J.C.Staff Spring Shows

Hayate the Combat Butler 2nd Season

First Love Limited

Here’s how to watch good anime:

1) Find out what shows J.C.Staff is running this season.
2) Watch them.

Works for me!

Sure, you’ll occasionally run into a Louise or two that may make you question the wisdom of this method (feel free to drop those shows like flaming sockpuppets) but more often than not you’ll be rewarded with Nodame, or Toradora, or Shigofumi, or Potemayo.

Hayate Season 1 anime character designs

Back when Hayate the Combat Butler’s first season was running, the producers at J.C.Staff asked themselves, “Wait, why on earth is someone else doing this show? All the Kugimiya are supposed to belong to us!” So they obtained the contract for the second season, and gave it to Yoshiaki Iwasaki to direct. Mr. Iwasaki is the director of The Familiar of Zero (the first season, before the subsequent seasons descended into hell under a different director), as well as Skygirls and Bottle Fairy. He knows his lolis.

This series is now in the hands of J.C.Staff, where it truly belongs.

The first order of business was to make the character designs cuter and more brightly colored. What on earth is Jason talking about when he says J.C.Staff’s animation isn’t up to the level of Synergy’s? It could be that he means the consistency of the character models or the smoothness of the motion are better (I’ll have to rewatch the first season to make sure), but really, when it comes to character designs, the J.C.Staff ones are better.

Nagi from Hayate the Combat Butler manga volume 6, where the second season begins

The first season was more true to the manga in terms of visuals, but the manga character designs suffered from an imbalance in the face and portions of the anatomy, especially in the early volumes. I think people complained about the new designs because they got used to the old. Trust me on this, I’m an art school graduate and I am not at all biased against Synergy.

Hayate Season 2 anime character designs

Really, doesn’t this look so much better?

The second season begins with an OVA designed to reintroduce the characters. I lost interest in the first season when I found out it was going to be 50+ episodes with a lot of filler, but now that J.C.Staff is in control, it’s right back to the source… for now. In case you missed the OVA, the second season begins with the freestyle marathon from the beginning of Volume 6 of the manga.

After head butler Klaus suggests that Hayate is being a bad butler because his master Nagi is out of shape, Nagi makes a deal with him. Hayate will be fired unless he can train Nagi enough to win the race. But the race in question is the freestyle marathon, so named because you can win by beating up or outwitting your rivals instead of just outrunning them. And the participants form teams of two, meaning a partner gets to make up for his partner’s deficiencies.

I won’t spoil the outcome for you, but the episode sticks pretty close to the source, and the source isn’t a liability at times like it was with Magical Index (also a J.C.Staff show). And where it diverges from the source it makes sense. In the manga, Klaus helped Hayate by “fighting” another combat butler who tried to keep Hayate and Nagi from winning the race. But Klaus was trying to get Hayate fired, so it was okay to cut that scene from the anime. Another divergence came because this was the first episode, so characters who weren’t in the manga chapter had cameos in the anime as a reintroduction. Some people thought the reintroductions hurt the pacing, but I didn’t see a problem. It’s not like it was Indexified or anything.

The best jokes remained, and they were still funny. Watch it yourself and see.

Chibi Koyoi and Nao from First Love Limited

J.C.Staff’s other show this season is adapted from Mizuki Kawashita (author of Lilim Kiss and Strawberry 100%)’s manga First Love Limited, a tangled school love comedy in which A likes B but B likes C and so on to confusion. And like in Strawberry 100%, the manga contained touching moments and a message that would have been very effective if it hadn’t been buried under harem moments and gratuitous fanservice. While people complained about Strawberry 100% ending with Tsukasa instead of Aya, I read all the way to the end and reasoned that the Tsukasa ending had a stronger message: the girl Junpei ended up with was the one he chose himself, not the girl who a chance encounter and compatible talents chose for him.

So what the first episode of First Love Limited doing right? It takes the focus away from the fanservice and puts it into the love and friendship story. While the fanservice is there, only in one instance in Episode 1 (Ayumi and Yuji) does it seem gratuitous. The togetherness of the five middle school girls seems to be much stronger in the anime, with them supporting each other and deciding to do things for the sake of their friends. The opening sequence, while unremarkable in terms of music and visuals, supports the theme of togetherness very strongly.

The First Love Limited manga, which ran in Shonen Jump, was cancelled, leading to a rushed ending that did not resolve certain story threads successfully. And that will be the biggest challenge for J.C.Staff to overcome. But the manga ending, which involves the boys of the cast (yes, there are as many boys in the cast as there are girls) showing that they can hang together just like the girls, has potential to be good despite its inconclusiveness.

The Zaitsu brothers, both rather nice guys.

The characters, even the monstrous Misao, the brother-loving Koyoi, and the perverted Kusuda, grow less repulsive and more endearing with time. The art and story are drawing comparisons to Kimikiss, a show where J.C.Staff (and Honey & Clover director Kenichi Kasai) took liberties with the story and cast in order to turn a dating game with a single male lead into a complex, realistic love drama about “inexperience and ignorance creating situations where someone has to get hurt.” And while the fanservice levels and slapstick of First Love Limited will separate it from Kimikiss, if treated properly it may turn out to be dramatic and touching in the same way.

As long as my contract with them has lasted, I’ve never been through a year that hasn’t had a good series from J.C.Staff. And although neither Hayate the Combat Butler 2nd Season or First Love Limited seems like it will reach Toradora or Potemayo levels of rocking, they’ve both started off well enough to justify hopes that they will be quite good.

One Response to “J.C.Staff Spring Shows”

  1. Illusice says:

    Hmm… I got bored of Hayate fillers, but I guess I should watch the 2nd season. K-On is surprisingly funny, and it’s got moeblobs. I’m also watching the video game adaptions Valkyria Chronicles and Tears to Tiara (which also happen to have beautifully animated…), as well as Phantom.

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