Hand Maid May

Hand Maid May

Hand Maid MayBack when I first truly got into anime in 2002, one of the anime titles I chose to view was Hand Maid May, which clocking in at 10+1 episodes ensured that my investment of time wouldn’t be that great and I would get to see an anime to see how a then 2-year old title stood up to me. Not only did it play a large role in convincing me to check out more anime titles, Hand Maid May remains one of my favorite anime titles and likely should be in my top-10 list.

Story-wise, Hand Maid May doesn’t break any new ground (SPOILERS follow). The story centers around male college student SAOTOME Kazuya, who lives in a small apartment and is working on the Doraemon Project, where he is creating an Artificial Intelligence squid robot (looking like a stuffed animal) called Ikariya. His neighbor in the building across from his is Kasumi, the daughter of the landlord (her mother). Kasumi is a year or so younger than Kazuya and is also in college. Because they are friends, “Kasumi-chan” uses a ladder attached to both of their balconies to visit “Kazuya-kun,” making sure to wear more revealing clothing when she visits because she’s attracted to him. While Kazuya does enjoy trying to get a look at her, because he’s a typical nice guy, he doesn’t make a move on her.

Hand Maid MayKazuya’s long-time classmate Nanbara (who often calls himself “Nanbara-sama”) also attends the same college as Kazuya. Despite being extremely rich, he finds himself envious of Kazuya, whom despite his poor upbringing, managed to upstage Nanbara without even trying to do so. As such, Nanbara is obsessed with the naive Kazuya and under the guise of being being his long-time friend, hands Kazuya a disc for some secret website. In fact, the software on the disc is a virus that will activate if Kazuya doesn’t enter the password the animated Nanbara on the screen says (which is an incredibly long, wordy thing). This somehow causes Kazuya’s computer to access a website and place an order for a Cyberdoll, which arrives almost immediately, delivered by a courier.

The Cyberdoll is about 1/6th the size of a normal human and is named May. She’s dressed as a maid and is programmed to cook and clean, though at such a small size, one wonders exactly how much she can do. After Kazuya calls her “May-san”, she insists on being addressed only as “May”. After providing Kazuya a list of options on how she should address him, he picks “Kazuya-san.” (As an aside, the English subtitles have to resort to French honorifics in a desperate attempt to avoid using Japanese honorifics for May’s list of honorific choices.) Because her recharge pack was accidentally damaged beyond repair, Kazuya improvises a way for her to recharge by attaching a USB cable to her nether regions and providing her a special port on a USB hub attached to his computer.

Hand Maid MayAfter a week together, the Cyberdyne Company sends Sara, who’s also a Cyberdoll but a human-sized one, to collect the money for purchasing May, which is quite steep. It is here that Sara encounters Nanbara, who uses the promise of ramen (something Sara loves very much) to get in on the action to see Kazuya suffer. So using Nanbara’s mansion as a base, an effort to recover May is taken. First, a child-styled Cyberdoll named Rena-chan is dispatched to collect the doll but ultimately ends up deciding reject her mission and moves in with Kasumi. A second Cyberdoll is dispatched to do the collection. This Cyberdoll, named Kei, is highly gifted in probabilities and so if figured calculate the best way to retrieve May. However, after learning that May’s programming is evolving (something that should not happen), she too switches sides and moves into Kazuya’s closet, after making some major modifications to it.

In the end, Kazuya reluctantly gives up May to Sara but thanks to a mysterious cyborg-looking person named “Cyber-X” (who works for Cyberdyne), May returns, having her memories transfered to a human-sized body and thus gives Kasumi a true (but friendly) rival for Kazuya’s attention. Sara’s mission changes to observing Kazuya, so she continues to reside at Nanbara’s residence. However, she becomes personally interested in Kazuya because of his saying and treating Cyberdolls as if they were real humans. Nanbara falls for the human-sized “May-chan” and does what he can to woo her.

Hand Maid MayThe final Cyberdoll to enter the mix is “Mami-san” (sounds like “mommy”), who is a kindly, mother-like Cyberdoll. She sauces out that all of the Cyberdolls and Kasumi are attracted to Kazuya and ends up setting up a contest for a date with Kazuya that May ultimately wins. Mami implies forthcoming disaster and sure enough, all of the Cyberdolls go down everywhere, including at Cyberdyne, except for May. Nanbara, having received a visit from his descendant from the future, named “Commando Z” retrieves Kazuya and May, where Kazuya learns that he is the designer of the operating system for Cyberdolls. Because the Cyberdolls are infected with a powerful virus, Kazuya learns that it was Nanbara’s original virus and along with May (and eventually Cyber-X, who’s a descendant of Kazuya) , he manages to purge the virus at the cost of May’s memories, which are restored to her by the other Cyberdolls.

Finally, everyone has a little adventure dealing with a baby where it is learned that Cyberdolls can have babies of their own.

Whew! I got more verbose than I had intended.

So, what about this typical harem, artificial girl, romantic comedy makes it so special?

Hand Maid MayFor me, it goes beyond simple nostalgia at one of the first anime titles I watched at the start of my fanhood. No, for me it is simply a sweet story with lovable characters (even the boisterous Nanbara, who despite all of his antics really does care about Sara’s wellbeing) that makes it stick in my mind and makes me want to revisit that world. It even overcomes all of the unnecessary fanservice in the series (mostly jiggling breasts under clothing, panty shots, and other peek-a-boo moments) with an underlying wholesomeness. I know that’s weird to say in a show with a lot of fanservice, but remove that element and you have a story that is not only one of “whom will Kazuya choose,” but of family, friendships, and achieving one’s dreams. I consider that to be pretty wholesome and somewhat refreshing too.

Another thing it overcomes is plot holes. Seriously, how does one order something that hasn’t even been created yet (a Cyberdoll) because “you” (Kazuya) are the creator of this in the future? There are serious time paradox issues as well. But you know what? The sweetness of the story, as well as the fun of the story, and the likability of the characters made me go, “Oh well” rather than get up tight about it as I might normally do. To me, that says something when something so is enjoyable, you are able to overlook the obvious problems and still enjoy yourself.

With Geneon’s apparent demise, obtaining the title will be difficult. Assuming you can tollerate the fanservice, I highly recommend picking this title up. Hand Maid May is one of my favorite anime series and one I pull off the shelf at least once a year to re-watch.

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3 Responses to “Hand Maid May”

  1. […] That being said, going back over these old blog posts sort of makes me nostalgic for some anime titles, as well as remind me that I need to do my “Back to the Archives” series again, starting with Tenchi Muyo! OVA 3.  However, the series that keeps calling my name is Hand Maid May, which I blogged about back in 2008. […]

  2. […] such, the first two titles I rented were the 5-episode Oh My Goddess OVA series and the 11-episode Hand Maid May series.   For Oh My Goddess (aka Ah! My Goddess), we have a borderline harem title where the lead […]

  3. […] in 2003, I was a noob into the anime fandom scene. I had watched Hand Maid May as well as Love Hina and discovered I had a taste for the harem-styled romantic comedy titles. So I […]

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