Mei-chan no Shitsuji

March 31, 2009

Butlers are big in Japan. After all, women need a fetish to match guys’ obsession with maids. Several properties have come out lately featuring butlers. Hayate no Gotoku, Kuroshitsuji… but none capitalizes on the butler rage more than Mei-chan no Shitsuji.

The premise is this: Shinonome Mei lives happily with her parents where they make a small but reasonable living running an udon shop. She spends a lot of time with her childhood friend Shibata Kento, whom she has nicknamed “Mameshiba” and who clearly has a crush on her. One fateful day, her parents are suddenly killed. Shortly after, a man named Rihito appears before her, claiming to be her butler! According to Rihito, Mei is actually the heir to the powerful Hongo family, and she must attend the prestigious St. Lucia Academy to become a proper lady worthy of the position. Further complicating things, it turns out Rihito is Kento’s older brother.

Mei is initially determined to continue running her family udon shop, but it’s soon destroyed. She’s also pressured by her grandfather, the current head of the family, by saying he won’t allow her mother to rest in the same grave as her father unless she becomes the Hongo family successor. So, Mei agrees to attend St. Lucia. When she arrives, she finds that the school requires each lady to have her own butler, responsible for her comfort and safety. The school is governed by a rigid system of rank, with Ombra being the bottom, then Luna, then Sole. Mei starts at Ombra, as all students do, but is constantly challenged and bullied by her snobbish classmates. Standing atop the hierarchy is Hongo Shiori, another potential successor to the Hongo family, and the current “Lucia-sama”, the top lady at the school. Shiori is outwardly benevolent and admired by all, but she’s secretly ruthless in pursuit of her goal. Mei is not alone, however, as Rihito is a top S-rank butler, and Kento even enrolls as a butler in training to stay close to her.

The plot is pretty typical shoujo fare. Tons of pretty guys doing… pretty things. Lots of flower imagery and wish fulfillment for girls wanting to be pampered. As the plot moves along, conflicts escalate from simple problems fitting in to life and death struggles as Shiori’s schemes become more and more dangerous. There’s also a forbidden love aspect since butlers and ladies are not allowed to be romantically involved. Despite that, there’s clearly something going on between at least half the couples, not the least of which is the romantic tension between Mei and Rihito so thick you could scrape it off the walls.

So, why the hell did I watch this? First and foremost, it has tokusatsu actors galore. Most prominently, Rihito is played by Mizushima Hiro, who was none other than titular character of Kamen Rider Kabuto. Rihito is not terribly different from Tendou Souji/Kabuto. Both are seen as nearly perfect, but harbor a bit of a complex regarding a particular young lady in their lives. Opposite him playing Kento is Sato Takeru, who was Nogami Ryotarou/Kamen Rider Den-O in his own eponymous series (directly following Kabuto too). Also playing smaller parts are the actors for Natsuki (Boukenger), Nago (Kamen Rider Kiva), Impactor Logia (Gransazer), and others.

In addition to the cast, the show was just somehow entertaining. Mizushima Hiro goes a long way toward accomplishing that, but it’s not just him. It’s a bit over the top, but not quite as obnoxiously so as Hanazakari no Kimitachi e was. It even has some decent fencing and hand to hand combat scenes peppered in. I would say give this a try if you’re curious, especially if you want to see some Kamen Rider actors outside those roles. It may put you off, but who knows… you may just like it.

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