Hayate the Combat Butler (Seasons 1-3)
Original Series (Seasons 1 + 2):
Hayate Ayasaki's parents are the most irresponsible in the world- they borrowed 150 million yen from the yakuza, blew it all, and ran away, leaving poor Hayate responsible for the debt. Fortunately, Hayate encounters Nagi Sanzenin, an heiress who has the cash to get him out of trouble, as long as he's willing to be her butler for the period it'll take him to pay her back- about 40 years or so. Still, Hayate's cheerful, strong, and somehow nearly invulnerable, and that, plus his complete dedication to his new mistress, can (probably) get him through somehow, in spite of yakuza, robots, aliens, and a talking tiger, not to mention the myriad accidents Hayate seems prone to.
Can't Take My Eyes Off You:
A mysterious little girl claims to be Nagi's little sister, but Nagi finds her suspicious from the start. However, this all reopens some lingering questions Nagi had about her long-dead biological father, who her grandfather always refers to disparagingly.
I was looking up some background info on Nurse Witch Komugi R, and decided to research the director, Kawaguchi Keiichiro. I found out that he'd previously directed the weak Nyan Koi!(2009), and the absolutely odious OniAi (2012); but he'd also done THIS show (actually the first, and I finally felt the better, season of it), so I started watching it. And I kept watching it, and asked to do a review (since the site didn't have one), because I thought the show was often genuinely hilarious, some of its oddball cast of (mostly) female characters charming (though sometimes in rather bizarre ways), and its situations, from time to time, kind of touching. Yes, I admit, for all that it's still mostly a silly harem comedy on the surface; but the good things here impressed me quite a bit, and compelled me to continue watching with the Can't Take My Eyes Off You series, which turned out to be a nice complement to the original series.
Of course, a lot of folks are turned off by Nagi Sanzenin, who's one of Rie Kugimiya's signature tsunderes- short, ill-tempered, demanding (she's the sort that can even intimidate an evil spirit, which turns out to be a useful talent, at one point.) She is, in addition, a hikikomori- an agoraphobe otaku who hates going to school, much preferring to stay home and play video games, and write and draw her own (incomprehensible) mangas, and she even shuns her closest personal acquaintances- though, ironically, most of the myriad characters Hayate will become friends with in the show are either Nagi's classmates, or her personal acquaintances, or folks peripherally associated with one or the other. Nagi differs a bit from traditional tsunderes in one important aspect- most members of that breed treat the male leads with cold disdain. Nagi only tries that one time, and only to see if it brings Hayate around. For Nagi crushes on Hayate, and her main issues with him revolve around his non-reaction to her; she gets violently jealous when he's caught in some embarrassing scene with other females (doesn't happen THAT often here- this isn't To Love Ru); and she feels exasperated that, since he became her butler, he's never exhibited the passion he seemed to have when they first met, and he said he was going to take her away with him. (Actually, what he was proposing at the time was kidnapping her, but you don't usually tell your new employer that you originally had felonious intent toward them.) One of the reasons I recommend following the original series with a look at Can't Take My Eyes Off You is that you get to see Nagi in that series, toward the end, in a very different frame of mind, finally being forced to honestly confront her own feelings, and her own flaws.
Hayate, for his part, doesn't seem to have romantic feelings toward Nagi; he actually remarks that she's in fact just a kid, no matter how precocious she is. (She's 13.) He feels honor-bound to serve her and protect her, though. The problem is that he's aware, to varying degrees (as the script requires) that he's a character in a story where events are always deliberately stacked against him. Shows like Chronicles Of The Going Home Club also try to get laughs out of this sort of meta-awareness in their characters that they're in an anime, but in some of those cases it feels like this is just a smug attempt to milk the fact for a few laughs, while in Hayate it seemed to me much more clever, really rather droll, maybe because it's kind of built into the structure of Hayate's universe rather than just an aside- he KNOWS that if he makes certain decisions a chain of disasters will follow, but often honor demands he make those choices anyway. We also have a narrator, throughout the show, whose comments on the action also reflect all this (and who is (partly) actually seen in one episode.) This all beautifully came together, for me, in the whole Cashmere Coat plotline in Episode 5 (I loved Hayate's thoughts: "These cliché dangers keep coming at me, almost like they're targeting me"), and I think that's when I fell in love with this show. Hayate's a little feminine looking, and the show, and notably several of its characters, seem to delight in "dressing him up". He's also very soft hearted, though maybe less of a pushover in the Eyes series; that one has a beautifully written episode, where three females are trying to mooch off Hayate in a restaurant, and ALL the parties involved are trying to find some way to avoid getting stuck with the check.
