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.
Yes, folks, it’s time to be part of the Anime Borgosphere Collective and take part in yet another rush of posts! This time, we’re doing a countdown to Christmas with a post every day about a significant moment in anime this year. I choose to interpret the rules loosely and talk about anime not just from this year, but from other years too (but that I’ve watched this year nonetheless). So why don’t we start with something appropriate for the season?
Day 1: Hayate vs Santa Claus
When Hayate no Gotoku was new, it seemed like the freshest comedy to come along in a good while. It broke the 4th wall constantly, the narrator was hilarious (back then), and the humor was self-aware without being obnoxious. It also really looked like that the show was going to take some chances and go to places rarely gone in anime, and this scene captures the early promise that I think has largely been squandered up to now.
This scene, of course, is really about Hayate and God. Santa Claus, after all, is the image of God that many people actually have–the content of the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is a kind of systematic theology of its own. Hayate has a frank discussion with Santa and, at one point, even punches him out, but at the same time, it is his belief that actually gives him the wherewithal to buck up and be the capable, responsible boy he is. (This Santa passes off a version of the Americanism that Santa helps those who help themselves, and doesn’t hesitate to pass judgment either.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite this clever in anime for a while. I had thought that Santa, for one, was going to make regular appearances whenever Hayate faces a crisis, but these elements all fade away by the second half of the first season and, at the moment, the show is really more or less a random sitcom whose characters produce predictable gags.
It’s a shame, really. I wrote early on that this was one of the most interesting elements of the show and I hoped to see more of it. But during its early golden period, it was stunts like these that made Hayate no Gotoku genuinely special. It seems to be true of many shows this season, which of course you will read about in the next 12 days. :)
I think my tastes must be getting simpler as I get older, because is it just me or was this episode really calculated to give me the “awwwww”s? I said before that this mini-arc represented something of a return to form for the show, and this episode merely concludes the storyline in fine form indeed. Congratulations, Hayate–you probably just bought my loyalty for another two seasons after 25 episodes of habitual-but-not-always-glad watching. Now just keep it up for once without more dumb filler.
I’m still watching this show? Indeed, I am, mostly out of habit more than anything else. It has been a long while since the humor has been truly inspired, with every decent episode often followed by a mediocre filler one (every single one of the robot ones). Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei also stole the crown of “awesome pomo comedy” this season. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to find, so late into the season, something of a return to form and what made me hype this show all those months ago when it first began.
I may have been busy reading and grading homeworks last week, but I actually did watch some anime too. Here’s a roundup of everything I saw last week.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 3
The Lolcensor is…nowhere to be found? Maybe they’re not trying to satisfy Standards and Practices after all!
The cornucopia of mentally ill girls continues to grow (at least in part on the part of Kaede) and the harem aspect of this show continues to become clearer. Because that is, in the end, what this is–a harem comedy featuring some disturbed and mentally unstable girls following an equally mentally unstable guy. They all want him. They all adore him. Even the OCD girl wants to marry him. And now there are panty shots: the conventions are complete.
I’m beginning to wonder what exactly the point of this show is, though. It’s clever and funny and inventive, but it also seems pointlessly random at times. (Case in point: the final scene after the credits, aside from the lawsuit. Is this yet another reference I’m missing?) It seems to be a fractured perspective–not unlike that of Franz Kafka, who has a namesake in this show!–but from no one particular point of view.
Still, there’s way too little originality in the anime world and it’s refreshing to see something different.
Hayate no Gotoku 17
Man, I haven’t written about this show in a good long while. I’ve read a number of people who are either giving up on the show or are getting bored of it, and I can sort of see why. The show could potentially become one of those endless sitcoms, like Ranma, where the concept is milked for all its worth long after it ceases to be funny.
This has not happened to the show for me. I still like it a lot, even if it’s no longer the star of the season. (Any season that contains Higurashi has that spot taken. Sorry!)
Some of it is the tsundere power of Rie Kugiyama, though in this show, she’s definitely more on the dere end of things. Some of it is Hayate’s indefatiguable desire to please and now, increasingly, protect his young manga nerd charge. Some of it is seeing Maria-san’s angry face scare the crap out of Hayate…
I understand that this particular episode was an anime original. I was able to tell the last time that happened–it was frustratingly random and directionless. I wasn’t able to tell with this one. It wasn’t as great as the immediately prior episodes, where Hayate fights other combat butlers, but it was more than passable.
