Hayate the Combat Butler!

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vivafruit's avatar By vivafruit on Aug 1, 2009

Story

Plot junkies beware: not only does Hayate the Combat Butler! have an awesomely unnecessary exclamation mark in its title, its plot goes absolutely nowhere. After a teasing the viewers with a promising premise, the series forgoes character development or plot progression in favor of episodic meandering. Because of this, those hoping for an engaging overarching plot or satisfying character development will ultimately be disappointed.

If you’re still here, great! Anyone that doesn’t mind the prospect of watching 52 episodes of plot-free episodic comedy could do a lot worse than Hayate the Combat Butler! Moreover, even those normally adverse to “frozen in time” series may find this a welcome exception.

In many ways, this anime is a spiritual successor to Excel Saga. There are countless similarities; both series enthusiastically break the fourth wall, rely on outrageous non sequitur, and are filled with obscure references to Japanese pop culture. Indeed, Hayate the Combat Butler! borrows from the classic parody anime so heavily that Excel Saga’s very own Nabeshin makes a brief appearance in homage. Like Excel Saga, Hayate the Combat Butler!’s humor will appeal most to those with a wide knowledge of Japanese nerd-culture. The series parodies countless sources, from Dragon Quest to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion to eroge. Although the sheer number and variety of references will prevent any mortal Westerner from understanding everything (at one point the series jokes about Haruo Minami, a 1950's enka singer!), a reasonable familiarity will be able to catch quite a few.

Fortunately, Hayate the Combat Butler! isn’t all obscure in-jokes. There are numerous additions to make the series more accessible: light romance subplots, slapstick, and a dash of cheerfully unnecessary fan-service. Furthermore, Hayate the Combat Butler!’s strong cast enables some raucously funny character-based comedy.

Unfortunately, the series lacks consistency, especially in the latter half. Because of the absence of any real storyline, the jokes need to be funny for the series to really work; when they miss, the show inevitably bogs down. Many episodes are hilarious, but others are almost complete wastes of time. Still other episodes are a curious mix of the two – dull, uneventful filler punctuated by gut-busting gags. As a whole, however, Hayate the Combat Butler! provides enough laughs to be worthwhile in spite of its dry patches, whether it’s making an obscure reference, poking fun at Hayate and company, or just being plain wacky. While some may balk at the prospect of sitting through 52 episodes of what is essentially the anime chasing its tail, the charming cast and often brilliant parody make the show an enjoyable journey in spite of its shortcomings.


Animation

The anime sports a clean, mainstream look, with bright backgrounds and bubblegum character designs. Even this feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, as the style belies the show’s subversive parody and helps to make the jokes that much weirder and less predictable. There is occasional fanservice (often accompanied by the narrator helpfully announcing, “Here’s some fanservice!”), but it’s good-natured enough to never be too distracting.


Sound

The music is subpar, with generic OP/EDs and even worse background music. In particular, an off-key trumpet piece was noticeably terrible and seemed to play every other episode. Voice acting as a whole is decent, but the narrator’s performance merits special praise. The seiyuu's bizarre, hammed up performance is side-splitting; at times he was able to get me to laugh even when the script hadn’t given him a joke.


Characters

The anime simply couldn’t work without Nagi and Hayate, the anime’s leads. Both characters are slight tweaks of existing archetypes, but are unique enough to still feel fresh and likable. Hayate gets plenty of laughs from being a mild-mannered guy with a “poor face” that also happens to be a shounen superhero, while Nagi is adorable as an introvert who hides embarrassment with bouts of rage. The interplay between the two provides plenty of humorous material, but also gets the audience personally invested in the show.

Not all of Hayate the Combat Butler!’s supporting cast is as enjoyable; characters like the spacey, Osaka-esque Isumi are priceless additions, but others seem to do little else besides make noise and swallow screen time. Fortunately, the sheer number of side-characters prevents any one of them from ever becoming too tiring.

Taken as a whole, the cast of Hayate the Combat Butler! is one of the main reasons that the series is able to stay entertaining in spite of its weak overarching plot.

6.5/10 story
7/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
7/10 overall
Adam's avatar By Adam on Feb 5, 2010

When I first looked at Hayate no Gotoku, I definitely didn't expect it to be a show I'd end up enjoying. Just look at the plot: a boy goes to work for a 13 year-old girl as a fighting butler in order to pay off his debt. Then there's the whole stupid romance aspect, a talking tiger, a cross- dressing Hayate, flat characters (I'm not talking about Hinagiku), and a plot that NEVER advances. On paper this should spell disaster. I mean, if a show like this took itself seriously, even for a second, there's no way it could work, right? Right. Good thing it didn't.

Let me say this right from the beginning: if at any point I felt that this show was actually going somewhere with the plot I would have jumped off screaming. However, it is at a literal stand-still throughout the enti re show. Hayate is always in his stupid situation as a COMBAT BUTLER!!! and Nagi always has her silly crush that Hayate will never ever pick up on. The characters also never develop past their initial...characterizations WHICH IS A GREAT THING. Why is this all a good thing? Let me explain.