Speaking of those females- and that gender represents most of our cast- there are several who would seem more age- AND personality-appropriate to Hayate than Nagi does. The first is Maria, Nagi's maid. In the Hayate universe the "help" goes to the same exclusive private school that the heirs and heiresses do, and it turns out that Maria was as perfect a student as she is a maid. One episode showcases her perfectly: Nagi and Hayate take her to a resort hotel for some R&R, but she instead winds up helping Nagi's friends and classmates, who are themselves temporarily working as staff at the hotel (and failing at it), with THEIR jobs, because that's the kind of person Maria IS, and that's the kind of thing she DOES. Her duty to Nagi restrains her feelings toward Hayate, but they are clearly there.
Next we have Hinagiku Katsura, president of the student council at Nagi's school. She's an extremely responsible student, and quite the opposite in personality (well, except for SOME tendency to violence) to her older sister Yukiji. Yukiji is actually a teacher at the school, and is described as a good teacher in the classroom, but OUTSIDE the classroom she's an alcoholic and (perhaps because of this) a spendthrift who's always borrowing money from Hinagiku, and of course seldom paying it back. Hinagiku (let's just call her Hina, OK?) is, again, a disciplined person who's also into kendo, and you'd be amazed at the destruction she can wield with a wooden practice sword. (By Eyes she can apparently magically conjure metal swords, which of course represents a great improvement; and unlike Yukiji's, the mayhem Hina wreaks is ONLY what is necessary for self-defense.) Hina has one major weakness, which Hayate cleverly exploits near the end of Season One to help Nagi, and which leaves Hina with a grudge toward Hayate going into Season Two, but she very definitely gets over that.
(Season Two's line art and coloring seem much better than Season One's, but there's a bit less quirky humor, and a bit more "harem romance", in the second season compared to the first.)
The other principal competitor for Hayate's heart is the "dark horse" candidate, Hayate's classmate from his old school (where he went before Nagi enrolled him in hers.) Her name is Ayumu Nishizawa, and she's the kind of sweet but bland girl-next-door choice that almost all harem shows have. The problem is that the Spirit Animal of a girl like Ayumu is no match for Nagi's. (WONDERFUL sight gag here.) Still, she never gives up. The closing scenes of the First Season always reprise a few seconds of her appearance in the episode itself (sometimes this is all the appearance she had AT ALL in the episode), apparently to just constantly remind us that she's out there. As is often the case in romantic comedies of this sort, Nagi and Ayumu do occasionally end up as (very) reluctant allies (the show respects the time-honored cliches' this much), and again Eyes maybe represents the ultimate evolution of this trend.
So much for Hayate and the major players for his heart. Let's look at some of the other characters.
Wataru Tachibana is a bit of a surprise- a secondary male character who's NOT a major jerk or sexist pig. He's nominally "betrothed" to Nagi, an arrangement made when they were younger, and when Wataru's family was apparently a lot wealthier; now the family's businesses are down to one video store, which Wataru manages and serves as cashier for. Neither Nagi nor Wataru has the slightest romantic feeling for each other, but interestingly they still watch out for each other, in a kind of "brother and sister" way. Wataru does have an infatuation with Isumi Saginomiya, a soft-spoken girl who, by her own admission, is "slow" (and her family, when we meet them, even more so.) All the people in Nagi's circle don't really live much in "our" world- Nagi and Maria both have some hilarious misconceptions about subways, for example- but Isumi combines this with being an utter ingénue who takes everything anyone says as true, except when her spiritual powers clue her otherwise- for Isumi and her family are exorcists. Isumi might have some trouble getting TO the place where an exorcism is needed, though- we see her get spectacularly lost en route sometimes. (And trust me, that's an understatement.)