And I see the next episode is a swimsuit episode. Do they need one when they have the new closing credits anyway?
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 4
What’s interesting in the current arc is how much more subdued it is. By this time in season 1, Keiichi was in full blown frantic paranoia mode and the creepy factor had been turned up to 11. There was no humor by then, whereas there are still silly and chibi scenes in this one at the beginning–though things of course are beginning to shift with Satoko suspecting a stalker. And, as they say, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
I’ve come to realize that this is what the show excels at showing: how the bonds of trust and friendship can be slowly undermined and eventually broken by fear, suspicion, and ultimately hate. In each arc, there is always a scapegoat, a person who is left out of the community and must suffer the consequences–either as a victim or as the one who lashes out. In the previous arc, we saw a move toward forgiveness and restoration of those bonds at the end, though it seemed a little forced. In the current arc, Rika’s heavy sense of fatalistic foreboding seems to portend something bad again. If anything, Rika’s attitude is getting…how can I say this…annoying? Over and over, we hear “there’s nothing that can be done.”
Still, I’m eager to see what this most intelligent of thrillers will continue to offer up. The arc appears to be in its final stages and I want to see how it all ties together in the end.
School Days 2-3
EverybodyhatesMakoto, it seems. Me, I just find him clueless in the way I was at that age, though he’s more blatant and indiscreet than I was. This is a show where the awkwardness between the principal three characters gives me that familiar shiver of recognition up the spine. You really can’t expect high schoolers to be emotionally astute. Makoto might be especially insensitive–people have rightly hammered him for ignoring Kotonoha on their first date, one part that I did find unrealistic (a guy like that doesn’t seem like he gets lots of dates, and considering how he was squealing like a girl about what he was going to wear, you’d think he’d be stupidly enraptured by his girl). He’s especially dense to miss the signal that Sekai did with that kiss in episode 1. But it’s only an exaggeration of reality, I think–I know plenty of guys who have missed signals the girl thought was patently obvious.
I did find the fanservice in episode 3 to be rather gratuitous, though. It’s one thing in the context of Makoto feeling lust; it’s another thing when it’s so we can simply find out that Sekai wears striped underwear. It actually doesn’t fit the tone of the show, either, which is subdued and generally believable.
The general lack of music actually helps a lot; it actually ratchets up the tension a bit in the more awkward scenes. Especially when you know a bad end is probably coming. (The last line of episode 3 is telling, and it’s all too easy to relate to for anyone who’s inexperienced with the way infatuation and teenage relationships work. That boredom is a test, and it is one that they will almost certainly fail, given how immature almost all these characters, especially Makoto, are.)
If this keeps up, School Days will definitely steal the crown from Kimi Ga Nozumo Eien as “best soap operatic drama based on an H-game” anime. It’s far less histrionic and lurid so far.
Maybe I’m simply ignorant about some cultural references, but if I’m not mistaken, this is perhaps the Hayate episode with the fewest number of overt references to other anime/manga yet. It’s emblematic of the way the show is turning toward a more traditional plot and character development after some of the finest anime satire this season; in the past few episodes a plot has begun to brew, complete with pendants and a character quest. Even the opening intro to this episode is relatively subdued and unjokey by comparison; the 4th-wall breaking is beginning to seem more obligatory than anything else.
Now this episode wasn’t as funny as last week’s excellent episode, which finally revealed the eating pigtailed girl I was beginning to refer to as Fanservice A. Glutton not only had a name (Nishizawa), but actual character–plus the best Haruhi Suzumiya joke I’ve seen since…well, Lucky Star. :) A good part of that gets replayed in this episode–the first third almost feels like a recap–and there is an extended sequence where the two of them wonder where each other are that I felt was unnecessarily drawn out. (Though I do wonder if it’s actually parodying something. Anybody know?)
I loved the whole riff on “Redmond-style” (ie, Microsoft-style–I’m surprised they didn’t say MS’s name and bleep it out like they do for other brands) interviews, where you’re tested on logic puzzles and random questions. It would be hilarious if there was actually a school that used those kinds of interviews instead of more traditional entrance exams. Though of course, soon enough, the kinds of questions that get asked will get leaked just as they have for MS and Google interviews. I’m not sure what the Star Wars opening crawl explaining all this was there for, though.
