Here's an anime series I've been watching on and off over the past few months. It's currently 52 episodes long, with another season already confirmed.
Hayate no Gotoku has a pretty large cast of characters, but many of them appear infrequently, or are only mentioned, much to their disappointment. Yes, this is an anime that br
eaks the fourth wall constantly, with characters complaining about how very little screentime they get, or chastising others for doing things that may not go so well with their audience.
Among this large cast, there is of course a group of major characters. At the helm are the three in the picture: Hayate in the top left, Maria in the top right, and Nagi in front of them.
Hayate is an incredibly unfortunate guy who, despite his kind, humble nature and hard working personality, can't seem to catch a break. Right at the beginning of the first episode, he returns home to find that his irresponsible parents have screwed up financially and fled, leaving a debt of 150,000,000 yen (Over $1,500,000) on Hayate's shoulder's. What's more, they attempted to ease this debt buy selling Hayate's organs to the local Yakuza. Overwhelmed, Hayate reluctantly decides to try kidnapping someone for ransom. He soon meets Nagi Sanzenin, a young, very rich girl at a vending machine, and decides to take her. Nagi mistakes his words ("Come with me") as a love confession, and invitation to a date, and quickly falls in love with him, with disheartens Hayate from trying to kidnap her. The Yakuza track Hayate down, however, and try to kidnap Nagi, but Hayate protects her, which leads her to offer him a job as her butler, so that he can pay back his debt. All of this happens in one episode, by the way.
Like I said, Hayate is a real nice guy, and tries his best to not trouble whoever he meets. He bears no hostility towards anyone, until they attempt to hurt Nagi. Then he eradicates them. Hayate is also inexplicably powerful. In fact, at times, he seems invincible. Rescueing Nagi in the first episode, he gets hit by a car and gets right back up. He can ride a bicycle at speeds that would shame a rocket powered car, while towing a large carriage. He's incredibly fast, can jump to extreme heights, and has a wide arsenal of talents, including art authentication, fly fishing, proficiency with firearms, and excellent cooking and cleaning skills. He also seems to have some skill at DBZ style energy attacks, and eventually develops an ultimate technique. He's also known to be able to defeat Tama (the Sanzenin's extremely large white tiger) with his bare hands. However, having had little time for education trying to keep him and his parents off the street, Hayate struggles with school, and throughout the series, just barely manages to get by with passing marks. Though he's noted for his kind personality, Nagi and a select few other characters who have a crush on him are constantly frustrated by his complete and utter lack of understanding of the female mind, staying completely oblivious to just about every flirt and advance that's made to him. Naturally, he earns kicks and punches from these girls on a regular basis because of it. Because of his apparent inability to say no to requests, Hayate is treated as chump by many characters, who either look down on him or see him as a well to slack off. Nagi and Maria also believe Hayate looks feminine, and frequently force him to cross dress, usually as a cat girl.
As Hayate nervously takes his leave, Nagi is saying "Dang, he got away."
Notice Maria is holding a High School girl's disguise.
Nagi Sanzenin is the rich heir to the Sanzenin family fortune. Her funds seem nearly limitless, which is shown by her mansion, her extremely large estate (which has a built in theme park, lake, and forest), the large monument she had erected for Hayate when he passed his final exams, and her education. Nagi attends the prestigious Hakou Acedemy, which supposedly is extremely rigorous. She's had extensive singing lessons, and knows several languages. Through her help, Hayate is also able to attend Hakou. Nagi is the perfect example of a tsundere (that is, a girl who is extremely fierce on the outside, but soft on the inside, put simply). She is competitive, and has a fiery temper, but is quick to blush whenever Hayate unknowingly says or does something she interprets as being out love. She is also a huge nerd. Though she somehow has perfect grades, Nagi very rarely goes to school, usually skipping it, in favor of staying home to play videogames, watch anime, and read manga. She's especially knowledgeable about mecha series, namely Gundam, and is even drawing her own manga, though it doesn't make much sense. A running gag throughout the series is Nagi's horrible cooking and cleaning skills. Though her cooking skills begin to improve towards the end of the series, early on, anyone taste testing her meals probably had a death wish. She can't even make a cup ramen.
Nagi is quick to get angry.
Nagi's maid and Hayate's friend and advisor is Maria, a young 17 year old who is wise and mature beyond her years. In fact, many characters instinctively see her as being as old as she acts, to her frustration. Maria is perhaps the only character in the series who understands just about everything that goes on, including the relationship between Nagi and Hayate. She is a trustworthy and knowledgeable character, who helps Hayate out on numerous occasions. Like Hayate, she is skilled at self defense and house keeping, but unlike him, is also highly intelligent. Maria is noted for having graduated from Hakou at the top of her class at the age of 13, receiving many awards and maintaining the position of student body president along the way. No matter what happens throughout the show, Maria is generally there to keep things from getting out of hand. Hayate is occasionally shown to have a small crush on her, which she appears to be unaware of.
Other major characters include Hinagiku, Saki and Wataru, Isumi, Sakuya, and Ayuma Nishizawa. Hinagiku is a classmate of Hayate and Nagi, and also student body president and captain of the kendo team. She's very responsible and dedicated to her job, has a competitive personality, a fierce fear of heights, and a crush on Hayate. It may also be worth noting that she's the only person to whom Hayate has shown feelings back.
Saki and Wataru run a rental shop called Tachibana. Though Wataru's family used to be rich, they fell bankrupt. He is engaged to Nagi, but the two have no feelings for each other since it was arranged before they were born. Wataru believes the engagement was made only for the money. Saki is Wataru's maid, and looks out for him.
Isumi is the heir to another rich family. She has an absolutely terrible sense of direction, which leads her to get lost almost constantly. She is able to dispel spirits with spell tags, and shows surprising combat ability.
Sakuya is perhaps my favorite character in the series. She's obsessed with stand up comedy, and makes jabs constantly, challenging other characters to recognize them (namely Hayate). She is on good terms with everyone in the series, and has known many of the major characters for a long time. She's also rich (rich enough to buy a huge Titanic replica to take a cruise on), but not as much as Nagi. Though she mostly looks down on Hayate, she is occasionally impressed by his abilities, and gives him advice sometimes.
Nishizawa is an old friend of Hayate's who went to the same school as him before he became a butler. She is considered to be the epitome of "normalness". To figure out how to be normal, Nagi hangs out with her for a day, to her dismay. Like Nagi, Nishizawa has an intense crush on Hayate, and the two often compete over him (though he remains oblivious to both of them.). Nishizawa appears in every episode of the series for at least a couple seconds, usually doing something completely unrelated to the plot of the episode, and almost always eating something.
As you can guess, Hayate no Gotoku is a love comedy, with references from various elements of Japanese culture thrown in on a frequent basis, especially anime and manga, and most often mecha series such as Gundam, Evangelion, and Guren Lagann. Some are more obvious than others, but seriously, an otaku would be at home here. Given Nagi's vast fortunes and large imagination, lots of wacky misadventures tend to occur as she tries to capture Hayate's love.
Besides the bond between Nagi and Hayate, the anime has no long term plot. Though the characters do remember major past events, each episode generally has its own plot. Its a bit of a slog watching episodes back to back, but each one has its laughs, and is fairly entertaining. I liked the series as a whole pretty well.