Hayate the Combat Butler, Vol. 35

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 revelation that Viz Media has licensed the newest manga by Kenjiro Hata, Tonikaku Kawaii (aka Fly Me to the Moon) for release this fall came as a big surprise to the huge number of Hayate the Combat Butler fans… OK, really, there’s just two of us now, but we were surprised! After all, Hata’s Hayate the Combat Butler still has about fifteen volumes left to release, but continues to come out at the “we won’t cancel it, but we hate you” two-volumes-per-year schedule. Fly Me to the Moon may begin and end while Hayate still coming out. Still, for those who do enjoy a new Hayate volume every spring and fall, this should give you something to sink your teeth into. It has a minimal amount of Nagi, which, let’s face it, is always a plus, and one we’ll get less and less of as Hayate barrels towards its conclusion. (I don’t hate Nagi, but she suffers from being less appealing than half the cast). Instead, Ruka is still ascendant.

I don’t think this is deliberate on Hata’s part, but as Hayate the Combat Butler rolled along, it ended up showing off a new “favorite girl” who everyone loved and was much better than Nagi… and then gradually forgetting about them till they became irrelevant. Hinagiku is the most obvious example – she may be on the cover here, but her days as lead girl are long gone, and Athena came along, stomped all over everyone else… and then became Alice, who is also barely in the plot. And now there’s Ruka, who was not as warmly welcomed by fans (who have long memories and probably guessed what would happen), but she gets the back half of this book as pure, almost serious romantic tension with Hayate, and does a very good job of it. Hinagiku does get a chapter or two here, but it’s in support of her sister Yukiji, who used to not only be cool, but play the guitar! Hinagiku is upset Yukiji abandoned her dream, Yukiji is there to remind readers dreams are not abandoned, just deferred. She promises to shape up. It likely won’t last, but is sweet to see.

Part of the problem of taking this seriously, of course, is that Hayate the Combat Butler is always first and foremost a fourth-wall breaking gag manga. Before it’s a romantic harem comedy. Before it’s a serious examination of childhood abuse and abandonment. Before it’s a supernatural action series. And the cast know it. One chapter in this volume has Risa being annoyed by the fact that she’s not “spoiled” by Hayate, and this leads into a discussion of Izumi, and the fact that her character type is inherently more popular (with both Hayate and, it’s inferred, readers). Despite what they say, it’s not just the panty flashes – it’s that Izumi blushing and helpless is funny Izumi. Also, frankly, Risa is a boke, and thus, like many of Hayate’s love interests, she’s been eclipsed by a new and better boke – Fumi, who gets her own completely ridiculous chapter. (Miki works best around Hinagiku, but since her sapphic side was revealed, has been around her less – not sure how deliberate that is).

In the end, Hata is happy to point out all the flaws in Hayate the Combat Butler directly in the text. This can be funny… and also intensely frustrating. Welcome to the experience of being a Hayate fan.

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