「第一夜」 (Daiichi Yoru)
“The First Night”
It’s another new season with the titular unlucky butler and his self-confessed hikikomori mistress. Yes folks, Hayate no Gotoku! is back once again, assembling its adorable 4th wall-poking cast to bring back the cheeky, reference-spewing screwball comedy we all know and love!
But wait, something feels different here. Change is rife with the new Hayate no Gotoku!. This is no longer just a simple adaptation of manga chapters, and like the latter parts of the first series, the new season instead strike its own path with anime-original material. I know, I feel your pain too, manga aficionados! Once again, we’re denied the prospects of seeing the fan-favorite Athena arc and Inheritance arc in full animated glory! One can only wonder why the production committee chose to go with the alternative when there’s been a persistent teasing since the 2nd season of Hayate no Gotoku!. But what’s happened, happened, and it’s a moot point now. Instead, let’s focus on the positives of it, the fact that like the movie which was produced earlier, the new anime-original storyline is being supervised by Hata Kenjiro, the original creator of the series. His presence here is a relief for those who are worried the season might veer off the vision of the series, and should ensure that whatever’s coming here is a comedy that remains faithful to the spirit of the series.
So with the story and comedy secured, the other big change comes with the production staff.
Hayate no Gotoku! has traditionally been produced at JC Staff’s house, but (Bit of error here, sorry folks! JC Staff only ever produced the 2nd season and an OVA.) The reins of the series have now been handed over to new stewards Manglobe, who’ve just come off the production of the movie. Now, I’ve plenty of respect of the studio and its staff, who’ve had some truly noteworthy shows to their name, the most recent one in memory being Deadman Wonderland. But comedy didn’t particularly seem to be their niche, seeing as how I felt they’d completely botched the adaptation of The World God Only Knows, a manga which I am incredibly enamored with. It most definitely isn’t entirely their fault, but even the animation and art of that anime was average at best. If however you’ve seen the Hayate no Gotoku! movie they’ve recently produced (I haven’t, just saying.) then you should probably know there has at least been a generally positive feedback to it, a good sign that they’ve at least got this one down pat.
And boy do they prove their chops here. If there’s any lingering regret about JC Staff putting the series behind them, or that this isn’t the continuation you wanted, well, you know what? You can take those regrets and shove them into the dark recesses of your mind. The premiere of Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Boy is that a long title) shows that even with all the changes, this new season that has every bit the charm its predecessors and source material has, as it opens the episode up with a hilarious slapstick skit of Sanzenin Nagi (Kugimiya Rie) stranded in the Nevada Desert while being subject to the whims of nature. The cast of characters are unchanged in their charm and dysfunctional chemistry, as we’re reintroduced to the unlucky butler Ayasaki Hayate (Ryoko Shiraishi), his otaku mistress Nagi, and the genius super-maid Maria (Tanaka Rie). And in a clever, nostalgic bit of self-referencing, Manglobe and Hata Kenjiro are here to make a statement that this Hayate no Gotoku! won’t be any lesser than its predecessors, by making the climax of this premiere a scene-for-scene, tongue-in-cheek reproduction of the original kidnapping that started this entire story.
It’s amazing how well they’ve lived up to that statement here, and I honestly enjoyed every moment of this latest iteration. The icing on the cake is the fresh approach the show has taken, striking out from its typical episodic nature to set up an overarching plot for the season, one that shows as much foreboding intrigue and potential as the Athena and Inheritance arcs did. For the first time in the franchise, we’re learning about Nagi’s late father, who supposedly died in a car crash at Las Vegas, and Nagi has been summoned by the police to verify his recovered belonging. The episode also brings a new character into the dynamic, Tsugumi Ruri (Iguchi Yuka), who proclaims herself Nagi’s little sister and is trying to secure a Sazenin treasure. We might be calling this anime-original material, but it seems that Hata Kenjiro intends for the story here to be an integral part of the franchise’s lore, by the way he’s addressing a significant story element in Nagi’s father and her supposed little sister in Ruri. Furthermore, the story seems to be taking place in the future of the manga’s current timeline, what with the presence of manga character Suirenji Ruka (Yamazaki Haruka) here, and Harukaze Chiharu’s (Fujimaru Ayumi) reference to Nagi’s inherited Japanese mansion, the core setting of the manga’s current arc. With the way he is working around his currently running story, it seems as though Hata Kenjiro plans to integrate this into the overall continuity of the series. It does make it a great point for new viewers to jump in, seeing as how the new storyline seems to require little background knowledge in the series.
While the production quality is nothing to really bring home about, especially when every other anime is looking downright cinematic these days, Manglobe has done an admirable job here in following up with the manga’s characteristically whimsical designs. Both art and animation are noticeably improved from the past seasons, (Something would’ve been seriously wrong otherwise.) giving me little to complain about the presentation, and I was pleasantly surprised by how great the episode looked overall.
It might not have been the continuation I’ve been pining for (and oh how I’ve been pining for it) but Hayate no Gotoku!: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You surpassed the expectations I’ve had for the show’s latest season. Don’t let the changes deter you; the spirit of the series is still most definitely intact, and what’s new serves to make the latest offering in the franchise surprisingly fresh.
*Currently, there are no plans to blog this show in RandomC.
*Please also be mindful of manga spoilers in the comments, since this latest season seems to be taking place after the current manga arc which the anime never covered.
ED: 「恋の罠」 (Koi no Wana) by 山崎はるか (Yamazaki Haruka)