The Hayate no Gotoku! (or Hayate the Combat Butler, if you’d prefer) anime franchise has a bit of an odd history. It started out as a 52 episode series by SynergySP, got a 25 episode sequel of sorts from JC Staff that starts from episode 19 of the first series (allegedly following the manga more closely), and once that ended it got handed off onto Manglobe, who made a (quite poorly received) film titled Hayate no Gotoku! Heaven Is a Place on Earth. The move to Manglobe was not much-liked, as the art style changed dramatically and it was just a bit crap. Apparently. I’ve personally only seen up until around episode 21 of the first series, and it’s been stuck on my ‘on-hold’ list ever since.
As you might understand, the announcement for Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You didn’t do much for me initially, as it was a sequel and all that. However, when it was stated to be an original story that doesn’t tie directly to the previous instalments, I perked up. I really enjoyed what I had seen of the first series, with its diverse and entertaining cast and fast-paced, often referential humour. As this new series didn’t require much, if any, knowledge of the previous series, it couldn’t hurt to try it out and jump back into the franchise, right?
I’m just going to come out and say it: Hayate no Gotoku! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You was a disappointment at best, and a complete waste of my time at worst.
How so? Well, everything I enjoyed about the bit of the first season I had seen was basically not there anymore. The humour was nowhere near as fast-paced and fell flat most of the time, the references were almost completely gone, the art had was pretty unattractive, and there was a ton of poorly executed drama. It was just a mess. But perhaps this is unfair – maybe what I saw thus far of the first series wasn’t representative of the franchise as a whole. So instead, let’s judge it by its own merits.
The plot begins with a young girl called Tsugumi, who claims to be Nagi’s long-lost sister. This may or may not be a lie, but either way she’s after the Black Camellia, the treasure of the Sanzenin family! This gets protracted out until everyone ends up in Las Vegas, whereupon they fight the mastermind behind all this, a giant tree (ok fine it’s a dryad but it doesn’t make this any less stupid). Turns out the Black Camellia is magical or something, idk. Along the way there’s a bunch of drama about Nagi and her father, Tsugumi finally making some friends, and Nagi and Hayate having an odd falling out (that isn’t really one but nevermind).
I did not care one bit about what was happening. The plot was too unfocused, with many slice-of-life-y moments mixed in throughout most of the series for me to feel that any stakes were being raised right up until just before the climaxes, and any character development that should have happened during those moments to make me care at least about the cast just… didn’t really happen. Nobody really changed or grew in any important fashion. But then it tried to bring in dramatic moments where we were meant to feel sorry for the characters or whatever, but without the established attachment, they utterly failed.
So the narrative and characters suck. What about the comedy? Well, that sucks too. There are very few laughs to be had. Either the jokes are rehashes of old jokes in the series (see: the entire first episode), or they’re just not very funny. Hard to quantify exactly why, all I know is that I rarely laughed.
And of course, the art sucked. You can see for yourself the unappealing character designs, courtesy of Manglobe. Also bears mentioning that the animation was crappy too. Very cheap. Music follows the same pattern, but at least is only unmemorable.
So with all these complaints, why did I bother to keep watching? Why not just drop it and spare myself the trouble? Well, early on there were enough decent moments in each episode to keep me at least mildly amused, enough actually funny bits to get a few solid laughs out of me. But it was still very uneven. At around the halfway mark, there was a surprisingly good episode, where Nagi, Hayate, Tsugumi and whoever else end up visiting various anime, manga and videogame shops. Easily one of the stronger ones thus far. I thought to myself, if the next episode is as good as this one, I’ll carry on watching; else, I’ll drop it. And the next one, which took place more or less entirely in a restaurant, was legitimately hilarious. And that was enough to convince me, and I admittedly regret it.
You can probably tell by the writing in this review, but I really don’t care for this series. It was boring to watch, and I’m not enjoying trying to remember details about it to write this. I mean, it’s now like it’s atrocious or unwatchable, it’s just very mediocre. There are a few laughs to be had here and there, and the final two episodes were arguably the highlight of the actual narrative, but for the most part it was just a tedious slog. Makes me think twice about ever revisiting the first series now.