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ANIME REVIEW | “Can’t Take My Eyes Off” Latest “Combat Butler” Series

By
Posted on November 21, 2012 AT 08:49am

If there is one thing I can always count on, it’s big laughs from Kenjiro Hata’s creation Hayate the Combat Butler. Starting off as a hilarious manga, it spawned two equally-funny anime series and a good (but not great) movie that followed the misadventures of the debt-ridden butler Hayate, the young Nagi, and the wise young Maria. This past October a new series began airing entitled Hayate the Combat Butler!: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, which instead of following the manga has an entirely original story created by Hata with elements that didn’t make it into the manga.

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

In a scene straight out of The Hangover the show begins in Las Vegas, where Nagi is all alone in a broken-down car and her butler nowhere to be found. After screaming at a cactus and hurting herself in a comedic trifecta it’s revealed that Hayate is no longer her butler. How it happens is not yet explained, as the show then flashes back to a couple weeks before the event in Nevada. Maria receives a call from America, with news of Nagi’s late father’s belongings being discovered in Vegas. Nagi at first doesn’t seem to care much about going to collect her dad’s things, until a young girl named Ruri appears to her and Hayate claiming to be her little sister.

Soon Ruri reveals to Nagi that her real agenda is to find something of her father’s called the Black Camellia. After a bitter phone call with her grandfather it comes to find out that the Black Camellia is a cursed clock that her father Shin Hayek had stolen from the Sanzenin family household before he died in America. As the events unfold the pop singer Ruka Suirenji leaves foreboding and cryptic limericks that may hold a key to who Ruri is, and what sort of power the Black Camellia truly holds.

The main storyline in Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is shaded in a much different tone than in previous Hayate storylines, as the back stories behind Nagi’s family tend to have some darker elements that fans of the manga and the original anime series may be taken aback by. Does it cause a sort of maturing of both the characters and the world they live in? Surprisingly yes. Nagi, who in the past has taken the lessons she learns from her past actions and forgets them quicker than an Alzheimer’s patient, begins to mature as a person, even growing to appreciate the company of Ruri after she saves her life. It shows that she is able to take care of herself without the aid of Hayate so long as she has the willpower to do it, even though “willpower” usually is no friend to the lazy teenager.

Just because the characters seem to mature doesn’t mean the laughs come far and few between; in fact the comedy comes in many great forms in Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. Before the episode starts the show is bookended with some fourth-wall-breaking skits involving Hayate and some of the secondary characters, ranging from quick quiz shows to teachers being outsmarted by her equally-dumb students. The addition of Ruri as a character also helps push the comedic elements of the show. In one great example Ruri wants to get closer to Nagi, so she tries to get into the things she likes such as video games and manga. What happens afterwards leaves her broke and scarred for life. (Her reaction to the R18 manga section is not only one of the best punchlines to the show, it’s a bit of a Boondocks-like jab at the otaku that made Hayate a popular series.)

With Manglobe animating the show Hayate and the rest of the cast have reverted back to Hata’s original character designs. Some have complained about the way the characters look compared to the past anime series, but if one were to compared the original manga to the third series you will notice how closely it resembles one another. It’s a fan base quibble that should not exist in the first place, as Can’t Take My Eyes Off You is more akin to the original source drawings than the first two series. (Some may remember that soon after the first anime began airing in 2007 Hata had redesigned the characters in the manga so they matched more with the cartoon.)

As always the cast of Hayate the Combat Butler brings their A-game, with their joke delivery and vocal expressions as strong as series past. Unfortunately the one character that’s missing from the new series is the one that made the original Hayate series what it was: the narration by Norio Wakamoto. His bickering at the other characters (and in some occasions with them) was a hallmark in seasons one and two, so it’s a real shame that they couldn’t find a way to fit him with the new series. It’s like taking out a couple discs out of the anime’s backbone, and finding out that the replacement discs don’t fit. Here in season three Hayate provides most of the narration, and while he (or she, as he’s voiced by female seiyuu Ryōko Shiraishi) can be funny he lacks the attitude and smirk-inducing punchlines that Wakamoto delivered with ease.

Despite the loss of one of one of the funniest elements of the show, Hayate the Combat Butler!: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You still knows how to get you smiling, laughing, and above all a great feeling of being entertained by the characters and storylines. Seven episodes in, and the show continues to mix its humor and dark turn of events into a tasty morsel that any anime fan can eat with delight. Did I mention it has one hell of an end theme by Ruka’s seiyuu Haruka Yamazaki?

Story: 9.5/10
Animation: 9/10
Seiyuu (voice actors/actresses): 10/10
Soundtrack: 8/10
Final Grade: 9.5/10

Hayate the Combat Butler! Can’t Take My Eyes Off You can be viewed on Crunchyroll.

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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