.
But I’ll always respect the hustle that went into getting Akiba Maid Sensou off the ground, especially in an anime landscape that’s afraid to take wild bets on an idea that isn’t tailor-made for an inoffensive experience. I complained quite a bit in these past paragraphs, but I’d still wholeheartedly recommend this anime for taking the risks it did and being a fun, breezy experience that will promise you a high-octane gangster comedy, which is definitely a rarity in the anime sphere.