Spring 2009 Roundup 1: Hayate no Gotoku!!, Natsu no Arashi!, K-ON

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Looking at the twit- and blogosphere these days, it looks like I’m late to this new season party. But let’s get started with a few things, shall we? Today, I’ll be profiling the second season of Hayate no Gotoku, the new SHAFT/Shinbo Natsu no Arashi, and the talk of the town K-ON.

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Hayate no Gotoku!!

Like many of us bloggers who have been around the block a little, I’ve had a long relationship with Hayate no Gotoku. I was trumpeting the first season in its early days, before endless filler ground down my interest. As an act of nostalgia–and to test this simulcast thing on Crunchyroll–I decided to begin this new season with something relatively familiar. And like a pair of broken-in shoes it wore itself just fine.

The plot, the characters, and the snarky self-awareness: there’s nothing new. The overt “reintroduction” elements of the show, where every major character apparently requires an entire bevy of stats visual-novel style, is commented upon near the end. One gets the feeling they knew they had to contort the plot in this direction in order to get people like me, who haven’t seen the show in months, to remember who everyone is. Considering I never finished the first season, the fact that it doesn’t appear I missed much is probably a sign that, well, I didn’t miss much and I can feel comfortable picking the show back up again from here. Whether I’ll do so consistently is another question altogether; I’ll probably just finish the next episode to at least take care of the cliffhanger this one ends on.

After her star turn as Taiga in Toradora!, I suppose there’s something oddly reassuring about Rie Kugimiya returning to another signature role–when she’s not squirting the BREASTMILK OF DOOM in certain other shows this season…


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Natsu no Arashi!

I had been really looking forward to this one, so much that I read a small part of the manga’s beginning before embarking on the show. The right people were in place: except for its last bits, I really liked School Rumble, and this is that manga-ka’s attempt to write a somewhat more serious story; also, this is a SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbo project, which ought to mean artistic uniqueness and visual playfulness galore. The premise of the story, in which a young boy meets a time traveling older girl one memorable summer day, could be a perfect setup for one of those nostalgia-tinged, dramedy properties like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or The Summer of the UFO. When those are done right I’m a total sucker for them: a mix of coming-of-age, romance, wistful reflection, and all that other wonderful crap.

This does not appear to be the case so far, unfortunately.

Yes, the character designs are rather ugly. It’s the eyebrows, I think, and the really sharp pointy chins. For a show that features an awful lot of midriff fanservice–I haven’t seen this many belly buttons in anime for a while–I’m not sure fans will put up with that for very long. They could have prettied it up a bit, or at least stuck closer to the better-looking manga designs. (This wouldn’t be the first time I felt the manga character designs were superior to the anime’s; one good example is Rosario + Vampire .)

Storywise, Shinbo has elected to begin the story in the middle, where the time travel powers of Arashi and Kaya are taken for granted and the main character relationships established as a foregone conclusion. This is quite different from the manga, which explains things a bit more clearly in the beginning. This first story is rather slapstick, and with the massive levels of time travel paradox more reminiscent of a School Rumble situation all sci-fi’d up. That it all centers on an inedible strawberry is not, well, what my preconceptions were looking for. I was looking for more mystery, I guess. Such are the dangers of depending only on plot summaries to gauge interest in the show.

Naturally, it’s too early to tell whether all the show will be like this, but they’ve only got this season to wrap it up, so I hope it changes direction soon.


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K-ON

All right, all right. It seems that every blogger and his dog has been moe-ing over this show. I have been tolerant at best of this sort of thing and have tended only to like it when I can look past the manufactured clumsiness, cryingness, airheadeness, and squeakiness that is modern day fan-pandering and see virtues that stand by themselves. Clannad had some degree of emotional honesty, for instance. Higurashi was an inventive and insightful piece of horror. Even Toradora!, if one wants to classify it as a moe show, was simply downright well-written. What is K-ON going to be?

Given that this is Kyoto Animation, the Lucky Star comparisons immediately started flying. I don’t think this is an accurate comparison. Lucky Star is “slice of life,” yes, but what makes it what it is is meta-humor. In K-ON we get a few hints of it, to be sure: references to NEETs and, in the episode’s best moment by far, Krauser III, but otherwise it appears to be a straightahead tale of a bunch of cute girls starting a “light music” band. (Does this mean they will be playing smooth music, like covers of Steely Dan and Kenny Loggins songs?) Considering that the main star of the show, the calculatingly dojikko Yui, can’t play guitar, my masochistic side wondered whether this might also have worked as the story of a punk band where barely anyone can play but still make a lot of noise.

Then I remembered what the results of that might truly have been, shuddered, and put that idea away.

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In all honesty, K-ON is watchable. It’s not especially funny, and travels in now well-worn territory in the way the girls are portrayed (we have a clumsy one, a genki one, a more serious one, etc). The musician side of me, which has recently started playing keyboards again, hopes that a few of the songs might actually be worth listening to and that some of the super-accurate depiction of playing musicians that KyoAni scored in Haruhi Suzumiya might make a return. That was great. But it’s probably too optimistic to expect that, I suspect…

It’s certainly no Nodame, that’s for sure. And I’ve got much bigger fish to catch this season.

