Title: Hayate the Combat Butler (Hayate no Gotoku)
Air Dates: 1 April 2007 – 30 March 2008
Synopsis: Hayate Ayasaki has the world’s worst luck. Born to unemployed parents who are also reckless gamblers, money was always short in spite of Hayate’s earnest efforts to help keep the family afloat. His efforts remain unappreciated and his debt-ridden parents, in an act of ultimate sacrifice, decide to sell his organs to a group of yakuza to relieve themselves of debt. Desperate and with very few options left, Hayate sees an opportunity in the form Nagi Sanzenin, a very wealthy girl, and decides to kidnap her and hold her for ransom. However he botches the attempt, and crestfallen, he walks off only to see Nagi get kidnapped by another group. To atone for his attempted misdeed, Hayate pursues the kidnappers and succeeds in saving Nagi. As a reward, Hayate gets the honor of becoming Nagi’s newest butler.
- The cast is large, but all of the characters are likeable
- Comedy is handled well and features a lot of fourth-wall destruction
- There are a few stretches where the series slows down significantly
- Plot and character relationships move as quickly as molasses
Review: One of the biggest issues with comedies that go on for such lengths is that the possibility for the series to run out of steam is just really high. Typically what happens is that the show would inevitably start out really strong with some of its best material and jokes only to see its quality slide gradually until it becomes a steaming wreck. Hayate the Combat Butler is not completely immune to this phenomenon, but while it does have stretches where things become dull and unfunny (like the Nabeshin episode), the show manages to make a decent recovery each time and overall, ends up being a competently-executed, entertaining comedy.
What makes Hayate the Combat Butler such a delight to watch is its characters. With such a huge cast, the chance of a lame and boring character existing is also really high, but the series manages to avoid that by making the characters generally likeable and, in some cases, endearing. Klaus, the head butler, and Tama the tiger are just absolutely hilarious as the leading comedy duo and every scene in which they appear is just that much funnier while characters like Maria, Nishizawa, and Hinagiku serve as the show’s more endearing characters. And of course, Hayate himself manages to endear himself by bearing the brunt of the gags and abuse, but doing so in a very good-natured, lovable manner. The point is that you would have to look really hard to find a character who you would find unlikable.
While the characters are fun to watch, the plot is a whole different matter. Viewers looking for any substantial plot or relationship developments will be disappointed. The reason for that is because a significant part of Hayate’s comedy is derived from the misunderstanding in the relationship between Hayate and Nagi. To have their relationship make any major strides would to deprive the show of its main source of laughs, which means that at the end of every episode, the writers are careful to restore the relationships as close to the way it was when the episode began as they possibly can. As such, expect any and all plot and relationship advancements to move along as quickly as thick molasses.
The decision to have the plot and relationships move at such a snail’s pace may have been for the best because the comedy is executed well. Hayate’s comedy covers the spectrum from parodying other anime series like Kenshin, Yu-Gi-Oh and Inu Yasha, to slapstick (at Hayate’s expense), to the use of situational irony. In addition to that, one of the biggest targets of humor is the show itself. They frequently make fun of themselves by gleefully pointing out all of the plot holes and admitting anything that the viewers could notice and point out. In doing so, they completely destroy the fourth wall, but the show’s sense of self-awareness is what makes it all the more amusing.
At the end of the day, the mark of a good comedy is its ability to make me laugh. Hayate the Combat Butler, in spite of its shortcomings, was able to deliver humor in spades. The series is unique in that despite the number of episodes, it has incredible staying power through its endearing characters and its clever, self-aware approach to comedy. While the humor they utilize is nowhere close to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei’s level of complexity, it allows Hayate to do a better job of appealing to a wider audience making for an enjoyable viewing experience overall.