Well, as I said, Wataru is infatuated with Isumi, but he would probably have better luck with some other females. One is Saki, his own maid. Like Nagi's desire for Hayate, Saki's quiet desire for Wataru also seems age-inappropriate, but in his case HE'S the one on the lower side of the statutory-rape line. This show has quite a bit of this. There's one Himuro, who has what looks like a little boy who's always throwing flower petals at him. (I guess this is a jab at a visual convention of romantic mangas.) The show emphasizes the potential nature of their relationship with a fairly tasteless sight gag. In perfect symmetry to this implied yaoi relationship, we have a yuri thing between Kirika Kuzuha, the school's superintendent, and a little girl (though for a time she doesn't seem so at all) named Shion. I could have done without this, but the show doesn't pursue it too deeply, thankfully.
To get back to the principals, for better or worse, there's also Sakuya Aizawa, Nagi's Kansai cousin. We first see her visiting Nagi's mansion, very much against Nagi's own wishes, and Nagi's immediate response to her arrival is to calmly pour hot tea all over her. (KIDS, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!) I kind of felt that was almost justified at first (she's THAT annoying), and I'm not sure why I felt less so after a while; did they really tone her down, or was I just getting used to her? In any event, Sakuya expects you to have a good joke for her when you meet her, and commonly slaps people who fail to have one with a paper fan. If she invites you to one of her parties, and you aren't properly prepared, expect to be publicly humiliated. There is a hint, here or there, that she might actually have a thing for Wataru as well.
I could go on about the cast- it's an amazingly large one by the way, and the anime seemingly just scratches the surface of the complete list- but I'll stop with Miki Hanabishi, Izumi Segawa, and Risa Asakaze, three girls that are almost always found together (and usually hanging with Yukiji), and who were beautifully characterized in one episode, by the name of the hotel room they were placed in. My favorite bit involving them is in Episode 49 of First Season. When I watched Chronicles of the Going Home Club, I couldn't understand how pointless stories could be funny, but the "trio" in THIS show, in Episode 49, once again demonstrates Hayate's knack for making ANY style of humor work- in this case, what is required is a few non sequiturs.
And that's the joy of the show. So many of the things it tries- sight gags, non sequiturs, physical comedy (typically from events escalating to outrageous proportions), self-reference (and related self-parody), or even simple random quips- not only work, but in some cases do so brilliantly. (At least as far as I'M concerned. As I long ago learned, humor is an awfully subjective thing, and as I said before, I acknowledge that many folks will find a lot of the jokes to just be stupid.) I got several good laughs out of every episode in Season One, and almost every episode in Season Two. As for Eyes, while there's a bit less humor overall, there's a lots of fantasy action (particularly in the final couple of episodes); an emotional meltdown by Nagi that I think would make even the most dedicated Nagi-hater want to comfort her; and a dryad. In my experience, I've never run into a bad show with a dryad in it. (Though this is the first one I've ever seen in an anime...)
I've got to confess that I also liked quite a lot of the theme music too, especially in the closers, and most especially the quirky "Chasse", the second closer (though its romantic mood was somewhat compromised, for me, by the resemblance of those spinning flowers to the opening of Higurashi.)
OK, call me a heretic, but I found this to be a rather clever show hidden inside an utterly goofy one. The rec is less intrinsically funny, but maybe a bit stronger on romance. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Fanservice, yes, though the show is very self-conscious about it, as it is about just about everything else. The final eps of Season Two open with bikini bottoms and boobs, and the Eyes closer ends with some (not graphic) nudity. 15+ better.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (89/89)
Hayate the Combat Butler (Seasons 1-3) © 2007 SynergySP (First Season); 2009 J. C. Staff (Second Season);2012 Manglobe (Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.|