Hayate no Gotoku 01

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Impressions

And so the spring 2007 season begins with a funny, postmodern bang! I remember seeing the premise for this show and not being particularly interested–from the screenshots, it looked like Just Another Harem Comedy (c), and the closing sequence seems to reinforce this impression.

I am so happy to be proven wrong. This is actually pretty original and inventive, for once, though there are some worrying trends that I hope the show will address soon.

First off is the premise of the show, particularly its subtext. This is about a kid who is basically abandoned by irresponsible parents, the kind that we don’t see too much of in a lot of Asian cultures: ones who squander their fortunes “following their dreams” (something Americans are told from almost birth to do). It’s rather amusing to discover this is the reason why they’re unemployed, rather than due to corporate layoffs–a phenomenon far more traumatizing in Japan than it is here in America. (Hayate even gets considerable sympathy when his classmates believe this is the case, a revealing social detail that I did not expect to see in a show of this sort.) We have the opoposing set of values in the vision of Santa Claus, who preaches what one might call the Protestant (or Asian, even) work ethic: work hard, don’t complain, and smile, or you don’t deserve to eat. This is Hayate’s philosophy at the start of the show; he is more or less the one supporting his family. The show seems to believe that both work ethics lead nowhere, though–neither the foolish dream-chasing or the grinding uncomplaint. Rather, Hayate is pretty much saved by his naturally decent character which, humorously, thwarts his attempts to do evil in one of the most laugh out loud scenes–the “angel” is the one arguing for kidnapping the main girl!

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Secondly is the postmodern self-conscious awareness of this show. There is a sarcastic narrator who comments on the events. More than once the characters refer to themselves as being in an anime: “the opening song is about to start,” one character says. This is nothing new in modern entertainment really (we saw an ultimate example of postmodern silliness in last year’s Haruhi Suzumiya), but this fourth-wall-breaking, which if anything reminds me of the way it was done in Animaniacs, is a joke which works in this episode but is going to get old quick if it continues every single time. The self-referencing ultimately needs to have a purpose. It works in Excel Saga and Abenobashi because the purpose of those shows is parody and pastische; the purpose of this show seems to be a more generic romance/harem comedy.

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Still, I’m glad to say that this show was far more arresting and entertaining than I expected from the description alone, starting from the spoofy “Don’t sit too close to the TV!” Public Service Announcement to the promise to “fight the network censors” in the next episode preview. I will be picking this up regularly alongside the shows I talked about before. I hope this will give me the kind of laughs that Ouran did last year.

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