Soon: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Eden of the East.

13 thoughts on “Spring 2009 Roundup 1: Hayate no Gotoku!!, Natsu no Arashi!, K-ON”

  1. Now I’ll have to see how many people find this site using the search terms “BREASTMILK OF DOOM.”

    The thing about K-ON is that it has really polarized the community.  On the one side you have the “greatest since sliced bread” side that loves it as a spiritual successor to Lucky Star.  On the other side you have fangirl rage and co. who simply don’t want to hear everyone talking about the same show nonstop. Who knows? Maybe after all the shows are established the furor will die down a bit and it’ll be like any other show, eliciting a spectrum of opinions. Knowing how carefully KyoAni bait their audience, maybe they’ll work hard to prevent that.

  2. Natsu no Arashi minus the  serious tones, I find it really good. I can’t see Jin Kobayashi and seriousness mix well.

    For the animation quality, I think it’s intentional. For most of Akiyuki Shinbo’s shows reflect the original character designs

  3. Natsu no Arashi 01 was quite shallow, and didn’t really explain much.  Still, I can see something that looks like “win” for bellybutton-nose man and his pointy chin partner.  SHAFT art is quite awesome too (lolrandom).

  4. I’m hoping somebody subs Souten Kouro as it is an adaptation of a manga that takes from the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms (is that what its called here?)

    The twist is that the ‘hero’ is Cao Cao!  Plus its got theme songs from some of my indie faves so ’nuff said

    Too sick/tired to detail things but dropping by to say hello anyway

    Yaaarg sickness begone

    Also my two cents about Jin Kobayashi is that he may still need more time to develop as a serious mangaka as a lot of his output is frivolous at best so far

  5. I think I’ve watched the OP of K-ON like 7 times now, and that doesn’t count replaying certain sections. Actually, by watching the OP I figured it was KyoAni before looking it up. 

    Meh. I actually only started ToraDora because of its OP. Maybe the same will happen here. I’ll probably watch it when I am feeling stressed, or just too mentally fizzled out to watch deeper shows I have stashed.

  6. Also worth noting is Eden of the East (Higashi no Eden) is slated to air today/tonight on Noitamina’s time slot!

    Production I.G, designs by Chika Umino (Honey and Clover manga) story and director is Kenji Kamiyama (Noitamina having an original story is a first I think)

    trailerrrrrr
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q4cc46wym4

    It has somewhat of a Bourne-esque thing going on which is fine by me

  7. Whew, lots of things to answer!

    moritheil: I will be monitoring our logs to see whether the search terms come up. And yes, it seems that part of both the problem and the reason is that KyoAni is so utterly, incredibly precise in how it does its moe shows: they know exactly which buttons to push. I’m egotistical enough to think that I can see through at least some of it and am trying hard to judge the show by its own merits as much as possible. Obviously it’s too early to tell whether it will be interesting on its own or not.

    mjsnoozer: I’m sure it’s deliberate, too. SHAFT is mostly about flair and striking visuals rather than traditional anime design. As for Kobayashi Jin, there were many genuinely heartwarming parts of School Rumble, which if not necessarily serious were at least sincerely emotional. That, I think, is important for a story such as the one that is supposed to be unfolding. He may not be inclined to do genuinely melancholic work, though–a Makoto Shinkai or something. Which is fine as long as his strengths are on display as much as possible in Natsu no Arashi!

    rayyhum777: while you were at T&A it seems that Krauser has gone to K-ON. GO TO K-O-N! GO TO K-O-N!

    fangzhao: it seems you have hope, the same hopes I’m trying to have too. We’ll see.

    rollchan: you’re welcome!

    smashingtofu: Hi. :) Again, I think Kobayashi’s capable of emotional sincerity if not necessarily seriousness, which is what I hope at least will show up in his new show.

    Mori is actually thinking of writing about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms adaptation you mentioned, btw, and so we will probably be covering that when it’s out. One of his earliest posts is about Cao Cao after all! And, as my “Soon:” section indicates, I fully intend to cover Eden of the East, which is the show I most look forward to this season. The trailer blew me away, and as a big Honey and Clover fan I love the fact that it’s basically about a less loli Hagu and a just as zany Morita-lookalike.

    CriticalDesign: I saw some people who seem to hate the OP of K-ON, but I’m not one of them. I do like the ED better, but the OP is more than passable, and actually has a little of the great music animation we’ve come to expect from KyoAni. And there ain’t nothing wrong with watching something when you need to relax. I call those “easy to watch” shows and there’s very much a place for them in anyone’s anime diet, so to speak.

  8. Something tells me the light music in K-On is going to be bad until somewhere near the end of the series where it’ll suddenly switch to people who can actually play music. Because the light music in the show was not appealing at all.

  9. The problem is that i’ve probably watched more light shows than ones I actually find genuinely interesting. I guess that’s what summer vacation is for.
     
    KyoAni has a knack for incorporating songs and dancing to appeal to viewers, at least the animation doesn’t look terrible.

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