Although I’m privy to a lot of different creative outlets on the web, I’ve never really delved into Japanese web novels. I’ve always kind of known that they were a thing because of their appearances in comics that I’ve read, but I never thought of searching them out.
I also never understood that there was such a thing as light novels, which are basically just books with accompanying anime/manga-esque illustrations. Even more, I never realized that some very huge-mega-hit animes and mangas are based on light novels, like Sword Art Online. It wasn’t until I read today’s manga that I even realized any of this.
From Maid to Mother
I seriously am not 100% sure if I classify today’s read as a webcomic or a web novel, or a light novel, or what. Technically, From Maid to Mother is a comic published online with monthly releases. So, uh, yeah. I don’t know. Typically webcomics update weekly, so maybe it’s the update schedule that makes this fall under a different category?
Anyway, regardless of its literature designation or whatever, Maid to Mother surprised me in several ways. Several good ways, that is.
The basic premise is a high school girl is reincarnated in a different world as Lily, a maid. She still retains the memories of her former life that was tragically cut short, but she has otherwise lead a fulfilling life in this new reality where she is known as the Maid of the Royal Family.
Lily’s job is primarily as the caretaker and maid of the crowned princess. One day, to her surprise, the court magician, Leonard, requests that she be sent to act as mother to his adopted daughter, Jill. The longer Lily remains with Leonard and Jill, she continues to find it to be a happy and fulfilling life, but she can’t help but linger in the memories of her past life.
Okay, this manga or light novel or whatever it’s called has popped up as a suggested read for me for quite some time, but the synopsis didn’t really interest me. I’m not really into magical/period piece style comics, and the reincarnation ones I’ve read (and, dude, there’s a lot of them) haven’t been much to write home about. It wasn’t until I finally decide to give it a chance that Maid to Mother showed me who’s boss because, guys, it’s really good. Like, seriously. It’s so good.
First off, the story breaks away fairly quickly from what, at first appearance, looks like a fairly cliched storyline. Lily’s past, especially a past love and as left her feigning any sort of romantic relationship in this new time and space, provides a lot of interest as a reader. Chapters are built in a way that you learn a bit of the world, a touch of the people in Leonard’s home, and just enough about Lily’s past life to satiate your interest.
Leonard and Lily’s dynamic is fun to watch, too. Leonard is a fairly typical manga/anime hottie in the sense that he admits that he has women constantly throwing themselves at him (even mentioning them sneaking into his bed on multiple occasions). What makes him funny is that, although he feels awkward around women, Lily quickly points out that his interactions are pretty misleading, considering he’s quick to hug and touch her. But, of course, his comfort with her special to her and it makes you wonder what it could mean.
Lily, although Leonard is quite charming, continues to assert that the events of her past life have left her feeling that she doesn’t deserve another love. She’s in constant fear of letting her old love’s voice disappear from her head–this plot device is what hooked me.
Usually, reincarnation storylines are so disinteresting to me because they’re either just a my-other-life-sucked-anyway sort of deal or are otherwise prove to just be the lead character’s past all come together again (especially past love interest), just under different personas. I’ve always found either of these strategies to be pretty uninteresting.
In the case of Maid to Mother, the premise under which Lily was reincarnated seems to prevent these tropes from occurring. She isn’t slowly discovering her past life, she’s known that she lived in another world ever since she entered this new one. Rather, Lily is a young woman who has already lived two lives and is thus figuring out how those two experiences piece together, and I really like how that ties into the typical fantasy drama.
Although Maid to Mother is, at its heart, a shoujo piece, Lily’s experiences as she comes into motherhood are far more interesting than I expected. Jill can be somewhat of a Mary Sue sort of child, but her interactions with Lily always feel genuine to me. I think, in a way, Jill and Lily are kindred spirits in the sense that they’ve both lost their childhoods. Jill was isolated and abandoned by her parents due to her powers, and Lily finds her previous life suddenly taken away in an instant only to be put into an entirely new one.
I enjoy the small, fun details of Maid to Mother, like the influences of her past life in this realm affecting her in the new one. This includes simple things like cooking, as she searches for ways to make mayonnaise and ketchup with the ingredients she has in a world quite unlike the one she came from. She lives her entire life, from infancy to childhood to pre-adulthood with the memories of her past affecting how she acts and thinks.
It’s an interesting plot point, of course generating the most drama in the question, “What about her past love keeps her from finding new love in a world that she’s been in for 16-years now?” And, to me, that’s what makes this manga so fresh and interesting to someone like me, who usually doesn’t have an interest in this sort of genre. I think that shows just how much Maid to Mother has to offer. At first glance, it seems pretty typical and, quite frankly, quite boring. It’s anything but that.
This comic really has a lot more to offer than what first meets the eye. Yes, there’s a hot guy with long hair (which, again, is not my cup of tea). Yes, it’s a fantasy and you get all the cool magic systems and all that you usually get from this genre (again, not really into that many fantasy manga). And sure, it’s all this budding romantic tension (which, okay, I’m always up for). But, it’s got this element from the past life that made it so much more appealing than any of its more basic premise.
Maid to Mother has characters that are engaging–and dang it, that’s so nice in a shoujo manga. That romantic tension is subtle but paced well enough to allow for satisfying development. Although there’s potential for a love triangle, it’s nothing even remotely out in the open yet. This manga allows a story to be told, allows characters to be developed and fleshed out, and grants the reader a chance to get to know the people and the world, all within a very intriguing plotline that does not rely on usual cliches to keep readers interested.
If you’re interested in giving Maid to Mother a shot, you can read it for free on Bato.to, just register to read and you’re good to go!