One-cour fall anime and two-cour spring anime are now ending these final weeks of 2012, and as usual, I plan to review the ones I’ve seen. The first two I’ll be discussing today are the ones with the longest names and a love of exclamation marks: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! and Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You…
Chuunibyou is one of the few anime where I first watched the trailer for it and thought it looked really good; an amusing mix of cute, school comedy and over-the-top, psychological romps are the first impressions I got from the trailer and hearing a bit about the story. Of course I would have watched it no matter what since it’s a work by my favorite studio, KyoAni. I can’t say I was particularly hooked by the first few episodes as we were just getting to know the characters and the gags were pretty much just focused on Rikka’s total obsession with her chuunibyou and Yuuta’s total aversion to it. They weren’t bad per se, but I couldn’t get that into the characters and humor. However, I’m not sure when but I think it was around episode 5-6 when the main cast had been assembled and were interacting with each other, that I really started liking the show. I started getting a lot of good laughs once the contrasting personalities of all the “Far East Magic Nap Society” members were together and bounced off each other, especially the antagonism between Nibutani and Dekomori and Isshiki being smitten by the clueless Kumin. I guess I just found the characters together as a group more humorous and likable than focus on just pre-character growth Rikka and Yuuta in the early episodes.
Not long after I started getting into the show and its humor, it took that dramatic turn and focused on Rikka’s backstory and the romance between her and Yuuta. I’ve heard complaints that the drama in the show didn’t work, but for me, I thought it was done quite well. We learned why Rikka holds on to her chuunibyou, we gradually see the feelings grow between her and Yuuta, there’s confessions, new-couple awkwardness, a separation, and then a reunion – I thought it all flowed well and having all these parts of their relationship didn’t make it feel rushed despite only the latter part of the series focusing on it. While there was some angst, I thought it was just the right amount and not oodles of tears and cries of agony, AnoHana-style (though I did feel Dekomori’s breakdown in episode 11 was a bit overdone). The ending made me tear up and it felt mostly satisfying except for the fact that I would have liked to see some kind of epilogue showing what happened with the characters – did Isshiki ever get together with Kumin? Did Dekomori really get over her chuunibyou too? And what did Rikka and Yuuta do after they got away from that police car?
All in all, despite a slow start and a few minor issues, I thought Chuunibyou was a very sweet show with a few good laughs and a lot of heart-tugging drama and romance. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece but definitely a good anime.
Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
While Chuunibyou did end up pleasantly surprisingly me, I unfortunately can’t say the same for the new Hayate anime. Just to give a bit of background, I’ve seen the two Hayate series by J.C. Staff. The first one, a whopping 52 episodes long, was very humor-centric, and while episodes were hit or miss, a lot were very funny and I got quite attached to the characters. Season 2, 25 episodes long, focused a lot more on the characters rather than the gags and I liked it very much, even more than the first season. A couple of years later a Hayate movie, produced by Manglobe this time, came out and I actually haven’t seen it. Judging by the synopsis, it just sounds like a long side-story which I think is supposed to follow the same storyline as the first two seasons and is not a prequel to the new Hayate anime I’ll be reviewing.
Going by what promotion said about Hayate Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, it was supposed to be something brand new, an independent version of the story not following the previous installments, and the manga author himself, Kenjiro Hata, was among the writing staff. But despite all this, it simply was not that good of an anime, whether for someone who’s already a fan of Hayate or someone brand new to the franchise. One of the issues I had with the series was that it failed to cater to either of those audiences. Most of the cast from the original series appear in this one, but with no introduction whatsoever, like the series is expecting us to already know who they are – Hayate is already Nagi’s butler, Hinagiku, Katsura, and the other side characters already know Hayate and Nagi, etc,. If Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is supposed to be a brand new Hayate series not related to the others, then why was there no introduction to any of these characters? Anyone watching this as their first Hayate series would fail to see the character-driven humor that the show has because they haven’t been properly introduced to the characters’ personalities. The only character I felt was actually introduced into the series and not just “placed” in it was Tsugumi, and that’s just because this is the first series she’s in. I was especially annoyed when Isumi suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started using her Shinto magic…again, anyone watching Hayate for the first time with Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and thus having no knowledge of Isumi would be like “Who is she and why can she do that?” But on the flip-side, for those who have seen the other Hayate series or manga, there’s a lot of differences with the characters that made it difficult to imagine that they’re exactly the same characters we know and love and we should just think of them as such in this version…so either way, this insistence on just placing characters in the show (and a lot of them at that for just 12 episodes) rather than introducing them was not a good move for whichever crowd they were trying to cater too.
The other big issue I had was the story as a whole. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You tried to balance between fun slice-of-life stuff while occasionally shifting focus to the rather convoluted plot involving a soul-stealing pocket watch. Eventually the plot took over in the later episodes and the tone shifted to drama…and that just didn’t work with the Hayate characters. The characters of the Hayate series have personalities and such that are all about fun gags and simple, light character-driven misadventures, so having them all involved in this rather bizarre and not very well constructed plot didn’t click with me. It was especially laughable to me in the final episode when it emphasized the strong bond between Nagi and Hayate when we hardly see any significant interactions between them throughout the whole series! Hell, Tsugumi gets more screentime in this show than HayatexNagi. In the final episode when all we got were those quick flashbacks Nagi had of the time she spent with Hayate, all things we never even saw in the show, I again thought, any person new to Hayate watching this couldn’t care about their bond because it’s barely been shown, while someone already familiar with Hayate watching this couldn’t care either because they’re not really the same Hayate and Nagi they know…Hayate wasn’t with Nagi when she was little in the old series for one thing (this “new” series didn’t even deal with how they met actually, something very important). So again, the show fails to cater to either audience of viewers. And who the heck was that crow guy? And that talking stuffed toy inside the watch? And having to sing in drag to make a miracle happen inside the watch…what the hell?
Anyway, as you can tell, I did not think highly of this Hayate installment. It was messy, lacked focus, couldn’t tell what audience it was catering to nor whether it wanted to be comedic or dramatic, and it just threw in one-dimensional rehashes of the old characters into the fray without introduction amongst a needlessly complicated plot. I’m not sure what the future holds for the next new Hayate anime coming out in spring, but if this is what Manglobe plans to do with the series, I wish J.C. Staff would take it back!
Next week I plan to review Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Sword Art Online, and K, though since the latter two won’t finish until the end of next week, my post will probably be delayed. I’ll keep you updated via Twitter. And since I won’t be posting again until after, I hope you all have a very merry Christmas~! ~^__^~