An Akiba Maid War episode without a cold open indicates that things are probably about to go down on the mean streets of Akihabara in this one. How could they not after last week’s episode and the dramatic landing strip it laid out for the series? The show is aware of its scope beyond the preceding preamble, as the writing is mindful enough to bring elements from the anime’s entire run into this penultimate entry. It turns out to be the best kind of chapter in a story: One that builds on all the episodes leading up to it and makes them seem even better with the benefit of hindsight.
The previous episode posed the question of what happiness could look like for an Akiba girl and if they deserved to dream of such a thing due to all the crimes and murders that fueled their existence. This week’s entry keeps somewhat of the same theme at its core and even centers it around Ranko. Ranko’s entire raison d’être so far had been her presumptive reading of the person who killed her mentor, Miss Michiyo. With the answers finally given to her by Okachimachi, it seems all she has left to do is pick up yet another hidden firearm from the owner of the ramen shop and head out for the fateful confrontation with Head Maid Nagi. Yes, there’s the added wrinkle of the other Oinky-Doinks initially seeming to let her go alone before deciding to help after all, but we’ve known they were up for that level of loyalty since they all appeared at Ranko’s birthday party.
The driving ideas deepen as we get to grips with Ranko’s actual intentions and why. Before the question of happiness in a life after maid, Akiba Maid War had used episodes like the fourth to entertain the question of why these girls would work as maids in this cruel, horrific setting in the first place. The answer Shiipon came up with was that it could be fun and satisfying. For Ranko, the time spent in this crooked service industry was after all what pleased her the most. There is a shift in priorities that may have crystallized recently with her considering what happiness could have been for the first time. She confirms that she intended to kill her former sworn sister, as we could guess, but is now willing to bend and sacrifice her life in exchange for the place and people she came to call home.
It makes for an interesting, interconnected battle to watch as we process Nagi/Uzuko’s multi-layered attempt to win Ranko over to the power-based maid business structure she envisions for Akiba. Sure, she can list things like security, respect, or wealth, but it’s been clear that none of those things were anything Ranko remotely wanted. We see the happier times she struggled to recapture in a flashback at her old cafe, and through her colleagues helping her, we understand that she finally found it.
The storytelling that culminates in all of this is elevated Akiba Maid Warhis presentation this week. The show has always benefited PA works‘ satisfying style, usually becomes even more vivid when the violence appeared. But this episode spends most of its resources on the character acting for Ranko, Nagomi, and Uzuko during this tense confrontation. They not only tell us how much Ranko cares about its employees; we see her visibly shaken as she is forced to choose between killing her former sister or letting her new best friend, Nagomi, die. Nagomi’s frightened but still confident conviction comes through in her movements and Reina Kondoher vocal performance, which followed up the episode’s earlier scene where she shuddered sharply just from an unloaded gun clicking in front of her. Uzuko’s self-righteous indignation and confusion that these pigs don’t adhere to her philosophy rings true as she becomes a little more unhinged in her attempts to sway them. We cringe as she stabs Ranko through her hand, then roar with outrageous approval as Ranko dramatically uses the blood from that hand to demonstrate the power of the ketchup drawing techniques she honed with her cafe mates.
All of this, plus the epic shootout that happens at Oinky-Doink, culminates into what feels like an early season finale. We followed up on the goals of a maid, saw why one wanted to be a maid, and found out what it would take to make a maid happy, and all of these turned out to be intertwined as the same job. Ranko even managed to save Oinky-Doink and make peace, just like Nagomi wished back in the baseball episode. What can be left but … the end of a maid? Yes, even Nerula’s traumatizing death in Nagomi’s arms and the inevitable tragic fate of Manami must have predicted this conclusion, as it is proven to Ranko that a full, happy life can never be an option for a maid. Dear viewers, you know I screamed at this last-second twist in the best possible way.
Ranko’s sudden stabbing and apparent death as Nagomi watches trips into the same all-too-sincere pathos of Nerula’s demise. Nevertheless, as with other elements in Akiba Maid War, I think that pulls it off here. There are still serious storytelling elements driving it, like the tragic cycle from Ranko witnessing the murder of her mentor at the beginning of the series, to being taken out herself by a vengeful, anonymous maid killer. Is this payback for the maid who was accidentally killed by Zoya at the conclusion of the previous confrontation? Or some of the other servers that Ranko has thrown across the program, and which were otherwise treated as pure statistics? Does it matter? It’s that earned efficiency that makes watching our beloved protagonist bleed out in the street feel both a genuine tragedy and a gloriously weird genre pastiche. Yes, there is one more episode after this tragic turn, but they could have run this as the last episode anyway and the point would still have landed. We had never seen anything like it Akiba Maid War before, and now, it is made clear that we may never again.
Akiba Maid War currently streaming on HIDIVE.
Chris is a Fresno-based freelancer with a love of anime and a shelf full of too many Transformers. He may be found spending far too much time on his Twitterand irregularly updates his blog.