I'm reviewing this manga to basically showcase just how broad the spectrum of manga really is. @Home is set in a (nonfictional) maid cafe located in numerous sections of Japan... what has basically become a little maid cafe empire. Their website can be found here, and there's an English section down at the bottom as well. And in case you wanted the Japanese made cafe treatment, but don't know enough Japanese to order your omelet with your name written on it, they even have English speaking maids to awkwardly wait on you.
Anyway, this cute little manga is written by a well-known (mostly) shoujo-ai author by the name of TAKAGI Nobuyuki, and it's got his usual lightly-veiled lesbian references intact. Unlike most of his other fair, however, this one was published by a shounen magazine and... is written exactly the same way as his seinen stuff... which is really light, fluffy, and without any real conflict or resolution. It's one volume long, and doesn't try in the least bit to hide the fact that it was probably funded entirely by a maid cafe as a marketing stunt.
|Colors are given for introductions|
The manga focuses on 3 pretty distinct stories, all following the main heroin, a young lady by the name of Sakura. Sakura is the most recent addition to the staff of @Home, and by tradition, all waitresses refer to more senior staff members as big sisters. Our little firecracker of lollipops and gumdrops, Sakura, is extremely excited to finally have a new little sister to call her own, but what's this? The new girl is a tomboy! *Gasp* Will Sakura be able to convince her to join the team as a maid instead of a butler? Will she ever believe that she looks cute in a dress? Will she never appear again for the rest of the story? Yes.
There are two more equally vapid and ultimately harmless stories involving Sakura, a beach cafe, and the lesbian waitress that is obsessed with her; followed by Sakura and the tiny lesbian that wants to idolize her but fails miserably.
Sakura's not a lesbian, by the way.
Is it worth reading?
You wouldn't know it from up there, but I actually kinda liked this manga. When I'm in the mood for something a tiny bit cute while still maintaining a little sense of the male genres, I've been known to seek out Takagi specifically. His characters have that apathetic 'I'm not REALLY in love with you, I just really respect you' vibe that you don't find in many 'romance' authors. It's like Maria-sama without the terrible high school girl melodrama. Anyway, like I said above, the story is harmless. The older waitress that has a raging hard on for Sakura is actually quite funny, and Sakura's blissful ignorance makes it a-okay in my book.
That said, it has no plot. The characters have no advancement, no internal struggles, and no back stories. For all the reader knows, they all live in dumpsters in the alley, breathing solely for the purpose of coming to work in the morning and having a not-so-interesting day, culminating in talking about pretty much nothing while they disrobe and head back to their respective dumpsters. The oddest part to me is that they actually bothered to summarize the story on the back cover of the manga.
- If you want to have some real fun, go to the actual @Home where you can play a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos with a very bored teenage girl dressed in a maid costume for 500 yen. Win and earn Moe Moe Coins. I feel pathetic just writing that out.
- And other facts... Damn, I'm sorry, the entire premise of this manga sort of offends me... it's like those terrible Tora no Ana comics in the back of every manga magazine printed after 1990, only in book form. I'm just waiting for the McDonalds manga where Ronald has to break the Hamburgler out of Azkaban and then throw the Fry Guys into the fires of Mordor, only to be stabbed in the back by Grimace, in a Coca Cola-fueled rampage.
I obviously can't recommend this particular manga. If you're a fan of Takagi's other work, then you'll probably like it well enough, but I recommend starting there first. Hmmm... I guess Magie Parie is probably as good a starting point as any other. As far as translated stuff goes, I believe some people have snatched up some of his stuff... you're on your own for links, though, I'm lazy tonight.