So here it comes, the “grand” finale!
That said, I fail to find the Cuties finale to be grand enough – the CTMEOY finale has been way better. I think the main problem is that this episode has been wasting time here and there, slowing down the pace and intensity. There are scenes explaining how Hinagiku meets with Ayumu and the SC Rangers in the restaurant, how Hayate ends up crossdressed after meeting Ruka, and how Hayate asks for Chiharu’s kiss without seeing her in maid uniform. To be honest, these scenes have little importance in this episode, and should have been shown in the previous episode in the first place.
The dragging is so serious that as I watched the (quite well-made, to be fair) action sequence between Hayate and Yukiji, I kept checking the time, thinking: “What the heck? We have a little less than 9 minutes left, and we are still not making any progress beyond last episode?!” If this is what other people would think at that moment, then I guess the money spent on this sequence (it is expensive!) has gone down the drains…
Of course, some scenes can be considered necessary. Hinagiku needs a couple of minutes to show her understanding of the situation, her determination to help Hayate, and her action of taking the girls for Hayate to “choose”. Chiharu and Athena, who are not with the others, have to get to the park somehow, and that must be shown. The fight between Hayate and Yukiji, which has started in the previous episode, has to be settled. Yet there are also scenes like the anime references by Kayura and the SC Rangers which are borderline unnecessary, and when you bundle the necessary with the unnecessary, the whole thing would be considered unnecessary.
Maybe that also explains why there are so many “filler chapters” in the manga, yet so many plot elements could be traced back to them.
In any case, the build-up to the “crowning moment” has been so poor that I actually failed to get involved in the situation, and by the time I (thought I have) catched things up, everything started to rush. All the girls suddenly stood before Hayate, asking him to choose one to kiss. Nagi suddenly appeared and dismissed this approach of saving her. Hayate then suddenly realized that he has been wrong, and suddenly he knew whom he should be kissing. While still trying to catch up with the emotions, I suddenly found the episode – and the entire season – has ended.
Admittedly I am crestfallen after watching this episode, but rather than the fact that the kiss didn’t go to my preferred girl, it is the pacing of the episode which concerned me.
It turns out that my suggestion of an “alternate” solution to save Nagi has not come true, so we have the Sleeping Beauty scenario instead. As argued in the last Episode Review, the only sensible outcome of such a scenario is that Hayate kisses Nagi in order to wake her up. I suggested that I was willing to accept such an ending, and I stay true to my words.
The point, as Nagi has made when she is temporarily awake, is that Hayate shouldn’t be kissing other girls in order to wake her up. This is unfair to Hayate (who has to make a cruel choice among the girls) and the girl he chooses (who has to receive a kiss that is not out of love or care for her), so this makes nobody happy.
Now that Hayate chooses to kiss Nagi, it is at least justifiable: Nagi still needs the kiss to be waken up, and we can see Hayate’s care for her through the kiss. If we do not insist that our beloved girl(s) should get the kiss – just listen to Hinagiku, who sounds like she is treating the prospect of kissing Hayate like a sacrifice – I would say that Hayate’s choice is acceptable.
It is revealed at the end that Clockman and Tanuki are Shin and Yukariko respectively. Maybe it explains why Nagi is allowed to leave the limbo and wake up temporarily, as parents can never go too hard on their children. That said, the “curse of Kurotsubaki” – sometimes I feel like it is a lame excuse for Shin and Yukariko to enjoy the show – seems to remain effective, so I wonder what would happen if Hayate finally decides to kiss no one. Maybe – just maybe – Shin and Yukariko have a Plan B to take Nagi with them to… wherever.
As they are leaving the world – I thought they had already left by the end of CTMEOY – I think it is understandable that Shin and Yukariko would want to make sure Nagi is fine. The definition of “fine”, though, seems to be a little unclear. It appears to me that the entire event has been set up to test if Hayate would kiss any girl in order to save Nagi, but as Hayate gives arguably the best possible answer, their conclusion is that Nagi is fine because “she has all these great friends by her side”. As such, I am not sure if Shin and Yukariko are looking for Hayate’s loyalty or Nagi’s popularity as guarantee that she would be “fine”.
