Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I've reviewed many a bad manga in this last year or so, but today review joins the ranks of one of the worst I've read.
HE IS MY MASTER (Kore ga Watashi no Goshujin-sama), written by Mattsu and drawn by Asu Tsubaki. First published in 2002, and first published in North America in 2007.
Izumi and Matsuki are two teenage sisters who have run away from home. They are looking for a job to support themselves, and they just so happen to find a listing for live-in maids outside of a large mansion. That mansion belongs to one Nakabayashi Yoshitaka, an orphaned 14 year old who has inherited a vast fortune and possesses nothing resembling restraint or dignity. He hires the sisters on the spot not so much for their domestic skills as much as their ability to fill out the skimpy uniforms he provides for them. Matsuki is perfectly content with this new situation, but Izumi is less so, since she so often has to violently fend off Yoshitaka's peeping and perversions. Worse still, she also has to fend off Matsuki's pet alligator Pochi, who loves to chomp off Izumi's clothes. Then Izumi has to fend off the advances of Anna, a classmate who starts with a misguided crush on Yoshitaka and ends up with an equally misguided one on her. Worst of all, it seems everyone (including her family) wants Izumi to get together with Yoshitaka!
I was not expecting great things from this title. After all, it's a harem series based around a maid fetish, so the bar for "not completely terrible" was set mighty low to start. Surely, it couldn't be THAT bad, could it?
Oh, how very, very wrong I was about this manga. He Is My Master is that bad. In fact it is nothing but pure, pandering, irritating PAIN.
Let's start with the cast. I guess I should be glad that unlike so many male leads in harem series, Yoshitaka isn't a spineless nebbish - the kid does actually have a personality. The problem is that said personality is awful. He's a brat with no notion of restraint or control where girls are concerned. He's not the sort to get neurotic over seeing a girl's boobs; indeed, he's quite the opposite. He will go out of his way to sneak a peek at naked girls or their underwear. He purposesly dresses the girls in uniforms that are only a step or two removed from novelty lingerie. Even at school he forces the girls to serve him in secret and exploits this every chance he gets. I was actually relieved to learn that in-story Yoshitaka's classmates regarded him as a pervert and a weirdo, because it meant that at last someone other than myself and Izumi thought of him as horrible.
Poor Izumi doesn't fare much better, though, as a character onto herself. She's stuck in the role of the straightman, always the butt of the joke, always reacting to the plot instead of moving it forward. Thus, she's stuck on the violent, overreacting end of the Tsundere scale instead of getting to develop anything resembling a personality or character arc. Mitsuki is just a mystery, and I don't mean that in a good way. She never seems to question the girls' situation, and for god knows what reason she likes Yoshitaka. She seems to have a fondness for overly complex games and contests, which mostly serve as the jumping points for plot lines or a way for the writers to pull a solution for one out of their butts. Finally, there is Anna, who mostly fits the yamato nadeshiko trope save for her own perverted streak.
The perversion doesn't stop when you look towards the supporting cast, be it the gang of schoolboys who serve as Matsuki's fanboys, the girls' father who has the wrong sort of fascination with his OWN FREAKING DAUGHTERS EW EW EW, or the girls' mother who is way too calm about everything. At times, you wonder if the perviness will ever stop long enough to actually have the girls do actual maid work instead of getting them involved in wacky schemes or putting them in the bath.
I also can't say I'm the hugest fan of the translation, which found to be shockingly lazy at points. I'm usually not one to harp on leaving honorifics in the text, but the constant use of 'oneechan' bugged me. Unlike a lot of honorifics, that phrase does have a perfectly good English equivalent, and no deep cultural context would be lost by using 'big sister' instead. Weirder still, the girls' mother breaks out a 'fu fu fu' laugh, which may sound like laughter in Japanese but which is just bizarre when left untranslated.
He Is My Master is a story that never leaves the gutter. It just lingers there, giggling over boobs and panties no matter how many times it sees them or how crassly they are introduced. Worse still, it thinks it's being funny simply by the merit of being wacky and out-there, and it's all so forced, false, and pandering that it left me actively irritated. There is not one redeeming thing to be found in the story of He Is My Master.
One might hope that the artwork might be competent enough to redeem something from the piss-poor story, along the lines of something like Tenjo Tenghe. You'd be wrong, though - the artwork is just as bad as the story.
The character designs are heavily moefied, simplified to the point where they're barely above the quality of an elementary schoolchild's drawings. Weirder still, everyone is blushing all the time, like everyone is suffering from a low-grade fever. All that detail is saved instead for the costumes, which are rendered right down to each ruffle on the maid dresses or the finest stich on the panties. The artist (who oddly enough is a woman, and the writer's now ex-wife in fact!) clearly knows what its audience is truly here for: fanservice, and plenty of it. Not a single chapter passes without some opportunity to have the girls flash some taint, squish a boob, or have some article of clothing torn off, and it's done from the lowest, most zoomed-in creeper angle possible.
The forced franticness of the story is also reflected in the art, which crams the panels as full as possible with stuff. These panels are then crammed onto the page atop one another wily-nily. Since the art is so focused on the foreground and the jiggly bits within, the backgrounds are nonexistent. Instead, the character seem to drift through blank white limbo.
He Is My Master is a story where you can in fact judge it by its cover, at least where the art is concerned. It's pandering, ugly, and lazy, which only magnifies the faults of the writing.
There's a brief and deeply unfunny omake, along with a couple of profiles about Izumi and Matsuki. There's also an honorifics guide and some translation notes.
This manga was just a perfect storm of awfulness, one where it failed at every level. He Is My Master is a series which has joined the short of list of Brainchild's Worst Manga Ever, and I cannot dissuade people from reading it enough.
This series is published by Seven Seas. All 5 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print.
You can purchase manga like this and much more through RightStuf.com!