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.
One of the stranger running plots we’ve had in Hayate the Combat Butler has been 13-year-old Nagi’s insistence on being a brilliant manga artist, an insistence that is counterbalanced by her actual manga, which is strange to the point of incoherence. This mas mostly been played for humor, focusing on Hayate and Maria’s attempts to not tsukkomi Nagi when reading her stuff, and pretend that it’s totally going to sell. Here, though, Nagi’s manga becomes the point of this next arc, as she runs into a genuine manga artist – mostly through the machinations of Ayumu – and discovers what a leap forward it would take for her work to achieve what a professional artist’s does.
We briefly saw this artist several volumes ago, but now we get a name – Ashibashi-sensei – and we see what the life of a manga artist actually entails. This also includes an assistant, who turns out to be Azumamiya, one of the many minor characters who littered the early volumes and have now mostly been forgotten. He’s here to be annoyed that they’re doing this for Nagi at all. In any case, Ashibashi-sensei is clearly based on Hata’s former mentor Koji Kumeta, author of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei. There’s not quite as much despair this time around, but we do get to see how totally exhausted a manga author can get, the dangers of procrastination, and most importantly, how Nagi’s work just isn’t cutting it.
Nagi can’t even bring herself to show it to him – she runs off devastated, having received actual criticism she’ll listen to for the first time ever, as opposed to people trying to be nice (Hayate, Maria), or people with the same warped worldview as she has (Isumi). This leads to a serious crisis of confidence, particularly since, when Nagi decides to simply concentrate on school work, she notices her grades are slipping as well (though she’s still in the Top 10). Nagi’s maturity, or lack thereof, has been a source of frustration for many of the Western fans of Hayate. Honestly, I suspect for those fans the solution is so eliminate her entirely – character development is not what they want. But it’s what they see here.
Luckily, Chiharu comes to the rescue, asking Nagi to help her sell doujinshi at a local event. This allows Hata to throw in a couple of chapters praising the idea of doujinshi (here clearly referring to original works, not the parodies and porn most people associate the word with), and allowing Nagi to get her groove back, mostly as she reads a dolphin-based manga that’s even screwier than hers is. I like the idea that “I can do better than THIS!” is a motivating factor. We also see what I believe is the author of that particular manga, though why she’s in disguise is something that is likely left for the next volume. Hayate the Combat Butler continues to be lots of fun, and it’s good to see Nagi finally growing.