Basically, it is your job as a writer to figuratively "hook" the audience's attention from the very start so that they will continue to read your story. Additionally, proponents of the narrative hook from the EVN Circles, would often claim that it is your fault as a writer if your reader loses interest in your work and doesn't give it a chance to get to the plot twist or climax.
At that time (and at this time still), I thought that it was a very consumerist approach towards literature and storytelling. They were basically saying that you have to give the readers what they want or you are a failure as a writer.
This was really counter-intuitive for me because I had personally grown up around and come to love a lot of stories that never relied on hooks. There were times when I'd read a story that seemed rather lackluster at the beginning, but only to be surprised by a plot twist near the end of the story that totally changed my perception. I didn't need a narrative hook to keep me going... and I know that a lot of other readers out there still feel the same.
With that said, I will not argue that if you plan to sell your works to a mainstream market and survive in said market; then flexibility, adaptability and willingness to flow with emerging trends is a must in modern times.
Which brings me to the point of this entire article: instant gratification. In the modern world run by hyperactive adult children with short attention spans catering to other hyperactive adult children with short attention spans and fueled primarily by instant gratification, the narrative hook has really found its home. I'm not sure who or what movements are to blame for this atrocity, but in modern times, it is often the creator, the person who put in the actual effort in order to make something, who is found to be "accountable" for the target audience who "support" his/her work. If your creation falls short of the personal standards of your audience, then it is your job to kowtow to these standards.
For example, take this scenario: Imagine if you were feeling bored and decided to download a free game on your phone. The game you decided to install was more or less well put together, but somehow, it didn't amuse you as much as you would have liked it to. Naturally, this is a travesty that must be corrected. You were bored and this totally free game that you spent five minutes of your life on has failed to deliver in its promise to entertain you!
So what do you do? Of course, you'd type a scathing review of the game on its download page like so. "LOL! Worst game ever. I was bored to tears. Stay far away unless you want a substitute for sleeping pills. Playing with your phone's calculator is far more entertaining than this pile of garbage."
Now let's set that aside for a moment and talk about the females of Hayate no Gotoku!
What sets Nagi apart from other more "deserving females" like Hinagiku and Athena?
Well, it is pretty obvious if you look at them based on how they were introduced in the series. Just listing stats out from the top of my head so let's take a look.
In any case, one thing becomes obvious here: Nagi will never win in an instant gratification contest. She is a heroine with no truly remarkable redeeming qualities at the start (especially in comparison to other "more deserving females") who needs to be given time to develop and come into her own -- which she does quite remarkably as the story progresses and she becomes more and more of an ideal girl for Hayate. All of her character development then culminates in a picture-perfect ending wherein the boy finally notices the girl who has been pining away for him all this time.
In conclusion, I believe that the reason that Nagi is oft-considered the worst choice among Hayate's pseudo harem is because she was written for a type of reader from a different generation (It has been 13 years since the series first debuted). She is a bit like the proverbial diamond in the rough -- seemingly crude and unappealing at a glance, but infinitely beautiful after being cut and polished to perfection.
Unfortunately, she will never appeal to the smartphone generation who will accept nothing beyond instant gratification and what can be seen skin-deep...
See you next week!
It was my birthday yesterday, so here is a special video presentation.