Better than it could have been

Back in 2001, Gainax explored the possibilities of a cute teenaged maid and a “little sister”-type maid living with, and working for, an orphaned middle school-aged boy otherwise living alone in Mahoromatic, so with this 2005 adaptation of the original manga by Mattsuu and Asu Tsubaki Gainax has returned to familiar territory. That this series shares several key staff members with the Mahoromatic franchise should be no surprise, given the similar basic premises and visual styles; the character designers are the same for both, for instance, and director Shouji Saeki also helmed the Mahoromatic: Summer Special and upcoming Mahoromatic: Taidama Okaeri special in addition to serving as assistant director on the second season of the TV series. Saying that someone who loves Mahoromatic should love this one, and vice versa, may be going too far, however, for while both are primarily fan service-laden comedies and have other distinct similarities, He is my Master is, in many senses, a diametric opposite of Mahoromatic; one can easily imagine the Gainax creative minds choosing this one to allow them to revisit the same idea from a totally different angle.

The fan service also prevails throughout, with plentiful sexy costumes and lots of near-nudity, to the point that the lack of full exposure becomes a joke at times. Two very brief scenes – one in the first half and one near the very end – do even show nipples, which seems a little incongruous given how painstakingly the series otherwise just barely avoids showing it.

As artistic design and animation goes, the series is a mediocre effort. Anyone who was not too crazy about the look of Mahoromatic and/or This Ugly Yet Beautiful World will not like the look of this one, either, as the character designs are in the same vein. The background art is sharper, but there are still many series out there which equal or better it. The only place where the series visually distinguishes itself is in its costume designs, especially the sexy maid outfits, although like many Gainax titles it does pay special attention to the fan service.

A title like “He is my Master” suggests something sexy in a trashy way, and to a certain extent the series does live up (or down?) to that expectation. Contrary to expectations, though, it does not feature subservient girls gratefully pandering to a master's wishes (although the protagonist would probably prefer that!), instead using a female lead who only reluctantly goes along with the maid scheme out of necessity and is certain to assert herself at any hint of the “master” getting too far out of line. This is not a masterpiece but is definitely better than it could have been.


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