Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 31

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.

To the displeasure of a majority of Western fans, Nagi Sanzenin is the lead heroine in the Hayate the Combat Butler manga. And given that its hero is basically perfection in a butler costume, it makes sense that a large part of the plot development would involve forging Nagi to grow up and develop as a character. But Kenjiro Hata, the creator, knows two things: first of all, that he has to drag this out as long as possible so that the series can still run, and secondly, that people who have Nagi’s basic flaws and issues don’t change easily at all, and constantly fall back on the easy, the lazy, and the quickest way out. And, at the climax of the manga competition, that’s exactly what we see. Nagi is intelligent and can get things done, and her idea for SELLING is excellent, even though it objectifies Maria. But the point was CREATING, and there, Nagi fails. Again.

It’s telling that Nagi’s rival is Ruka, who is similar to her in many ways. They both have a thing that they are naturally excellent at, but all too easily fall into fannish habits: playing games, watching anime, and (in Nagi’s case) sleeping. But Ruka is seen here to buckle down and take Hina’s good advice, and her doujinshi (which Hata reproduces at the end of the volume) is short and cute. More importantly, it makes sense and attracts the reader’s eye, which nothing Nagi has ever created has done. Nagi does make a profit, but only after she gives in and allows Maria’s sexy candid photobook to be sold separately without her manga, which people are throwing in the garbage. (Maria has been reduced to a comedic character who gets humiliated for a while now, but this volume may take the cake.) The arc ends with Nagi saying next time we’ll do better, but… we’ve heard her say that before.

It’s very frustrating, and very true to life. That said, I suspect readers of Hayate the Combat Butler don’t really want true to life. Perhaps the new girl who is introduced near the end might help, but we know nothing about her. As for the other heroines in the book, mostly they stand to the side. Hina does a good jjob helping Ruka (and offers Izumi the same “hardcore” help later on, but Izumi’s drive to succeed is even lazier than Nagi’s). The other real subplot here is Wataru finally manning up and telling Isumi that he… loved her, as he seemingly is able to let go of his one-sided crush and move on. I’m not sure how I feel about Wataru and Saki as a couple, but you get the sense that the only thing preventing it from happening is the 20 volumes we have to go before the end.)

Hayate the Combat Butler is still funny, and enjoyable provided you don’t take the harem too seriously. I do not know of a single Hayate fan who does not take the harem too seriously, though, and that’s the rub. Still recommended for Hayate fans, though. You read the scans, now support the official release.

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