With all of the pesky things like plot and characters out of the way, this series can simply stick to its guns throughout its entirety: being freaking hilarious. The characters and plots are simply used to carry references, absurdity, parodies, and other assorted jokes with no regard for anything else. What this makes is for a show that makes you laugh. A lot. Typically, that's what I look for in comedy, with the romance bits only being there to create more comedy, and when drama is introduced it immediately gets shattered for more comedy. And when you finally think two characters may realize their feelings for each other something goes wrong for more comedy. 

More shows need to be like Hayate. We have plenty steaming piles of crap out there whose biggest flaw is the lack of being able to tell a good story. Usually, this is because their premise is horrible. When the premise is bad, generally trying to tell a story won't work. So, shows, instead of trying to make it work, simply create intentionally bad premises for comedic purposes. Use 1-Dimensional characters as segways for jokes, and if you ever feel the urge to advance the plot, make sure it's only done for the lols.

At the end of the day what we're left with is a show vastly superior than the sum of its parts. If you need a story to keep you going through a show, then stay away, but if you can lean back and learn to just take everything for what it is and laugh, this should be a treat.

3/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
4/10 characters
7/10 overall
Tomo90's avatar By Tomo90 on Aug 7, 2011

I can only think of one word to describe Hayate no Gotoku and it describes the show quite well. The word is ‘wow’. Yes, wow or maybe awesome would fit. The amount of comedy, references and spoofs in it is simply amazing. Not only has it got an interesting story, great characters and character mix but the way they incorporate other anime is brilliant.

A little side note, you may want to wait and watch Hayate no Gotoku after you have covered a variety of anime. The thing that makes this show simply great is how it incorporate references from other anime and if you are unfamiliar with a lot of them it takes some of the magic away from the show.

The story is about a boy who has worked hard pretty much his whole life because his parents are basically deadbeats who are very selfish and can’t hold down a job. One day Hayate comes home from school and finds a note from his parents. The note informed him that his parents sold him to a gang for 150,000,000 yen and then disappeared. After avoiding the gang and meeting Nagi, Nagi decides to pay the gang for Hayate. In return Hayate must work for Nagi as her butler to repay the debt.

The story is not all that amazing when you look at it in a bubble but the adventures that they go on are very thrilling and keeps the audience guessing specially which amine will they spoof this time.

The characters are very interesting. They all have their own personalities (yes a shocker there I know) and they have their own quirks and habits. The range of characters is huge and the sub characters are well utilised and are quite developed, it just doesn’t feel like you can replace them with another pick up character. The sub characters actually play a very important part in the major characters development which is a nice change.

The animation is pretty standard and the pictures look good. The artwork is nice, clear and detailed. The music is pretty good I like the opening theme of the second half of the series.

Overall Hayate no Gotoku is an extremely funny, well thought out anime and there is defiantly a lot of laugh out loud moments. This anime is great for anyone to watch but as said previously you need to have so footing before watching this one.

10/10 story
8.5/10 animation
8.5/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
Xplayer's avatar By Xplayer on Sep 5, 2010

Story:

There are many types of humor that people watch as entertainment, ranging from the slapstick comedy of Loony Tunes to the witty, sometimes burlesque comedy of Monty Python. Different writers have different approaches to how each joke or gag is performed. Sometimes a writer will spend an entire sketch setting up a joke that no one gets at the end, while others use more universal comedy that doesn’t even require a first grade education and eventually snowballs into a situation of completely unreasonable proportions. After watching 52 episodes of Hayate no Gotoku, I can confidently compare it to the writing style of one of America’s best comedy geniuses, Mel Brooks. Rather than attempting to set up intellectually challenging jokes, the humor in Hayate no Gotoku involves random Japanese culture references, lampshade hanging, smashing the fourth wall to smithereens, and just general absurdity that creates a formula for hilarity.

So why did I spend a paragraph of this review on comedy theory? Well, Hayate no Gotoku’s “story” at its base is completely nonexistent at best, a cliché storm worst. A man down on his luck meets a girl and falls upon an automatic reversal of fortune. An entire series is spent with random characters attempting to ruin his newfound fortune, and he repels them with superhuman abilities. Linking to the number of stories that fit this or a similar format (the “Boy Meets Girl” format in the words of Kurt Vonnegut), would be a tedious and unnecessary exercise. However, this is why I made the comparison to Mel Brooks. Who on earth watched Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, or History of the World Part I for the intellectual and coherent plot? No one who can formulate a reasonable story to their teacher about why they didn’t do their homework would do such a thing. If you watch Hayate no Gotoku, you watch it for not the romance, plot, characters, animation quality, soundtrack, or voice acting, but the continuous humor that keeps you coming back for more for 52 episodes. Few series have managed to hold my attention for that long without long lulls of mediocre episodes that tempt me to drop the series altogether.

