The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Hayate no Gotoku! 2nd Season

Title: Hayate no Gotoku! 2nd Season aka Hayate the Combat Butler 2nd Season
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 4 Apr 2009 – 19 Sep 2009

Synopsis: The Hakuou Academy marathon meet is coming up, and although Sanzinen Nagi is eager to avoid it, her maid, Maria insists that she participate.  A session on the training track, guided by Hayate, shows how unfit Nagi is, but Klaus, the chief butler, puts Nagi’s sloth-like state on Hayate’s head.  Nagi, upset by Klaus’ words, makes a bet that Hayate can turn her into an athlete capable of finishing the marathon first… the stake of this wager is Hayate’s job.

The Highlights
Comedy: The sardonic, witty meta-humour is replaced with character gags and heavy moe; occasionally becomes silly and overly random.
Romance: Convoluted and generic; goes nowhere.
Characters: Don’t have enough depth to carry the romance; character development virtually bounces off them.
Fanservice: A highlight… relative to the rest of the show.
Theme songs: Hard edged J-pop OP and ED songs are grating.

The concept of sequels are often maligned in Western media, seen frequently as a cheap way to profit from an unexpected or popular hit.  Anime, in comparison, has a reasonable track record with sequels, but if there’s one genre in particular that struggles with them, it’s comedy.  And if there’s one studio that continually mishandles them, it’s J.C. Staff.  The second time around for Hayate no Gotoku! is a lackluster, if unsurprising effort, where almost every sense of ambitious humour and sharp wit has been stripped away in favour of benign moe fanservice and a romantic plotline which moves like molasses.  To put it bluntly, the first season of Hayate no Gotoku! was making fun of the go-nowhere shounen rom-com, but this season is the go-nowhere shounen rom-com.

That’s not to say Hayate no Gotoku! has completely lost its ability to be funny, because occasionally it is.  Meta-humour is where Hayate no Gotoku! is at its cleverest, and this season imparts well timed pokes at the likes of Suzumiya Haruhi(1,2), Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Evangelion.  But the references just don’t come with the same frequency or even relevance as they do in the first season.  The meta-humour is toned down severely, meaning the comedy has to rely more on character gags… which, after more than fifty episodes, have been well worn.  The dry spells of genuine comedy are filled in with long sequences of the girls “cosplaying”, either wearing frilly getups or maid outfits or nurse “disguises”.  It’s unashamed moe fanservice, and says little for this series’ wit that it has to be described as one of its highlights.

The romantic component of this show has come to prominence, but there are a number of things about it that make it difficult to take seriously.  The first is how convoluted it is: there are something like eight different girls that show some level of romantic interest in Hayate, and given how Hayate’s feminine attributes are also played up, he, along with any of these girls, are basically wish-fulfillment targets for the audience.  The way Hayate refuses to favour or commit to any one girl (even after 78 episodes) makes the show receptive to fanboy shipping by design, but the relationships are further hurt by the fact that none of them have any genuine depth or meaning.  Whenever an attempt to add depth to the relationships or characters is made, it comes off as forced, and it never seems to quite gel with the characters’ original (albeit simplistic) personalities.  These did, after all, start out as gag characters, so it was probably always going to be tricky to make them at least seem dynamic.

I’ve always thought it was interesting to compare Hayate no Gotoku! with School Rumble as both have similar ideas about the conventions of the rom-com genre.  But what School Rumble has that Hayate no Gotoku! sorely lacks are characters worth caring about.  It means School Rumble’s rare serious moments fit seamlessly into the narrative and, as intended, leave the audience wanting more.  School Rumble failed to fulfill its potential because its plot and pacing were terrible, so its great characters were wasted.  Hayate no Gotoku’s characters work well in a parody of series like School Rumble, but the attempts at character development in this season have simply bounced off the characters, and they were shown to be only slightly less vacuous than they were in the first season, where their depthless nature was deliberate.  This is for fans of moe fanservice; romance and comedy fans should look elsewhere.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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