If anything, the “interview” that the proctor gave Hayate was like this classic Monty Python sketch, which is still the gold standard for all job interviews everywhere.
The episode’s end seems to promise some genuine tension and danger–and even pathos. Let’s hope they keep heading in that direction.
I remember chortling, heavily, when I first saw the preview for this episode–especially when the title wasÂ announced: “Neko Mimi Mode Sends You to Hell!” That, of course, raised some pretty high expectations for the level of t3h funny in this episode and I’m happy to say that it delivers (for the most part). This episode was a great send up of various otaku-moe conventions.
The actual crossdressing scenes weren’t as funny as they could be, to be honest. At least not until they started playing it up and totally milking the cliches, like:
I have to admit the hints of bestiality–adumbrated by the narrator, no less–threatened to cross the line from being really funny to be just a little creepy. Especially this pose by our friendly Tiger, which is a pose normally seen as a prelude to an assault:
(Side note: the narrator has returned to his comfortable groove of being annoying and unnecessarily foreshadowing future events.)
This kind of leads to an observation about how Hayate’s androgyny–which is very apparent in his character design–has really not been played up. Until now, that is. I remember someone at my anime club first watching this saying: “everybody is so cute!” Admittedly, one of the main reasons I still watch this show is not only to see which anime genres they’ll skewer but to see Hayate, with his innocent and cute expression, get subjected to all kinds of slapstick. With a smile.
Finally: I totally dug the references to Hayate going for the “Maria-san ending” and, if I’m not mistaken, a subtle allusion to a joke from Haruhi Suzumiya in the Butler Network omake at the end. (Is that a common or well-known sort of joke in Japanese culture? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong. If this were Lucky Star, which KyoAni is stuffing full of references to their past productions, I’d be more sure that this was a Haruhi reference. But considering the last episode was current enough to mention Gurren-Lagann I wouldn’t be surprised!)
The biggest news I seem to have about this fine episode is that the narrator’s sarcastic comments actually add something to the humor of the story. Rather than just commenting on the obvious (which the characters then comment upon in turn), the narrator actually gives perspective, albeit a jaundiced one, to what Hayate is thinking and feeling. I actually laughed at more than half his comments.
The references to other anime continues apace as well. Most amusing: the Evangelion-like promise of more “sabis-sabisu!” in the preview. (There was also another example of the “false ending followed by fan service” in this episode too.)
Plotwise, this episode was nothing new (lead girls who can’t cook and the guy manfully accepting the dish anyway is a very old staple in shounen romance), though again the narrator gave it some extra humor. The turn that takes place at the reveals that the character-introduction mode of the show isn’t over yet.
Question: does anyone know if the little paper-cutout thing at the end with Hayate’s image song playing is parodying or making fun of anything? It vaguely reminds me of the infamous episode of Kare Kano where the animation was replaced with crayon drawings glued to popsicle sticks. Or is it just one of those omake-type features every show has?
I had not one, but two papers due this week, so anime has generally not been on my mind as much as usual (my last post about Anno aside). So I spent yesterday afternoon and tonight catching up on a whole bunch of shows, including a number that I criticized–perhaps unfairly–a little while ago. Have my opinions changed? Read on to find out! I’m covering
Hmm. I think the humor train is starting to finally sputter at last, as this episode wasn’t as riproaringly funny as the last ones–considerably less so. And it seems to be mostly because of something that I feared might happen (see my first review)–the self-aware jokes are starting to grate and feel tacked on.
First up is the talking white tiger. I have to confess I thought his introduction in the previous episode was jarring and, for some reason, felt extraneous. This is even though the show had been busy breaking all kinds of rules already, and to be honest I can’t quite explain why. The opening joke of this episode does partially redeem him because the Pokemon jokes were, in fact, awfully funny. (It was perhaps the funniest moment in the entire episode! Plus I’m still not tired of the bleeping out of brand names.) Though if what the tiger says is right and they really do intend to make him a mascot character…he had better be as funny as that teddy bear in Bleach or he’s going to turn old hat faster than even the narrator…who was, interestingly enough, much less present in this episode than in previous ones. To my relief.
