Friday, May 5, 2023

Merry Month of Shojo Review #5: MAID IN HEAVEN

 I swear, I'm not always trying to pick on Kodansha and their digital shojo offerings.  It's just that they keep picking up the most questionable titles...

MAID IN HEAVEN (Meido in Hani), by Mari Yoshino.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2020.


Niko Nanase seems like just another student at her private high school, but she couldn't be any more different from the rich kids and teen actors that surround her.  She has to scrimp and save every yen she gets from her multiple part-time jobs just to support herself and her younger twin sisters.  Her hope is to meet some pleasant rich boy so she can marry him for his money.  What she couldn't have anticipated was that the rising teen star/resident hearththrob Leon would take an interest in her, offering to pay her generously to be his part-time housemaid.  Niko reluctantly accepts, even if doing so brings her not only unwanted attention from the other girls in class but Leon as well.


I swear, I don't keep intending to pick on Mari Yoshino.  I picked up this volume during one of Kodansha's semi-regular blow-out sales on first volumes, much in the same way I picked up Peach Heaven and Beauty Bunny.  I'm sure Yoshino herself is a perfectly nice lady.  It's just that now it's really starting to sink in just how formulaic her manga truly are.  Legos are less standardized that Yoshino's works.

So once again she presents us with another impoverished but hard-working heroine.  The big difference here is that she's not just compensating for her (completely absent) parents but also has two siblings who mostly serve as precious little plot devices.  Still, like most of Yoshino's leads she's sensible and pragmatic, even if Leon's attentions leave her increasingly confused, grumpy, and codependent on him.

As for Leon...well, compared to his predecessors he is an improvement.  There are moments where we get hints of a young man who feels a bit lost in his own giant, empty apartment.  He also demonstrates a lot of genuine enthusiasm for Niko's housekeeping skills.  He also doesn't use Niko's poverty as blackmail fodder, even if he does have a bad tendency to just barge over her objections.

That being said, Leon is far from a perfect gentleman.  When he's not hitting on Niko, he's forcing kisses on her, having her dress up in a sexy maid costume, and promising (if not outright attempting) to do even more.  He's not above blaming her for getting creeped on a party hosted by the class mean girl by another dude based on the (perfectly reasonable, age-appropriate) bikini she's wearing.  Every instance of this soured me just a little more on Maid In Heaven, and unfortunately there's a lot of them.  With Mari Yoshino, it seems any sort of progress is one step forward, two step back.


Once again, I have to state that Yoshino is not a bad artist.  I like her round-headed character designs and their down-to-earth looks.  She also gets to show off that she's got a better grasp on anatomy than most shojo artists, as we see Leon naked more than once.  Alas, while she's bold enough to give him a pretty decent butt, she's not bold enough to give him nipples.  Still, I have two major complaints.  First of all, this art desperately needs more shadow.  Her linework is very light-handed and she uses very little shading, so much so that the whole book comes off rather flat.  Secondly, there are too many damn blondes in this book, to the point that it gets hard to distinguish Niko from some of the other girls in her class.  


Maid In Heaven is probably the best Mari Yoshino manga I've read yet, but that's damning this book with rather faint praise.  Any positive steps forward it makes are countered by her ultra-formulaic writing and pushy love interests.  

This series is published by Kodansha Comics. This series is complete in Japan with 6 volumes available.  All 6 have been published digitally and are currently in print.

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