However, a word of warning to all potential watchers: since the jokes often draw off of anime clichés and Japanese culture in general, there will be many that go over the head of the viewer. One’s viewing experience depends on how many of the gags one understands. Therefore, I would not recommend it to people who haven't watched a significant variety of anime series or have been involved for the culture for long enough to recognize a reference to the Gundam series when they see one.

Animation:

The animation truly appears as a placeholder and a cheap medium by which the writers can tell their jokes in this series. It reminded me of the Disney Channel animated comedy series I used to watch before I outgrew them. However, making comparisons to American pop culture equivalents, one realizes that animation quality isn’t the most important aspect of an animated comedy. Case in point: South Park, the Simpsons, and Family Guy all have average or even substandard animation. However, they are beloved by their fans because this medium allows for visual gags that are impossible, expensive, or just plain awkward in other mediums. The same goes for Hayate no Gotoku. Hayate and his opponents’ exaggerated powers are best displayed through animation, and much of the fourth wall smashing takes advantage of the 2D nature of the universe in which the characters reside.

Sound: 

The music is overall forgettable except when it’s annoying. The best song in my opinion was the short lived second ED, Get My Way. The background music barely even tried to be significant with some jazzy tracks and some cliché pop. Overall, the music should just be tossed aside as part of the animation medium.  

On the other hand, the voice acting is some of the best I have ever seen for a comedy series. Rie Kugimiya is at her best with her type casted “tsundere” role as Nagi. All the other characters also play off stereotypes, but their seiyuus execute their roles very well. With my small experience in voice acting, I find that it is sometimes more difficult to accomplish a cliché voice than something entirely natural and original. Also, these cliché voices contribute to the anime’s overall purpose, to make people laugh.

Characters:

This section was by far the most difficult to score. Objectively, I might have given the characters as low as a 1. They’re formulaic, rigid, personified tropes. From a literary point of view, they have absolutely no value whatsoever. Every character you will see in this anime you likely will have seen somewhere else, whether it be some other anime that came before it, or even a movie or television show. As for character development, Maria in episode 51 summarizes it quite well for us, “These two don’t change at all even after a whole year.”

But isn’t that the point?

How many times have we seen a comedy anime fail by attempting to change the characters in the name of “progress” or “character development?” Often an anime will morph into something outside of its original scope, but then the fans complain that “the original was better.” Rather than falling into this trap, Hayate no Gotoku uses the same characters and plays off the same stereotypes consistently under the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy. Surprisingly, this works quite well, and one becomes attached to the characters' flat, static personalities.

One character that deserves special recognition is the narrator. His wit and genre savviness from across the fourth wall provide a unique hilarious style of comedy. In fact, it seems to have inspired a narrator from a certain popular anime from this season.

Overall:

If there is any anime that is greater than the sum of its parts on this whole site, Hayate no Gotoku would be the one at the top of the list. This anime is the ultimate test for a reviewer between subjectivity and objectivity. Objectively, the anime is terrible and should not be watched by anyone with any intellectual capacity. On the other hand, this anime should not be judged by the conventions of other ratings scales. The entire purpose of the anime isn't to make a great work of literature; it's to make people laugh. The Subjective Entertainment Value Potential (SEVP, yeah, I just made that up), is higher than any other anime I have seen. Once again, that all depends on whether or not the jokes fall flat or you understand them and laugh (often along with the characters). However, since this anime follows the Mel Brooks philosophy, you can be certain that every scene is loaded with jokes in the earnest hope that one will understand some of them.

8/10 story
5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
Shanalogic's avatar By Shanalogic on Nov 9, 2012

This is my first review in a while so dont be mean, it is short and sweet :)

Also you can skip to 'Overall' if youre lazy.

I cannot really exactly give an accurate review, as i dropped this series early... ;P

Story: I really think the original plot is actually decent, but they just BUTCHERED IT. There are useless episodes everywere, the plot does not develop at all. They are full of Nagi being a brat. It really reminds me of Zero no Tsukaima, with abuse and stuff :(

Animation: The animation is average for new shoujo anime coming out all the time. It would be considered great, back in the day. Now theres many animes with this style :( Style (imo) is huge-eyes, unrealistic hair, and just pretty people. The animations ok.

Sound: I used to love Rie Kugimiya, now I  think her voice is annoying and squeaky. That is Nagi. And the seiyuu for Hayate is Ryoko Shiraishi!! Its a girl but she seiyuued Himeko from sket Dance who I really love!!! The sound is not great, but its ok... other characters are ok...

Characters: I think character development is horrible!!!! Nagi is too tsundere and its a bad tsundere. I love good tsunderes (like Sapphire from Pokemon Special)!!! Nagi is abusive a lot :( While Hayate is too much of a good person :( Waahhh Makes me sad. The other characters... just meh. I dropped series cuz of characters. I couldnt really get to good characters :(

sorry unfinished, WILL FINISH.

6/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
4/10 characters
4.5/10 overall