Before you read…
Needless to say, it has been very eventful since 4 October, when then new season of Hayate no Gotoko! anime – Can’t Take My Eyes off You first aired. To contributors like myself (forgive me for my apparent lack of humbleness), it has been both a sweet dream and a nightmare: it was a sweet dream because we have had fun with this anime, but it was a nightmare as we have written lengthy review after lengthy review. Take my own blog as an example: an Episode Review averages 2,500 words, and as I have written 11 reviews (I skipped Episode 7 as I was in Australia hugging koalas), that was a total of 27,500 words. This is madness, especially when English isn’t even my first language.
Fortunately and unfortunately, the season has concluded. Now it is time for one final article on the anime, to sum up the whole season and give it a final rating, very much like what I have done with the Heaven is a Place on Earth movie.
Same Formula, New Results
Speaking of the movie, it could be an interesting starting point to talk about the anime, as both of them focused on the so-they-say “basics” that is the relationship between Hayate and Nagi – the Director of the movie literally said so, and the anime was promoted with the tagline “a rapid change in relationship between Hayate and Nagi”. No doubt Hata (or whoever is in charge) has been setting up a campaign to reaffirm that Hayate-Nagi is the preferred pairing, but it does sound a little too much to do so with a movie AND a season of anime. Has this all been doubled efforts?
My answer is: no.
In a sense, the two projects are quite similar as they both involve some mystical beings who try to commit the cardinal sin of separating Hayate and Nagi, which lead to rescue missions that end with happy reunion of lady and butler – or boyfriend and girlfriend, if you insist. As I have pointed out in the movie review, this has been a formula we have seen over and over and over and over and over again since Day 1, so a repetition of it in the anime – merely one year after the movie – could look tedious and boring. Fortunately, the anime spares itself of such criticism (from me, at the very least) because it has introduced new variables to the unchanged formula.
Previous execution of the formula has mostly been that Nagi is the one in trouble as she is separated from Hayate. The combat butler then goes to save Nagi, showing us his almost limitless abilities to overcome barriers, and his unshakable loyalty to Nagi despite anything. In this anime, Hayate is the one in trouble, and it is Nagi’s turn to do something to rescue her butler. In the process, she is given the stern test on her attachment to Hayate. In other words, while the movie (and other previous incidents) has been a test on Hayate, the anime has been a test on Nagi. As such, this is something new and welcomed – as a relationship is something between two people, we need to test the strength of it on both sides.
So, how was Nagi’s performance on her test? One word: exemplary. By masterminding the plan to lure Shin to the wedding hall from the dark corner, Nagi showed her extraordinary abilities in deduction and planning. Reflecting on her attachment to Hayate, she found out that she could not live without him, and she finally made her verbal confession to Hayate, bringing her on par with Athena, Ayumu and Ruka (count Izumi as well, if you want to). Hayate’s reaction is irrelevant here – Nagi has done her part.
Of course, Nagi has the privilege that the whole season – or at least half of it – has been a stage set particularly for Nagi to stand on and shine. But while there are main characters in other stories who cannot shine even when given the stage, Nagi has been doing a very good job. I have been saying that Nagi needs to do something to convince me that she could be a suitable partner for Hayate, and based on her performance in this anime I would give her a nod – although the philosophy of love is still not my cup of tea.
This is some achievement, isn’t it?
The Secrets of the Sanzen’in Family
Another theme of this anime is the Sanzen’in family business. Nagi’s parents – both deceased a long time ago – made their appearance. Nagi’s “younger sister”, who is previously unknown to any of us, has even become a major character of this anime.
So far, the background story of Yukariko and Shin has little to do with the main plot of the manga, so let us consider it as a spin-off – at least until Hata finally integrates it with the manga plot. In any case, we understand a lot more about the Sanzen’in family – especially about Shin Hayek – through the anime. Now it is very safe to say that Nagi’s father is not Hayate or Ikusa, unless…
Somehow, the Sanzen’in family is full of regrets. The last exchange of words between Nagi and Yukariko – before the death of the latter – has been an argument. Shin died in a car crash with his wedding ring lost, while the rest of the family thought that he had an affair with… whoever it is. Luckily, Shin sort of cleared his name in this anime. Nagi understood that her father really loved Yukariko, and Shin reunited with Yukariko in spirit form. Of course, there is doubt as to whether Mikado would know the truth, but who cares?
The relationships among the Sanzen’in family might be a spin-off, but it has been warm-hearted and lovely spin-off.
Unlike Shin, whose appearance (blonde) and nationality (foreigner) have been confirmed by Hata even before the anime was aired, Tsugumi Ruri is a completely new character. She is easily one of the two main heroines of this anime, as most of the events in this anime have something to do with her.
By the end of the anime there is still no way to tell whether Tsugumi is Shin’s daughter – the probabilities are that she is not. However, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore, as both Nagi and Tsugumi seem to consider each other as sisters, and that would be enough.
