There are two types of books in the world: Fiction and Non-Fiction. They are literary entities that live opposite of each other; the librarian equivalent of a yin & yang relationship. Some might even go so far as to say that this symbiotic relationship between a truth and lie is one of the few universal truths this world has.
Of course, as most truths go, there can be exceptions at times.
When I first caught a glimpse of Maid Machinegun in a Barnes & Noble, I passed over it after a quick glance. Admittedly, I was a bit shallow. Not only is the book short and lacking a synopsis that promises depth, it’s also written in an unusual style of writing. But as fate would have it, a year or more later I would eventually find myself with a bought copy in hand and ready for a read.
Maid Machinegun is the fictional/true story/guide of a maid/waitress in Japan/Akihabara and her adventures/work in perfecting her ability to serve her masters/customers.
If that sounds confusing and or contradictory, that’s because that’s exactly what this book is. Written by an anonymous author who goes by the name of the main character in the story, many in Japan have speculated whether this book is actually a loose memoir of one of the many waitresses that work in the popular Maid Café’s all over Japan. Based off the style and composition, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this being true. However, regardless whether the book was written from firsthand experience, it is clear that the author has done his/her research.
The story is presented in first person and comes across as a cross between a guide and personal narrative as we are introduced to the maid Aaliyah as she goes about her job at a café in Akihabara. Dialogue is written much like a script and chapters are kept relatively short, creating a style of writing that feels somewhat familiar to a diary.
In many ways this book defies definition. It’s obvious from the start that the goal of the narrative is to explain how a Maid Cafe works, which is not all that surprising since, though there are many shows and books that have covered the subject, few have explored the job itself with detailed research. Because of this emphasis though, the book comes across more as a non-fiction memoir than a novel. However, scattered across these pages of trivial information about costumed maids and their habits is a surprisingly interesting fictional story of a girl hiding her true identity and a forbidden desire to serve others.
One has to applaud the author for doing such a good job at creating a book which appears to swerve in and out of the proverbial yin/yang relationship of literature. It’s obviously not the first to do so and I doubt it will be the last, but regardless, it does so well. A large benefit of this work of fiction is its size. Being short, the pacing of the book never seems too slow for comfort and story elements are introduced just when needed.
Readers who have ever been curious about the famously popularized maid café’s in Japan, which have also begun to find their way to the west coast, will find this book filled with information which almost no other source can provide, and a few laughs to go along with it.
Though it’s not the next classic or even bestseller, Maid Machinegun is excellent for what it is. Chock full of virtually unknown facts regarding Anime and Japanese culinary culture, it’s sure to entertain those who seek a bit of knowledge along with their stories and who aren’t afraid to read something different every once in a while.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.