Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hayate: the Combat Butler (by Kenjiro Hata) volume one - Manga Review

Rating: B-

Synopsis: Hayate Ayasaki has spent his entire life in part-time jobs because his unemployed parents spend all their money on drinking and gambling. The story opens with Hayate experiencing the worst Christmas ever - he loses his job, his parents have picked up his last paycheck (and gambled it away) AND his parents owe the Yakuza so much money they've sold him off to them for blackmarket organ parts.

Hayate is ridiculously fast and tough (from constantly having to do work) so he escapes the Yakuza and decides he's "going to be bad" - and decides to kidnap the next person he sees. He picks a girl, but unfortunately some other guys try to hit on her, and he ends up rescuing her and giving her his coat. THEN she actually does get kidnapped by some other guys, and he risks his life to save her again. The girl ends up being the daughter of a ridiculously wealthy family, who offers him a job as her bodyguard/butler in exchange for saving her life. So Hayate's crazy days in the wealthy mansion begin.

There are a lot of romantic misunderstandings that drive Hayate: the Combat Butler - the rich girl originally mistaked Hayate's crappily attempted kidnapping and saving as declarations of love. Hayate thinks the maid he works with is the most beautiful girl in the world, but remains indebted to the rich girl because she took him off the street. It's all dealt with in humorous and cute ways.

A lot of the book and plot break the 4th wall, with characters saying things like "I know this is a Shonen manga, but you don't have to stare at me in my nightgown" or "I haven't interrupted you for three pages!" - this sillyness has a lot of appeal for me, and acknowledging the occasional fan service without being creepy. The three main characters, rich girl Nagi, maid girl Maria, and combat butler Hayate, are all teenagers, so sometimes they act their age with hilarious results (for example, when Nagi wants to apologize to Hayate, and instead creates a superhero alter-ego to apologize for her).

I look forward to more volumes, and I hope that the characters grow some more over time. At the moment, they could easily get trapped in a "Hayate fights X to keep his job" repetition, and I hope they don't.

Overall, the series is very cute and funny, and has a lot of potential.

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