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.
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.
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.
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.
Hayate the Combat Butler! is worthy of a recommendation: a conditional one, but a recommendation all the same. The lack of plot will prevent many from enjoying the series, but others – especially fans of parody – will eat it up for its fantastic characters and unusually funny comedy.
From the get go, this story feels so totally unreasonable and unrealistic to be remotely grounded in reality you may wonder what sort of reality this is reflecting. There is no obvious suggestion it is an alternate reality other than the outrageous way a child is expected to pay for mistakes by his overly irresponsible and worthless parents who not only leave him with debts but completely abandon him in addition. Even if this were true, what bass akwards government would ever be ridiculous enough to hold a child responsible for someone's problem who was supposed to be responsible for him? The bizzare totally illogical fantasy setting aside, and if you can get passed how senseless this setting and setup is, the story is not to shabby.
The characters however are not all equally worthwhile. Nagi for example is a completely useless character. All she thinks about is herself. Even when the extremely guillable whipped Hayate does all he can to help her, she never ever seems to show much if any appreciation. And if she has any so called sense of love she has a terrible way of showing it. It is the kind of abusive love relationship abused spouses have with their abusive significant others but never seem to press charges or leave them. Hayate is in an abused spouse like role as someone who takes it and never has the guts to leave and stand up on his own. Which is rather surprising since he also seems to be a pretty capable combatent always coming to help the thankless Nagi or her friends. Hinagiku is the only female really worthy of being a compatible girlfriend to the hapless Hayate and they even share a similar background which should make a potential connection all the more likely and potentionally stronger. She is a worthwhile character and such a interesting character, that I would have to classify her as one of the best and most appealing female characters in any anime or manga. Where as Nagi is not even close to that. Such a inept sense of choice for Hayate sadly for him drops his value as a worthwhile and interesting character in part because his lack of sense and strength to stand up for his own rights and on his own both against the greedy lawless creditors his pursuers are dumb enough to believe that he is either responsible or or remotely capable of fulfilling. Odd as it is, this is one anime where frankly all the support characters outshine the two main characters.
Ayumu is never properly set up and always treated as almost a joke or but of jokes in the anime who constantly gets some sort of prank like situation thrown on her missing opportunities or falling into hazards. Isumi constantly leaves you wondering about what she is really all about as if she has all these strange hidden qualities about her that border some mythical sense of magic and mystery. Sakuya is a friend who has Nagi's ear and gives advice but never seems interested enough to give her that pep talk she needs to wake up and treat people as more than tools. Sakuya instead appears to always be looking for entertainment which maybe why she would rather watch the dramas play out around her. Yukiiji is an adult who is the most irresponsible and immature among them all and that includes the youngest children. That is pretty entertaining as well as ironic.
It is a bit sad to see this story evolve and develop and yet the two most important characters never seem to quite learn from their experiences or change much for the better. In that way, it kind of defeats the very essence of what the story should have been about. Then again perhaps some people like characters that never change or learn from thier mistakes or successes and haphazardly wonder through life like a blindfolded drunk acrobat on a high wire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let's start with a warning,shall we?Watch this only if you're an anime veteran and deep into japanese pop culture otherwise Hayate won't make sense at all for most of the time.
So Hayate is a kid who is so unfortunate,he seems to have come out from a Greek drama.His parents are worthless douchebags who are milking their own offspring,living the highlife,whilst poor Hayate has to work his ass off to maintain their lifestyle..Nice setting thus far,right?So the parents run off,leaving a huge debt and leave Hayate behind to repay the loan sharks,who are not the nicest people on earth..But then into the equation comes our little tsundere Nari to save the day and gives him a job as a combat butler.Hayate swears his allegiance to the midget and the rest is history.
So you expect the story to take off and Hayate going berserk,slaying all the mothafuckas,raping their sisters,their mothers,their grandmas...Well nope..And there's a reason for this.Besides the stupid name this is a parody anime..Yes yes another contestant in the already crowded pool.So does it deliver the goods or is it just another one to bite the dust.The answer is...Yes and no..This is a mixed bag of good moments and utter nothngness.Like i said in the beginning Hayate has a certain target group and if you're not in the special club you'll be forever lost.And i do mean forever.You see this Leviathan is 52 eps long..52!!!Why do i point it out,you might be wondering,when there are a lot of anime out there with 300 or 500 eps and are still going strong..That's mainly because all of these titans are bound to have a story to tell.Whereas Hayate doesn't.After the first 10 or so eps it turns episodic.Each ep has nothing to do with the others and the majority of them have nothing to add to the greater picture.Don't come looking for some underlying plot leading to the main event..Each and every ep is dedicated to the purpose of making fun other animes,movies etc.So the first eps are just introductory.
And here we dive into the first major problem.52 episodic eps of parody and no story.You know,it would work if it was half the bulk or even less.But as it stands after 15 eps(and i'm being optimistic here)you get tired of it.The parody part especially is so much in your face it's like watching someone explain to his kiddo how babies are born.And another thing as well..When it's not being a parody and tries to be its own anime it fails miserably.You know after some eps into this,i found myself doing other things while watching it.Going to youtube,playing candy crash..Anything but being glued to this anime.And that for me is the killer of an anime.At first it was somewhat funny,whitty and all,but then it took a dive without safety equipment.It became so boring and repetitive i couldn't stand the thought of getting on with it.The only way to watch this is,i suppose,is go for 6 eps then drop it,watch something else and then pick it up again.Especially if you're like me and have a completion complex you're gonna have a very hard time with this one.
The characters part of Hayate is also a problem.They have their moments,they tend to have some funny interactions,the romance part is there but it's there in a less intrusive way than others..But again that's like saying i got stabbed in the parking lot only 12 times..And since the characters make an anime,like i said above they become stale and hideously boring.You don't connect to them in any way.And i can't shake the feeling that our main duo here resemble a lot the one from Zero no Tsukaima....And not in a parody-ish way...
Animation was pretty good for back in the day.There were many anime with much much better animation but it is pleasant to the eye nevertheless.Soundtrack and VA was pretty decent.
To conclude,i can only sum up this anime as such:nothing stands out as GREAT,there's nothing to really excite you about it...You don't care if it isn't there,it's practically invisible.Sure at first it was nice but after 12 eps i couldn't care less and wanted to watch something else instead.That defeats the purpose of entertainment lads.I want to be entertained by what i watch,i don't want to nail my balls to the wall after watching something.And Hayate the combat butler i'm afraid is making me wanna strap some kittens to the bumper of my car and drive for miles and miles.Being harsh?Afraid not.
And again i see a pattern here with most reviews making it seem like the bastard love child of Stephen Hawking and Bill Murray..It's not entirely the anime's fault.It's the fanboys that want to feel they're special and they think that what the watch as well is special..Got news for ya..You are not special and this anime and indeed every overated donkey turd you watch is not special