In a room overlooking the show floor of the Albuquerque Comic Expo (ACE) this weekend, a small but passionate group of costumed fans served drinks, played games, and performed for patrons as part of a “Maid Café.” The Tsuki Mochi Maid Café, which was established in 2011, performs at comic and anime conventions around New Mexico. The twelve maids that make up Tsuki Mochi’s roster don costume and persona based on something in Japanese pop culture to give customers a truly unique experience.
The maids begin each session with a disclaimer—no harassment or asking for phone numbers—before launching into the first of many choreographed dance routines. They take orders of tea, cake and coffee and cycle through dances, games, and skits in between socializing with the customers—all while in character. Tyler Kennedy, a junior at UNM and one of the maids, said Tsuki Mochi gives attendees a place to relax away from the sometimes-hectic nature of conventions.
“There’s actually a thing called a ‘con diet’ where people at conventions lose weight because they’re running around and not eating for most of the day,” Kennedy said. “So they can come in here and get food—cake, which is fattening food—so it’s a good break; people can relax while having fun too.”
Maid café sessions ran $10 a person at ACE, but the pricing is different at each convention. Sessions last an hour and often sell out well in advance of the convention. Liz O’Reilly, another maid, said customers are attracted to the café because of the novelty of the experience.
“Not every convention will have maid cafés and desserts, and interaction with characters, so I think it’s really awesome to bring that to conventions,” O’Reilly said. “It’s a lot of fun, too.”
Most of the performers are still in high school and each works predominantly for tips. Maids join the café through audition, and O’Reilly said that because of how much time they spend together a healthy group dynamic is essential.
“We’ve lost some maids and gained some more—it matters where people are in their lives and what they’re doing,” O’Reilly said.
Tsuki Mochi’s themes at ACE were the anime “Hetalia,” in which each maid personified a country from World War II era, and “Vocaloid,” which is based on characters created through a Japanese voice synthesizing software. For Hetalia, which took place on Saturday of the con, the café was adorned with various national flags and a smaller “kiddy” table for the girl playing Sealand, an unrecognized quasi-nation, to sit at.
The maids changed costumes and routines for “Vocaloid” on Sunday, which was a dance-heavy session with plenty of songs made popular by virtual diva Hatsune Miku.
Between skits, the maids played jan-ken-pon, or rock-paper-scissor, with patrons and awarded prizes for the best audience participants. Each session was punctuated with thanks and an open invitation for photographs with the maids.
Christian Verry, a patron on Sunday, said he was very pleased with the experience.
“Watching their dances was my favorite part. Period. They did a really good job,” Verry said.