Maid Café is a symbol of all things cute and moe in otaku culture. It is also something that is readily available in Akihabara. How does it feel to be called Master and waited or pampered upon? People end up paying for the company of charismatic people. Conventions in the states have been importing this facet into anime conventions and while at some conventions it works, other it flops. It has been an idea floating around on the Otakon forums for several years now, when it was initially announced on Otakon’s website it was seen as an April fool’s joke, but joke it was not and 2012 happens to be Otakon’s first convention with a maid café.
Otakon’s maid café took place in the Hilton’s Johnson suite, where hours were posted outside the door, as to notify when people were allowed to enjoy a session that included a show, games, drinks and food. There was a 40 person limit, for each shift that was separated into about an hour and half intervals. The Maid café was only available on Friday and Saturday. So what entails going into the café? Is it worth the $10 to go in and then an additional $5 for desert? I definitely would say that the amount of money going into this is worth with the entertainment included.
Outside of my own experience with Butler cafes in Japan, I never was able to experience maid cafes, but one of the difficulties I saw at NYAF was the maid’s inability to serve food on convention premises. At Baltimore Convention Center it was a similar situation, but Otakon was also able to host the café at the Hilton, maids and butlers were definitely able to serve food and drinks with gloves. However since the hotel provided food, there were no personalized Japanese foods that is infamous with Japanese maid cafes, but with an adaptability, menu and services was introduced via shows. Drinks I saw were iced/hot tea, soda, hot chocolate, lemonade. Desserts a la carte were brownies, cookies, and cupcakes.
An issue that was mentioned was the lines and wait for the services, this became out of the café’s hands, as there were issues with giving tickets, and people not coming back. Time is money for things like this, so it is not uncommon to see a line build up. That is the game of convention going. Now then guests at the right time were ushered in to pay and then be personally seated by a butler or maid. Afterwards a show began, and the room was busy with maids and butlers providing service. At each table, guests were strangers to one another, and this turned into a social gathering. Everyone has wanted to experience what were the perks of Otakon’s 1st maid café. Each maid and butler had their own moe style and flair. The show introduced each maid and butler, who worked with their assigned tables.
Now these maids and butlers are also convention goers, so to prepare and enjoy a service such as being a maid had the convention organizers selecting the best from about 80 applicants. The maid/butler staff was chosen in April, so though there weren’t as much time to prepare. Each maid and butler definitely made the most of it. Many of the staff at this café has not met prior to this convention, so to be able to put on a cohesive character driven front away from the curious eyes of the convention goer is admirable and professional. Some of the maids and butlers have restaurant backgrounds, so that was interesting to see some of the staff balance cups and plates as well as assist one another; luckily I didn’t hear any shattering of glass when I was at the cafe. The staff also had a maid boot camp of six hours before the convention began on Thursday, so as an observer I definitely got caught in the experience.
During the show was happening, each guest upon coming in received a raffle ticket, and from there, three guests were chosen to play a player vs. maid/butler ensemble of Jan Ken Pon. The winner won prizes that included anime pencil boards, keychains, or gachapon. The Maid café wasn’t able to get any more personalize prizes, so that may or may not change in the future. Due to timing as well, not every guest was able to play table games, but it is not as though the maids and butlers didn’t try to charm everyone. Now as the service and show came to an end, every maid went around and autographed a photo for every guest with a signature color and sign. It was all quite charming.
I am certain that the maid café has enjoyed a success; I definitely know that if I get the chance to, I would be a paying customer. With first year down, there is definitely room for improvement, and the staff of the Otakon Maid Café would be looking into presenting a better experience for guests in the years coming ahead. Now if you’ve happened to want to see more pictures Anime Diet has taken, including some more of Maid cafe check our Flickr!