Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 30

By Kenjiro Hata. Released in Japan as “Hayate no Gotoku!” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by John Werry.

This is the first volume of Hayate the Combat Butler to be released in North America after the manga has already ended in Japan, and it will be interesting to see how it does going forward. (ominous thunder rumbles in distance) We are, of course, nowhere near finished here in North America, where Hayate is not quite Kaze Hikaru, but pretty close. Last time we were discussing how long Hata would drag things out before Hayate’s true gender was finally revealed to Ruka, and we get an answer here. It’s actually a good question when you’re dealing with Hata, who is a master – for good and ill – at dragging things out long past when you’d expect the punchline or point to be. Sometimes this works well for comedic effect, sometimes it feels like his editors are forcing him to extend things forever, and sometimes you sense he’s a bit of a troll.

The missing suitcase of money is dealt with fairly quickly at the start (and does a good job of inserting Fumi and Sharna, everyone’s favorite characters (it’s a shame sarcasm is hard to show in text), into the narrative. The majority of the volume, though, continues the interlocking narrative of Nagi and Ruka’s doujinshi competition. Ruka gets the benefit of a stern critic in Hina, who not only gives her honest opinion about what’s wrong, but goes on to do research into popular kinds of manga so that she can give better advice. Hina is a good, honest girl who I sometimes feel deserves better than this comedy harem manga. Speaking of girls who deserve better than this, Nagi has Ayumu giving advice, and while it’s not nearly as good, it does seem to inspire her. Whether this will actually lead to good manga remains to be seen.

And yes, Ruka does eventually find out that Hayate is a guy. The reaction is more low-key than I was expecting, but then Ruka in general tends to be more low-key than I’d expect. As a late arrival harem girl, you can’t avoid the sense that she’s being added to the narrative because the series is too popular to wrap up this quickly – Hayate may be a twice-a-year series here, but it did really well in Japan, and there are references in the volume to the movie Heaven Is a Place on Earth, which was due out in 2011 when this volume came out. (Yes, we are now six years behind.) I like Ruka, but there’s not really much she adds as a romantic lead that Hayate could not also get from Hina, or Ayumu, or Maria, or Athena. Or Nagi, I will reluctantly add, but we’ll get to that 20 volumes down the road.

And so Hayate the Combat Butler’s strengths remain its humor, and its romance can be a strength or a weakness depending on Hata’s writing. We get a bit of both in this volume, making it a fairly average volume in the series. See you in the winter for Vol. 31.

Also, the back cover says that Ruka is ‘plumb worn out’, and I feel sad that they didn’t go whole hog and say ‘plumb tuckered out’.

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