The introduction of a younger sister seems to benefit Nagi well, as she finally had someone for her to look after. As one of the youngest character of the series, Nagi is always under the care and protection of more senior characters, from Hayate to Chiharu. This gives the impression that Nagi is a spoilt child – to be fair, Nagi is not helping herself with such a reputation. The introduction of a “younger sister” finally gives Nagi a person to take care of, and we should be glad to see that Nagi has developed a sense of responsibility.
Tsugumi is an unlucky child. Apparently she was an abandoned child, and she knew well that the one who saved her life only wanted to use her as a tool to steal Kurotsubaki. Tsugumi knew very little about family love, which could be why she has grown attachment to Nagi so quickly: she wanted a family very much.
By the end of the anime, Tsugumi was staying in America with Shidou, so unless she decides to do an Athena, we might not be seeing her again. She might have lost her “mother”, but at least she would be in the safe care of Shidou, who remains a complete mystery to us.
Holes That are Not Filled
Just tell me: what do we know about Shidou? The answer is a pathetic one: nothing. Let’s not talk about detailed character information (birthday, blood type, etc.), but we don’t even know why he has been with Dolly and Tsugumi, and we don’t know why he was helping them. The only thing we know is that he had a handsome face and not-so-handsome fighting skills.
This is just one of the mysteries which remain unsolved by the end of the anime. Who was Dolly? Who was Tsugumi? Why would Hayate and Hinagiku be in the same hotel room? Has the “King’s Power” anything to do with the Royal Garden? In what way was Kurotsubaki the rival of Shirosakura? How did the blonde ponytail know how to turn Kurotsubaki from clock to sword?
The list goes on and on. Granted, we can try to figure out some answers by ourselves. There is always the novelised story which would (hopefully) explain something. It is also not entirely necessary to know everything in order to enjoy the show. Still, when we find that there are many things not explained in a project, there is some problem with the presentation.
The main problem of this anime is that, there is simply not enough time to explain the details. The main reason for a over-300-minute anime to have “not enough time” is that the pacing of the first half of the season is so slow that too much time has been wasted. As there was “not enough time” towards the end, things did look a little rushed, and some things just couldn’t be explained.
Even if we forget about Episodes 3 and 5 (usual suspects and easy targets), I have the feeling that Episodes 1 and 2 could be combined into one episode, as well as Episodes 4 and 6. That would save us 30 to 60 minutes – enough to explain the theory of relativity. Even if we don’t go into the extremes of having a lecture-episode on the backgrounds of Dolly and Shidou, we would benefit much from 2 to 3 minutes per episode.
Performance of Other Characters
The main beneficiary of the slow-paced first half of the anime seems to be Hinagiku, who got one-and-a-half episodes of spin-off stories, with two of her prominent arcs being animated. Chiharu and Kayura had half an episode to discuss Systema, and half an episode to debate over games, manga and anime. Maria got half an episode on her beauty and daily life.
Things changed in the second half of the season. Most girls mentioned above were sidelined. Ayumu shone in the quiz, and had a romantic moment with Hayate. Sakuya and Isumi entered the frame, and the latter turned up with some of the best action scenes in the show. Yukiji also shone in the second half – in fact, she helped driving the show on. Hinagiku was seen quite frequently, but she was not as helpful as we would have expected during the fights, although she did save Tsugumi’s life twice.
Then we have Ruka, who was the one to have 2 to 3 minutes in most episodes. Her involvement in the story, however, was strangely limited. She acted as half a narrator with her stage performances in the first half of the season, and showed up wearing Yukariko’s ring in the second half, helping Nagi to attract Shin’s attention. Other than these moments, Ruka has been mostly singing, while the production team have been busy promoting her CDs.
None of these girls shone as brightly as Nagi or Tsugumi, but this is hardly their fault – the stage was not theirs, after all. Still, I have the odd feeling that, these girls could do a lot better than merely sidekicks of the show. The division of labour – or screen time, actually – of this anime is questionable. Then again, time constraint could be the real problem…
It must be said that the second half of the anime has successfully built up a climax. It was quite a thriller surrounding an interesting plot, and the pacing – while a little too quick – secured an entertaining final encounter between good and bad. It showed new dynamics in the Hayate-Nagi relationship… If anime is all about entertainment, then Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes off You passed with high marks.
But the anime has not been perfect. The first half of the season has been too slow. The unrelated spin-offs didn’t make me happy. The artwork has been unstable – and horrible in Episode 3. The action sequences were not smooth enough. There are a lot of unanswered questions… All these made the anime less satisfactory. While this is not entirely fatal, it is still a less satisfactory anime. As such, I would score the anime 7 out of 10.
It seems that I can finally take a break from such huge workload, at least for 2 to 3 years. But then I see this…
A brand new season in Spring 2013. Ooops…