#1 A wholesome harem
When his mother suddenly passes away, young teenager Taro Hanaukyo is left orphaned and decides to go live with his grandfather in the mountains near Tokyo. However, after the arduous climb, Taro finds out that this mountain home is actually a massive estate and that he is the heir to one of Japan’s wealthiest and most influential families.
Grandpa is nowhere to be found, but he has left Taro an army of maids that keep the Hanaukyo estate running and cater to his every need; each and every one of which is absolutely ecstatic to have a master once again. A dream scenario for many boys in anime, were it not for Taro’s allergy for women, which plays up whenever any of them so much as touches him.
His allergies don’t stop the maids from showering him with love and Taro does his best to make them feel appreciated and take over his grandfather’s role in the family. It makes for a very wholesome harem, free of mean-spirited competition or long-winded romantic arcs. Just a simple guy trying to survive while a thousand girls want to coddle him, some more erotically than others.
#2 The specialist maids
All of the maids are fun and energetic in their own way, but through the show’s 15 episodes, it zooms in on a few special maids that get more development. These lead to some of the most interesting episodes of the series and the characters themselves are remarkably interesting for such a short anime.
Konoe is the head of the mansion’s security, a tsundere obsessed with martial arts and honor, who is reluctant to accept the meek Taro as her new master. Her special episode sees the two of them head into the wilderness where Taro must overcome her training regimen. Cynthia is a little girl and seemingly mute, so her episode tells the story of how she came to join the maid team and has the cast band together to organize a special party for her. And, lest we forget, there is the failing inventor Ikuyo, whose machines are at the heart of more than a few catastrophes that strike the Hanaukyo household.
At the top of the maid command chain stands Mariel, a blue-haired woman (purple in the TV shorts) who captures Taro’s interest and appears to be the only girl he can touch. There’s obviously a romance developing between the two of them; just a shame the other maids always find a way to intrude whenever the two finally get a moment alone.
#3 Fan-service galore
Hanaukyo Maid Team originally aired as a series of shorts in 2001 and it’s a very fan-service heavy show. Episodes are 14-minutes long and uncensored, which comes into play constantly as some maids have not yet grown accustomed to the change in masters.
Putting aside the frightening thoughts of what Grandpa Hanaukyo was up to in his old age, his antics now cause a lot of hilarious trouble for Taro. Most of this comes from the three sister maids Lemon, Marron, and Mellon, who want a different kind of master-servant relationship and get increasingly annoyed as their attempts are rejected. Dozens of other maids are also competing to have an ecchi time with poor Taro, and it has to be said that Hanaukyo Maid Team does a great job at constantly coming up with new fan-service while keeping the tone just right.
Ecchi fans will certainly get their fill, that I can guarantee. At the same time, Hanaukyo could be an accessible show for a more general audience looking to get into the genre. If you are usually deterred from ecchi shows because they feel exploitative, then this one might be worth giving a chance.
#4 A full TV version
3 years after its original release, the series would see a revival in the form of a full 12-episode TV series, titled Hanaukyo Maid Team: La Verite. It expands on the original storyline, restructures the order of events, and changes all the characters up slightly.
Among its changes, it rewrites Taro to not be allergic to women, but merely overwhelmed by their kindness and willingness to help. The romantic sub-plot between him and Mariel also kicks off sooner, which coincides with Ryuuka being introduced earlier as well to get their rivalry going. There is a new maid entirely in the form of the security specialist Yashima and the increased runtime adds more story in general.
The story feels enough like its own thing to be worth seeing even if you already watched the original, and it’s still largely uncensored. The half-episode length of the original series does allow it to be paced better, whereas the TV version can feel stretched out, yet still somehow rushed. Particularly Cynthia’s story is handled terribly, with the contents of 2 episodes being melted together, simplified, and then it still manages to fuck up one of the most emotional moments of the series by rushing it out by the 9-minute mark, while the original spends an entire special building up to it as a conclusion.
It has shortcomings like that, but it also does a lot well and is still a pleasant ecchi comedy. Just don’t let it be your first (or only) experience with the series.