Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 26

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.

I’ve talked about Hayate’s parents before, and the sheer loathsome level of evil they produce. What’s worth mentioning is that they aren’t really alone, though they do stand at the top. Hina’s birth parents also left their children with an enormous debt, though it’s implied this wasn’t out of sheer malice. We also meet Chiharu’s parents here, who are having rough times and not selling their child yet, but do set their house on fire by accident. Even Ayumu’s relatively stable parents are not above giving her a gift certificate of $30 for her birthday and saying nit’s from both of them, so don’t go asking Dad for more gifts. In this title, though, being a jerk to your child is almost loving. The only reason Rumiko Takahashi’s parents are worse than Hata’s is that she actually has them ruin her children’s lives in person.

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That said, this volume of Hayate is a lot more lighthearted than the past few have been, with Athena mostly removed from the picture (she does answer reader questions at the end, which goes badly as they’re all about her chest). The cast is starting to get tenants for the apartment complex they now live in, with the ‘complex has butler!’ advertisement winning Chiharu over. It helps that Hayate is a cut above… well, everyone. His natural charm and ‘gigolo’ nature (meaning he gets every girl he meets to fall for him without trying) comes up more than once here, and it’s not something that’s easily duplicated. Of course, like many harem protagonists who have all the girls, it’s balanced by a heaping dose of bad luck – this is even lampshaded here.

As for our supposed heroine, Nagi’s growth as always is somewhat fitful. Being an apartment landlord is something of a lazy way to keep earning money while she’s in exile, and we again see her skipping anything that involves physical exertion. But she is developing relationships outside of just Hayate and Maria. Chiharu’s addition to the apartments allows Nagi to have a fellow otaku to bounce things off of (though a horrified Chiharu reminds us several times how young Nagi really is), and in one of the sweetest chapters of the volume, confesses her loneliness to Ayumu in order to trick her back to a surprise party being held for her. She’s never going to be #1 in fan’s hearts, but she is slowly improving.

It is somewhat odd being back to 1-2 chapter long silly gag stories after the epicness of the Athena arc, but that is Hayate’s stock in trade, and the main reason why the manga is so popular. (Indeed, the anime has never animated Athena’s arc – and made it really obvious they’re deliberately avoiding it – likely as it would be too distracting in a ‘gag’ anime.) But those gags are still strong, and for those who are still hanging out for their twice-a-yeaar fix of Hayate, this volume will serve nicely.

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