Hayate no Gotoku S3: Can’t take my eyes off these changes.
Full disclosure — I love Hayate no Gotoku. Overall, between the anime and manga it’s probably my favorite series. Though in publication as manga since 2004, it really began to pick up steam when two slice of life, harem-comedy animated series aired between 2008 and 2009. It also enjoyed success in the west as a commonly featured series in American anime conventions at that time. After airing, however, there was a surprising calm in animated releases, and the manga was given plenty of time to move along with the story. A new studio, Manglobe, released a Hayate no Gotoku movie in 2011, but its short length and a drastic change in art style left fans clamoring for a “real” successor to the franchise. When the third series, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, was finally revealed, many regarded it with skepticism; once again, the developing studio was Manglobe. Additionally, Hata Kenjiro, the manga’s creator, stated that the new series would be its own story separate from the manga, using ideas he never incorporated into his published chapters. With much trepidation, I sauntered into this series with high hopes but perilously low expectations.
Ayasaki Hayate is a penniless highschool student and the personal butler of Sanzenin Nagi, the lone heiress to the Sanzenin family fortune. They share a profoundly close relationship, though Nagi holds distinctly romantic feelings for her butler, while Hayate remains both oblivious and uninterested romantically, but zealously devoted to his mistress’ safety and well-being. The Sanzenin Mansion receives a phone call from the Nevada in America; the Nevada Police Department needs Nagi to identify and stake ownership of some personal effects of Shin Hayek, Nagi’s deceased father. Nagi, not fond of her father, but very eager to skip school and make a side trip to Area 51 in search of aliens, is intent on leaving Japan as soon as possible. Nagi runs away from the household after being chastised by Maria for being irresponsible, but is quickly found by Hayate. Together they encounter a strange girl named Tsumugi Ruri just moments before a pair of thugs kidnap Nagi for ransom. After rescuing Nagi from her captors, Hayate returns home with his mistress in tow, encountering Tsumugi Ruri once again. Ruri reveals herself to be none other than Sanzenin Nagi’s younger sister, and demands the return of a Sanzenin family treasure, the Black Camellia.
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You [Season 3] is the first animated Hayate no Gotoku series to feature a defined storyline. Immediately from the get-go, there are agendas to fulfill, places to go, conflicts brewing and a new, mysterious character to flesh out. It’s a definite shift from the series’ normal slice-of-life harem-comedy shenanigans. The relationship between Nagi and her father is not illustrated prominently in the manga, but it becomes one of the driving forces of this animated season. Because it is well-established across all Hayate media that Nagi’s father is long dead, it gives the series a much more serious tone than earlier seasons. Nagi poses a simple aim in the first episode: “I want to find out of my father really loved me.” Although Nagi is just blabbering excuses to mask her obvious intention of going to Nevada only to skip school, the question quickly plants itself in the forefront of the viewer’s mind, especially a person that is already invested into the series.
It’s not to say that Hayate no Gotoku threw its comedic elements out of the window. It still has the same high-energy, slapstick humor that the series is known for, as well as comedic inserts before, within, and at the end of each episode. I mean, with a setting like Nevada with talk of deserts, aliens, Area 51, and Las Vegas, there’s plenty of entertaining situations and subplots that lend themselves to comedic hijinks. In contrast, much (if not all) of the harem/romance element is noticeably absent from this season, as it would probably be too disrupting to the flow of the story. At its core, Season 3 is still firmly a comedy series, but I’m happy to say that the scriptwriters knew when the humor was proper to include. Whenever the series almost gets too serious, the comedy brilliantly defuses the situation, with the understandable exception of the resolute climax. An interesting thing I found was the increased use of emotive facial expressions by studio Manglobe as a delivery mechanism for the comedy; it feels like a very distinct style and one that was markedly different from earlier Hayate seasons.
On that note — yes, the art style is different. But it isn’t too different. I drew exceptions to the art, especially how feminine Hayate appeared in PV Trailers and the first few episodes, but overall the characters still feel like they are who they are. It wasn’t anything as drastic as TTGL’s Episode 4, but it might be enough to put off some existing fans of the series. Though, honestly, I didn’t find bothersome in the slightest beyond the third episode. By then, I’d totally immersed myself in the plot. Style aside, the animation and color is extremely lush and eye-pleasing, and really shows in the action-heavy second half.
Surprisingly, a significant number of series minor characters are involved in the plot. With a cast as large as Hayate no Gotoku’s and only 12 episodes to settle the story, I was pleased with how many made the cut. Naturally, fan favorites such as Hinagiku and Isumi are featured prominently. The new characters are also interesting in their own rights; Tsumugi brings a klutzy brand of mischief with more long-lasting repurcussions than the usual pranks of other side characters (which is a frequent source of comedy at the expense of Hayate’s typical bad luck). Still, the most welcome addition to the cast is the inclusion of a true antagonist. This is, again, a thrilling departure from the usual slice-of-life harem comedy found in earlier seasons.
There’s only one thing that really bothered me about Season 3: the English. Since a large part of the series takes place in America, the script calls for real English dialogue. It’s not an issue for non-native English speakers, but the thick Japanese accents were a bit distracting for me personally. I’m sure that the original Japanese audience found it much more entertaining and exotic.
Though a new Hayate no Gotoku season is coming this April, I’m still not sure if it will pick back up after the original Season 2 or continue with a new storyline. In either case, after seeing Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, I feel confident enough in the Manglobe pedigree that it will meet my expectations as a die-hard fan of the Hayate no Gotoku series. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You might be a little hit or miss, but it’s far from the trainwreck that I was expecting. In fact, I enjoyed it thoroughly!
Character Ranking – Hayate no Gotoku: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
- Sanzenin Nagi
- Tsumugi Ruri
- Ayasaki Hayate
- Katsura Hinagiku