I think the one joke that sums up why I felt this episode didn’t work that well is the introduction of the trio of high school girls. At first, given the large number of adolescent girls who show up at the school in this episode, I was expecting a harem comedy parody (which seem to be in the cards for the next episode, actually). And indeed, the three girls seem to fit the harem archetypes. What went wrong was when they literally introduced themselves to the audience, breaking the fourth wall by facing the camera and the characters commenting on “talking to the CRT” (which gets snickers for the outdated technology). Asides of course are nothing new in stagecraft, but this one really felt like it was just put in for its own sake, and barely even got a chuckle out of me.
Another example of a failed “postmodern” joke is Nagi knowing the exact sequence of the previous events despite not being a witness. There is no explanation of how or why she would know such events–a funny explanation, no matter how implausible, would have worked a lot better. She just does. It’s quickly set aside, as if to mainly just break the rules of standard continuity.
Perhaps it because I’ve learned the “rules” of this show and such tactics are no longer surprising. Perhaps it’s because the technique would be more effective if they weren’t so insistent on directly commenting on it in the show itself. (This is what annoyed me about the narrator, too.) I’m beginning to get the hint that subtlety is not one of this show’s virtues–an impression that one of the characters echoes directly in a line of dialogue, as if to hammer it in: “You’ve got to keep things simple in an anime!”
I dunno. Hayate attracted me precisely because its layers of humor worked so beautifully well in the first few episodes. (The Eva references in the previous episode, for instance, were handled without drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. And am I thinking too parodically or did they miss the chance for both Ouran and Utena references in this episode?) Plus with the dramatically widened cast that this episode introduces–with the Student Council President and her sister taking the lead–I fear that the show will begin to sink into the rut that both Ouran and School Rumble did later in their runs: treading water because there’s too many characters and too few fresh comedic ideas, running on the fumes of an initially great premise.
Well, it’s still early in the run and it may just be a hiccup before even greater things come. The next episode could be, I hope, a delightful skewering of the whole harem comedy genre. I can’t wait if it’s so!
To my relief, the postmodernity continues with no loss in teh funny. I think the narrator needs to stop soon, though, and eventually I think the censorship jokes (didn’t they promise to fight the network?!) will start getting repetitive.
I said in my first post about Hayate that I was hoping this show would be the shounen version of Ouran High School Host Club. After seeing these episodes, I think I misspoke; I think it’s really a lot more like School Rumble. Like School Rumble, and unlike pure parody shows like Excel Saga, there is meaningful continuing plot and character. There is a genuine emotional core to the show, which you can see in the relationship between Hayate and Nagi, even if at this moment it’s a fairly typical tsundere-type relationship. But like School Rumble the show seems determined to make fun of a whole wide range of anime. The Gundam jokes were out in full force in the second episode, and the Roujin-Z an even Evangelion references out in the third. And so far, I think it’s working. I laughed heartily at the bleeping out of various franchise names, whether it be Gundam or Sony.
Another really fascinating aspect of the show, a totally unexpected one, is Hayate’s conversations with God Santa Claus. They are meaningful without being pretentious and serve as a sounding board for Hayate’s conscience as well as some of the deeper issues that this show touches on (the meaning and value of work, one’s attitude toward life, etc). In fact this Santa Claus seems a lot more like the Biblical God than what most people think about Santa Claus–at least he does in episode 2. I want to see more of him and the angel and devil figures we saw in episode 1…
Finally, there’s Nagi herself and her otaku tastes. What is it with this season and girls who are into anime? First the Aya character in Lucky Star and now this…is it just otaku fantasy that there would be a girl who is just as ardent a fan? (AFAIK female fandom in Japan is significantly smaller than it is here in America.) But it’s turned into a great base of jokes, like with the funny Sailor Moon parody at the start of the third episode. I suppose Nagi’s parallel in this case is Harima in School Rumble–they are both aspiring manga artists–though Nagi is far closer to a standard otaku, in that she loves fighting games (I found it hilarious that she has separate rooms just for a Dreamcast, a Playstation, and a N64–dated consoles though!) and she seems to be getting her cues from the cheesier kind of anime. Especially with her “secret identity,” which is an absolute hoot.
Anyways, I have discovered that this is the one show so far that I must watch the moment I download it. That’s surely a good sign. Which is why I put it as my nomination for next month’s showing at my local anime club…
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!
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.
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.