So as some of you may already know from my previous reviews, I’m no stranger to Japanese pop culture, and least of all to manga. When I’m not buried in a young adult novel from overseas, I usually like to spend my time reading one of my favorite Japanese manga series. Since I didn’t quite feel like finishing Train Man yet, I decided to take a break and return to reading a comedy series that never fails to make me laugh.
I first discovered Hayate the Combat Butler a number of years ago because of a review in NewType USA (R.I.P.) back in the day when the first volume was released. I went to the bookstore and after reading a few pages found myself laughing uncontrollably, much to some book buyers’ annoyance, I might add. It was a match made in heaven.
The storyline of Hayate the Combat Butler is simple in its complexity. Hayate is an average teenager, that is if constantly working at different jobs throughout his life in order to earn money for food is normal. The problem Hayate faces is that his parents are completely irresponsible with finances. One day, he returns home from getting fired on Christmas Eve to discover a note from his parents. They explain that they have run up a debt with the Japanese Mafia so large that they had no other way to repay but one. They sold Hayate’s organs to them. Stunned and staring disbelieving at a debt of up to 150,000,000 yen, he hears the debt collectors pounding on his door and quickly makes an escape. So it is, that on the night of Christmas Eve, Hayate is out in the cold running for his life when he spots a young girl. An idea strikes him. He can kidnap her and raise money that way! But when the girl gets kidnapped by two other thugs, Hayate unknowingly becomes a hero when he risks his life to get the girl back. In reward, the girl, who believes that Hayate was trying to express his love to her, offers him a job as her butler. But what follows proves more than he, she, or the girl’s maid nearby could ever imagine.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, Hayate the Combat Butler is the best kind of comedy. Smart, witty, sometimes deep, and punch lines on every page. Never missing an opportunity to poke fun at something or crack a joke, Hayate proves itself the source of non-stop chuckles and out-loud laughter.
There are many manga in Japan, but some prove themselves so well that they become more than popular. Hayate is an excellent example of a manga that began with a simple premise and grew to become a franchise that included two successful television shows, several novels, and a video game.
Perhaps one of the things that makes Hayate so great is its ability to continually keep a story flowing from one chapter to the next. Never at any point in the series does it ever feel as though the artist has forgotten the continuity of events. The plot is never sacrificed for the comedy and new characters are seemingly always being added. Relationships are also slowly built upon and characters gain depth in many unexpected ways.
Another thing that makes Hayate so hilarious is its seamless ability to use Anime/Manga culture to aid its jokes. In fact, some entire sequences in the series that could make one spit their milk out from laughing are based on previous knowledge regarding specific popular franchises. Because of this, newcomers to Japanese pop culture may find themselves slightly lost in the sea of references. However, even so, Hayate contains more than enough jokes that anyone could grasp that it makes for an entertaining read for either the Anime enthusiast or the average Joe wanting something light and entertaining.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun change of pace from the world of novels, but desire something better than the US Comic Industry, check out Kenjiro Hata’s masterpiece of comedy. If you can manage to stop laughing in between panels, you just might have enough time to breathe again.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.