Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 24

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.

This is probably my favorite volume of Hayate the Combat Butler to date. It manages to resolve the Athena storyline with a lot of fighting spirit, emotional turmoil, and one big “call my name” rescue by Hayate. But is also has a great deal of heart, as we see Hayate’s reunion with Athena, Hina’s heart-to-heart with Ayumu, and some strikingly normal and non-insane life advice from Yukiji. And don’t worry, there’s a good amount of humor here as well, mostly featuring the minor cast back at the hotel having to fight off a pack of mythological beasts. This volume packs a lot of stuff into it, and it’s no surprise that the emotional resolution of Athena’s storyline will carry over into Volume 25.


We also see Nagi at perhaps her most mature, even as she insists that Hayate can protect her from anything. Nagi has been a bit of a polarizing character, being both underage *and* tsundere, but even her detractors seemed to like this scene, where she crushes the stone that represents Hayate’s moral dilemma, and announces that she will deal with the consequences no matter what. Of course, I doubt she really realizes what it’s like for a girl like her to live without money, but it’s still great to see.

Likewise, it’s always nice to see Yukiji as the big sister that she usually tries to avoid being. She senses Hina’s abject depression even over the phone, and so flies over there to set things right. (Hina lampshades that this is possible, as she notes Yukiji would have to fly all the way from Italy… which isn’t that far away from Greece, in fact.) Yukiji’s advice is blunt but necessary, as Hina (and Ayumu) both need to be reminded that even in a manga, you sometimes can’t get the happy ending you want, and that this is what life is – a series of struggles. The friendship forged by Hina and Ayumu is important right now, as they can console each other – and also note that it’s nice to be in love with a man who’s loved the same woman for 10 years now, rather than an indecisive player (which Hayate is often accused of being.)

Hina also gets to be at the final battle, as Ayumu and Aika coerce her into dressing as Red, the super sentai hero. Then a magical sword drags her to the battle (literally) that Hayate is having with a possessed Athena and King Midas. There’s little to no humor here, as we see Athena’s struggles and Hayate’s anguish in raw, unfiltered scenes. Yet even here, Hata can’t resist making cultural references – the entire finale is an homage to the end of Shoujo Kakumei Utena, with Athena trapped in a dark place surrounded by swords, and Hayate breaking through in order to rescue her from her despair. It’s hard not to cry with happiness as they embrace, Midas vanquished at last – even as Hina, making a quick exit, is trying not to cry in emotional pain.

The last chapter is pure romantic shipping fluff, as Athena gives into to her grumpy tsundere side (that 3/4 of this cast seems to possess) and tries fishing for compliments while at the same time being upset by them – witness her attack on Hayate after he notes how he was surprised how large her breasts had gotten. As the volume ends, Athena starts to tell Hayate how she escaped from the castle ten years ago, but I have a feeling that we’re also due for a parting soon – after all, Hayate is up to Vol. 41+ in Japan, and did not end with Hayate and Athena ending up together. So expect the next volume to nudge back towards the comedic status quo. For now, however, this was an amazing volume of shonen manga, and well worth the temporary departure from comedy.

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