Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 34

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.

The history of Hayate the Combat Butler is an interesting one. Very much a funny gag sort of story for the first 16 or so volumes, it attracted that sort of audience, and the first couple of anime were of that nature as well. Then came the Athena arc, which was really good, and set up a far more serious backstory for the manga, which attracted fans who really wanted to know about that story. And so the last ten to fifteen volumes have made an attempt to still be light-hearted gag comedy while throwing out the occasional plot bone to keep readers here for the plot satisfied. It… hasn’t really worked. This will reach its apex about two volumes from now, in the series’ most infamous chapter, but for the moment readers who want more about castles and coffins will be delighted to find there’s an extended section here where Hayate discovers a hidden room in the boarding house, with something very familiar inside.

It is notable that everyone involved in the discovery of the hidden room is not one of the “normal” cast members, if such a word can be used to describe people like Hinagiku or Nagi. It’s Hayate, Tama the tiger, the ghost priest, Alice, who still doesn’t remember her past but is there because of who she is, and Isumi, who reminds us that this is still a comedy even in the dramatic plot sections by making an absolutely ridiculous entrance through the wall of the building, knowing full well how awesome she will look. Sadly, she looks less awesome when up against the series’ new minor villain, whose name I’m not sure of yet but she does enjoy wearing her Gurren Lagann cosplay shades. This doesn’t answer many questions… well, OK, any questions, except who shade-wearing woman is working for… but it does remind you that this plot exists, and it weighs on Hayate’s mind.

Elsewhere,the boardinghouse continues to fill up, first by adding Ruka, who has “run away from home” because they’re trying to make her stop being a doujinshi artist and stick to pop idoling, as well as Ayumu, who literally has a mom and dad to live with but scrapes up the money to live in the boarding house for a month because she senses how big a threat Ruka is in the Hayate sweepstakes. (This leads to the best gag in the volume, where Hinagiku is stunned to find that she isn’t a threat – after all, if she can’t confess, what good is she?) We also get more of Ruka’s backstory, which matches Hayate and Hinagiku’s on the “bad parents” front (the bad parents are always in silhouette). And Nagi’s manga continues to be the series’ achilles’ heel, as her attempts to get better at it are bad and she still remains pretty annoying.

Still, overall this was a very good volume for the 5-6 people still buying this series, and if anything else we got to see Isumi performing feats even an olympic gymnast might have trouble with.

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