By Kenjiro Hata. Released in Japan as “Hayate no Gotoku!” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.
In general, you find two types of Hayate fans when you look at your average message board discussing the series. Those who appreciate that this is, at heart, a comedic gag manga, and those who do not. To be fair, Hata does not make this easy for us. Indeed, Volumes 23-24 will be almost entirely gagless, as was Vol. 18. Hata brought this on himself by creating, as part of his comedy manga, a classic harem manga where you genuinely *don’t* have a clue which way it will eventually resolve. And the interaction of the girls with Hayate can be adorable, heartwarming, and fluffy. Thus, when Hata decides after a particularly shippy chapter to suddenly do something incredibly silly with Fumi, or a fanservicey plot that goes nowhere with Izumi and company, fans who want harem resolution (i.e., more Hinagiku and Maria) tend to get irritated.
Fortunately for the romance fans, Volume 20 should keep them very happy indeed. There are no real pointless gag chapters (though there is much humor), and lots of character development – well, the closest one gets in a title where nothing can be resolved. We open with the resolution of the Las Vegas story, as Wataru and Saki manage to finally get one over on his mother and escape. Wataru’s ambivalent feelings towards her are nicely portrayed – he acknowledges that she’s a horrible, immature person who is not ready to raise her son even though he’s a teenager – but she is still his mother, and should she show up at his door one day, he’d likely take her in.
Parents in Hayate tend to get a raw deal – there are no less than three different characters whose parents have saddled them with a huge amount of debt and run off, Nagi’s grandfather seems to be the main villain of the series, and Mikoto is happy to use and abuse even her own son. Interestingly, we also see far more of Nagi’s late mother (in flashbacks) in this volume than in any of the previous ones. She is the one exception – she’s allowed to be, as she is dead – and seems to be a kind and loving, if flakey, mother. I sometimes wonder if all the parents of our current gang knew each other growing up (it’s clear some of them did), and are taking it out on the next generation. Luckily, Hayate and company seem to be a bit more with it.
On the love front, Ayumu has drawn Hina out to where she can admit her love for Hayate openly as long as there’s no one else around. Progress! Of course, actual conversation with Hayate is still awkward – they both tend to put their foot in their mouth a lot – and she’s annoyed when she realizes that, because she’s strong and Hayate trusts her to take care of herself, he may not see her as feminine. As for Ayumu, she’s still the most mature of the cast, and gets to think what most North American harem fans don’t want to hear – that Nagi is the most important person in his life right now. (If Hayate resolves with a Nagi ending, by the way, watch this fandom crash and burn even faster than School Rumble and Negima did. This is why so many harems are unresolved…)
So now everyone’s in Greece, having fun and accidentally ending up in underground tunnels. You know, the usual vacation antics. If I recall correctly, we still have a ways to go before we get back to the serious Athena scenes (and yes, there are also folks who primarily read Hayate, a gag manga, for the serious parts), so when Vol. 21 comes out the usual six months from now, expect hijinks! Meanwhile, this is a great volume for fans of the series – though obviously a bad place for newcomers to jump in.