Luckily, Nagi would be fine in both cases. You may say that Hayate has finally responded to Nagi’s confession of love in CTMEOY by kissing her in Cuties, thus completing the circle. Meanwhile, Nagi and Hayate’s friends prove that they would do anything they can to help Hayate, even if it means indirectly helping Nagi. As the fates of Hayate and Nagi are so tied together that helping Hayate most probably means helping Nagi, she would in the end benefit from her friends’ help.
The feeling of the girls are understandably mixed. On the one hand, they know that the kiss with Hayate would mean nothing for them, and it definitely won’t be proof that Hayate loves them. On the other hand, a kiss is still a kiss, and it might still be “enjoyable” if they can fool themselves to not consider the meaning behind it. As such, we can see Hinagiku blushes as she considers a kiss with Hayate, while sounding like she is going to kill herself in order to help him. We can also see Athena approaches Hayate for a kiss, while getting absolutely furious as she is reminded that “any girl will do”.
Once again, I am actually glad that the girls are saved from this dilemma, although I am disappointed that their “wrong” concept of kissing Hayate – as well as Hayate’s of kissing the girls – has to be called out by Nagi. They should have had much more dignity than this.
But then, who is to be blamed for a “wrong” concept, when the whole incident is built on a fundamental difference in understanding of a kiss? We can see that the girls are shocked as Hayate reveals that he has always planned to give a forehead kiss instead of a lips kiss. Then again, we may have to wonder whether he was true to his words as he approached Athena’s lips with his.
Apparently the girls find that it is okay for Hayate to kiss Nagi – and themselves, for the matter – on the forehead. They show no jealousy, they rejoice as Nagi awakes, and they were actually relieved that it wasn’t a lips kiss! It seems that they think that forehead kiss and lips kiss have totally different meanings. I tend to think that a forehead kiss is intimate enough for shipping, but maybe it is just me.
No matter how hard we try to argue that the forehead kiss doesn’t imply romantic love, the point is that Hata and the production team appear to think it does. We have already seen this picture, in which the Hayate figure says “The sakura of romantic love will certainly bloom!” Twitter messages from the production team also keep on suggesting that this episode is the one full of romantic love. It appears that Hata has finally decided to make the theme clear: the emotion between Hayate and Nagi is romantic love.
The problem is that the presentation of the theme comes too rushed and too lame. How many minutes has Nagi got in the last two episodes? Seven in total, I suppose. Meanwhile, the majority of the air time has been shared among other girls, with Hinagiku silently driving the plot to the point where all the girls meet Hayate. I am not Hayate himself, so I do not know what kind of revelation he has had in those 7 minutes he spends with Nagi, but the outcome is that Hayate has a romantic kiss with Nagi. It is as if watching the 1999 Champions League Final, in which FC Bayern dominated the entire match only to lose to Manchester United in stoppage time. The most natural response from non-United fans would be: “WTF?!”
Sure enough, United fans – and Nagi fans in our case of Cuties – won’t find it a problem. At all.
Of course I am not happy with the Hayate-Nagi ship – I am the shameless Doughnut Gunso, after all – but I would accept a Hayate-Nagi ending if it is presented nicely. I think that both the HIAPOE movie and the CTMEOY anime have done a much better job than Cuties. In both previous cases I have given the Hayate-Nagi ship a nod – see this and that, if you don’t believe me. For Cuties, however, I would have to shake my head furiously.
Don’t try it. I approve the kiss, not the ship.
Do note that Hata contributes to all three scripts, so you might say that Hata is extremely determined to confirm the Hayate-Nagi ship with the animation. Again, it falls into the trap of spoiling the ending too early, and soon enough Hata would find his teasing of other ships not appealing to readers any more: why are we wasting time on things we know that are deemed to be false?
The poor presentation leads to yet another problem: as the finale began with a serious tone and ended with a childish one, there are some expectations it hasn’t lived up to. It is almost like an anticlimax as Hayate clarifies that he has only planned to give a forehead kiss. Of course this is typical Hata comedy – everything is built around misunderstandings – but to throw a “misunderstanding” bomb near the end? Not the very best way to paint the finale in good colours.
As always (since when?), I would write an overall Comments post
without any picture as a conclusion. Those who are not afraid of my boring-as-Hell posts, stay tuned.