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December 20, 2012 / Bradley

12 Days of Anime: Hayate the Combat Butler Season 3: You’re Not Recommending Anime, You’re Just Being An Asshole

12 Days of Anime is a project about anime in 2012 from bloggers where they post their favorite moments in anime starting on the 14th, posting every day until Christmas. I hope my subscribers enjoyed yesterday’s exclusive Days post. “What post?” you say. If you have to ask, you haven’t given me enough money yet. 

Untitled

I was informed shortly after enthusing about the third season on Twitter that the new Hayate the Combat Butler was disliked by most of the franchise’s fans. It seemed to be some combination of being poorly animated, being a follow-up from the also poorly-received Hayate the Combat Butler: Heaven is a Place on Earth from the same studio, and a litany of other grievances that becoming pettier the longer the list gets. I was left with the impression that I might be the only human being enjoying this cartoon. It’s quite a burden to be the sole man responsible for finding a moment in Hayate to write about for a Days post, but I managed, in part because the show itself was a decent drama I enjoyed week-in week-out, but also this week’s moment had some real bite.

The first season of Hayate made lots of gratuitous references to other anime, manga and video games as “jokes,” and in a show that didn’t actually have jokes, that probably would have made it yet another shit stain on the embarrassing dirty underwear that is “otaku humor cartoons.” But it was good with the jokes, and after another season focused on romance and another focused on drama, I was ready for more of those jokes, even if I struggled to remember the elaborate in-jokes it had built over 70 episodes and a manga I had never read. And against all odds- the anime, despite being an original story, kept the elaborate in-jokes without explanation- I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The highlight for me was when WHO IS IMOTOU? contestant Tsumugi, in an attempt to get closer to her otaku sister Nagi, decides to try to get to know her by learning about the only things she really cares about: anime, manga, and video games. This triggers some “conversations” with her and a few of her otaku friends you might have had before.

With some true-to-life observational humor, Nagi’s attempt to explain the appeal of anime convey her enthusiasm but mostly leaves poor Tsumugi confused. Regarding a giant robot anime, Nagi explain, “Goddannar 5 was revolutionary because it barely moved!” “Oh,” responds a puzzled Tsumugi. Nagi is lost in her own head and disconnected from pop culture at large that a good-hearted attempt to explain the appeal of her hobbies falls flat, then digresses into an argument with her friends about which manga by a very obscure author should “manga fans.” Note the assumption that just by expressing interest, Tsumugi willing to dive into the deep end of fandom with old, obscure robots and manga about the struggle to make manga. Note as well that nobody really takes to the time to figure out what Tsumugi would like about anime or games, so they just throw out whatever they’re liking at the moment. Yeah, I’ve done all this before when I worked retail and hung out with friends. Self-effacing otaku humor isn’t new, and occasionally is a new source of lazy “jokes,” but when it hits close to home, I have to wince.

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3 Comments

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  1. Shinmaru / Dec 20 2012 11:07 pm

    This is something I think about a lot when recommending shows in general and in particular for the Secret Santa thing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of throwing out all your favorite shows, but it’s more rewarding for me when I can see what people enjoy in their silly foreign cartoons and come up with something that fits that, whether it’s one of my absolute favorites or not. And I like when people put in that level of thought when recommending things to me. It’s not always possible, of course (that’s the big challenge in Secret Santa, after all — barely any context!), but hey.

  2. BokuSatchii / Dec 21 2012 1:27 am

    I stopped following this series around the halfway point when I accidentally forgot to watch the new episode one week, and decided to put it off for later when I’m not following seventeen other shows. Sure, it’s not the most uproariously hilarious thing on the planet, and it may not be quite in the same vein as the older Hayate series (I wouldn’t know – it’s been so long since I watched them), but I don’t see where all the hate is coming from. It gave me a couple smiles each episode and that’s all I really signed up for.

    Recommending shows to someone is a really hard thing to do. Giving a good recommendation requires you to really think about what you liked about the show at a level beyond what you normally would. If I went around recommending my favorites to everyone, I’d be trying to shove Texhnolyze down their throats when, realistically, the vast majority of people will not like Texhnolyze nearly as much as I do. I’d rather have helped someone pick a show that they like than a show that I like. Even better is if it’s a show that they like that they might not have thought to watch before – if I have some knowledge of their tastes, I might be able to find a fit where they, not having seen the show, would not. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten good at this after running a reasonably successful university anime club for a few years, but there’s always ways to improve. The satisfaction of having introduced someone to a show that they can love is what makes it all worth it. If it’s also something you love and it lets you have these kinds of crazy conversations about the deeply obscure parts of the culture afterwards, all the better!

    I was probably much prouder than I should have been that I understood the “Blazing Transfer Student” reference in that episode.

  3. schneider / Dec 21 2012 11:12 am

    Most people miss the point of recommendations. It should be about something the person might like. Otherwise it’s just vanity. In my experience, mecha fans are especially problematic at these because the average mecha fan’s response is to write down an entire grocery list of mecha anime to watch without worrying if the poor person would be overwhelmed. So I guess it hits close to home for me, too.

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