Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 28

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. Translated by John Werry.

It is not uncommon for long-running harem comedy series to introduce a new girl who quickly captures the hearts and minds of fans who have grown weary of the natural staticness of a typical harem plot. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for Hayate the Combat Butler iteslf, as Athena grew quite popular when she was introduced, but she was part of Hayate’s tragic backstory, and also heralded a certain amount of drama. With Ruka Suirenji, a pop idol who apparently likes to sell doujinshi on the side, we get something more akin to the typical Hayate heroine, and much of the first half of this volume is about showing off how cute she is and how much chemistry she has with Hayate. Who she thinks is a girl, something that I’m sure will go bad for him later on.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that the old favorites are getting ignored. To no one’s surprise, Athena has returned, though only for a brief cameo before we get introduced to Alice, a cute young girl who looks just like Athena did when she and Hayate were kids – a fact not lost on him, and clearly there’s some magic age-regression going on here. This ends up leading to some ship tease with Hinagiku after Alice (Athena’s child form) decides that Hayate and Hina are her mama and papa. (Best joke of the volume has Hayate wondering if it was that time when–and getting cut off by Hina with a sword to the head, as jokes about her chastity are a bit much even for her.) And even Maria, who’s been so absent from the manga lately that she’s slipped to 5th in the popularity poll (Athena is second, for the curious) gets a sweet ‘let’s go to the public baths’ scene with Hayate, who for once does not get accused of peeping.

This volume sees Hata starting to balance out his ongoing storylines and his desire to write gag comedy a little better than he has before. Aika appearing as Alice’s minder ensures there will always be a snarky comment handy, and even though she regresses a bit, Nagi is still able to see what a really dedicated writer of bizarre incomprehensible doujinshi can do. And there’s still room for one-shots, such as a typical day in the apartments implying that Hayate survives on one hour of sleep a night, or a drunken Yukiji winning the attention of manga artist Ashibashi (who we now see is actually named Koji as if it wasn’t obvious enough who Hata based him on). Rest assured that things are still funny, even as the plot grows more complex.

By now I highly doubt that Hayate is winning new readers, and its die-hards likely support the manga while also reading the scans online, which are about five years ahead of Viz’s release. But it is worth supporting This is a funny title that also has doses of sentiment and even a bit of action. It remains an underrated treat.

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