With A-kon 22 quickly approaching, I thought I would post some unpublished material about last year’s A-kon. My first flashback con report is an interview with two members of the Neko Neko Maid and Host Club. They will be making an appearance again at A-kon, as well as at Houston’s Comicpalooza this weekend.
Neko Neko Maid and Host Club (originally the Neko Neko Maid and Hostess Club) is a traveling maid troupe that makes appearances at anime conventions across the country. Unlike most anime con maid cafes, which consist of cosplayers serving food, Neko Neko brings the interactive experience integral to Akihabara maid culture to its guests. The girls (and guys) make small talk and play games with guests and sing and dance to J-pop songs. I met up with one of its founders and maid leader Kitti Maherin and maid assistant Minami to learn more about the club.
How did Neko Neko get started?
Kitti: We formed on July 4, 2009. It started as four girls who enjoy maid cafes. When I went to Japan, I fell in love with the maid café I visited in Akihabara.
What made you decide to focus on the performance aspect rather than serving food in cosplay like other maid cafes at conventions?
Kitti: I enjoy performing, and it was a low cost option.
Who decides on the music you dance and sing to?
Kitti: The maid leaders and assistants choose the music. Miki, our choreographer and another founder, has a lot of input.
How long do you practice your dances?
Minami: It depends on the dance.
Kitti: I practice every day.
Right now, themed cafes are very popular in Japan. Have you ever done themed events?
Kitti: [2010’s] is “20Tengoku”. “Tengoku” means “heaven” in Japanese so our maids have been wearing angel wings. I’m a fan of word puns. The theme we’re planning for 2011 is fairy tale.
Have you ever considered moving Neko Neko outside of conventions and starting up your own business?
Kitti: We would like to do that one day. Right now, we’re planning an independent event.
Where is everyone from?
Kitti: Minami is from Arizona, and I’m from California. We’re based in California, but we have branches in other states.
Where do you get the funding for travel?
Kitti: We hosted a couple of small events in restaurants in Little Tokyo. However, most of our funds come out of our pockets.
I noticed that there is a male host in your club’s website. Are you planning on having more male members?
Kitti: Yes we are. Right now we have five potential hosts at A-kon. They audition by shadowing the maids to get an idea of how the club works.
What do the hosts wear?
Kitti: They each have their own style, like some will do J-rock, but they all have a standard butler uniform.
What do you look for in auditions?
Kitti: People who are compassionate and have a good personality. Dancing and singing skills are a plus, but you don’t have to be good at it since we’ll teach you the basic dances. The most important thing is personality. [Author’s note: Neko Neko is currently looking for prospective maids and hosts in Houston/Galveston and New Orleans for Oni-con and Mechacon.]
When you’re working as a maid, do you assume a persona or is it part of your personality?
Minami: In the beginning, I switched into a persona. We had people make characters.
Kitti: It’s become a part of me. After doing it many times, I find myself becoming naturally more bubbly and charming.
Maid cafes often get a lot of criticism. What is your response to those who say that maid cafes promote subservient roles for women?
Kitti: We do serve, but no one is making us do this. You know the princesses at Disney Land? I see us as doing the same thing: helping people have a good time.
Minami: We have fun doing it.
Have your customers at A-kon been mostly men or women? Or a mixture of both?
Minami: We have a lot of men, but the hosts have brought in more women.
Lastly, what does the word “moe” mean to you?
Thank you to Kitti and Minami for taking the time out of their busy con schedule to do this interview.
For more information on the Neko Neko Maid and Host Club and a schedule of appearances, go to http://nekoneko.makesmehappy.net
Special note: Recently one of the club’s members was in a car accident. Although she didn’t sustain any major injuries, the maid uniforms, props, and decorations in the trunk were destroyed. Neko Neko needs your help in recovering what was lost. The club is accepting donations through May 25 at Kitti’s maid page.