Manga Reviews

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hayate the Combat Butler

Hayater the Combat Butler
Scanslated by AT-Translations
IRC Channel: #zg-fansubs @

Topics: Comedy, Romance, Mild Ecchi

Our hero is a young man named Hayate Ayasaki. He's a 10th grader who's parents both suffer from gambling addictions. Though he tries to save up his own money by working a job as a bicycling delivery boy, his parents take that money and promptly lose it at a casino. To make it even worse, they sell him to the yakuza to pay off their 150 million yen debt. Hayate decides that the only way to save his life is to come up with that 150 million yen himself and so, on Christmas eve, he decides to find someone to kidnap and hold for ransom.

The first person he encounters is a 13 year old girl named Nagi Sanzenin, the heiress to the entire Sanzenin family's fortune. Unfortunately, Hayate is not cut out to be a kidnapper, giving the girl his coat and walking to a public phone to make the ransom call. While he's away, someone else really kidnaps Nagi and forces her into a car. Seeing his "mark" get away, Hayate jumps onto a bicycle, chases down the speeding car, and forces it to stop (getting hit in the process). Nagi misunderstands all of Hayate's actions as acts of benevolence and falls in love with him. In return for saving her life, she pays off his debt for him, and turns him into her butler.

But Hayate's troubles are just beginning. Being a butler can be dangerous work, especially when you have to fight off talking tigers, maid robots, and other staff (some of which are desperate to play dress up with him). Will Hayate be able to survive in his new home? And will he really have to work the rest of his life to pay off the debt he owes Nagi?

This is a hilarious manga, full of all sorts of odd characters. For example, Nagi has a pet tiger and a robotic maid, neither of whom are pleased with the new "intruder." To prove himself, Hayate will have to fight them off with his bare hands. The side characters are quickly added for the appropriate gags then disappear again without being drawn out. The main characters are all well developed and intelligent, which makes the entire situation (Hayate was originally trying to kidnap Nagi in the first place) that much sillier. Though there is very little backstory, that fits well with the episodic nature of the manga.

The beauty of the plot is that the gags used don't fall under the stereotypes of this genre. Early on, Hayate ends up in the bath with a maid. Most ecchi comedies would involve the maid punching him out through the roof or Hayate's nose bleeding until he fainted. However in this manga, they both realize it's a mistake, laugh, and then Hayate passes out from a wound reopenning (the same wound he suffered from getting hit by the car). These small touches keep the story and humorous situations fresh.

The characters' art is very cute; their faces express a lot of information and their clothing is extremely detailed. Unfortunately the backgrounds are very simplistic or non-existant. Most of the panels include a white or black background with characters and speech bubbles overlayed on it. This doesn't matter too much to me, because I enjoy this manga's cute plot, but if you're picky about eye-candy, you might want to look elsewhere. Overall, this is a surprisingly fresh romantic comedy, which pushes the boundaries of the genre.

Rating: 8.5/10.0


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