The night before her first day of seventh grade, Maya suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night and strolls over to her closet.
She pulls out magazine and stares at the celebrity woman featured on the front of it, then, strangely mumbling to herself as if she is responding to people at school, she takes scissors to her hair.
The series wouldn't be quite what it is without Maya's notorious bowl cut. Many are likely familiar with the term, if not the actual cut itself.
Additionally, many a mother has resorted to the very same tactic that Maya's mother is featured carrying out when she finds Maya has butchered her own hair the night before.
Anna and Maya are the best of friends but as soon as the kids pile into the carpool that will take them to school, Anna starts acting odd around Maya's brother.
Viewers suddenly recognize the familiar behavior of having a crush on someone that is not completely obvious to one's best friend yet--especially when it's the sibling of the best friend.
The teacher featured in Maya and Anna's first day of class in seventh grade is the perfect example of the type of teacher that most people have experienced. Specifically, the kind of teacher who seems weirdly too enthusiastic about showing off their hobbies to their class.
The show gives the situation a new light, allowing viewers to reflect on how weird and somewhat creepy it is for an adult teacher to try to show off and impress the children they teach.
They are hardly into the morning of their first day when the girls spot several pieces of paper with Maya's name on them--that is, Maya's name in combination with two of the "hottest" boys at school. Maya goes into shock and assumes they must have a crush on her.
The sadder reality is that it's all a joke, but Maya's eagerness to believe it overpowers the obviousness of how staged it is.
The two leads being much older than their child counterparts can make for some of the most uncomfortable scenes of the show, and one of the early examples of this is when May and Anna sit on the bleachers during gym class and a young boy comes and sits near Maya.
The camera zooms in on the back of the boy's neck, unsettling for the adult viewer yet simultaneously a realistic depiction of how kids think at that age.
The first episode is about the beginning of 7th grade, and so the main preoccupation of the girls is envying how others have changed and resenting their own lack of transformation.
Maya and Anna gossip about a female classmate who is rumored to have "grown boobs in her sleep" at summer camp, and sure enough when they go to school the camera zooms in on a pair of enormous, swinging breasts--an obvious exaggeration representing the extremes that teen minds go to.
The teacher asks Maya to share any notable summer experiences with the class, and Maya, to viewers' surprise, stands up and acts out a full rendition of a movie she watched. For someone so timid, it's jarring to see her indulge in her most extreme impulses.
In typical middle-school style, it's difficult to tell if her fellow classmates are eventually laughing along with her, or laughing at her.
Maya's older brother is meant to be cool and sophisticated. In fact, too cool and old to be associated with his younger sister at school. This is why Anna and Maya are so timid in seeking him out for help regarding the bullies who dubbed Maya "UGIS," which stands for Ugliest Girl In School.
It's even more cringey when Shuji later slides a note under Maya's door, which includes weirdly worded sentences that seem to imply that Shuji is imitating how a gangster might talk. The fact that he's a middle-class suburban kid is not lost on anyone.
Maya tries to stand up for herself, but it goes terribly wrong. In a moment that perfectly depicts the childish nervousness and insecurities of middle-schoolers, Maya completely forgets her brother's advice but still attempts to stand up for herself by spitting out the most insulting things she can think of.
This works a little too well, turning what started as a badass moment of telling a bully off into a really offensive slew of insults that end with a crack about his genitals and dead father. Instead of having the desired effect, this makes Maya seem even more unlikable than she did before.