Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 11th 2007
Hayate the Combat Butler
Life hasn't been easy for teenage Hayate. Although uber-wealthy young heiress Nagi covered the massive gambling debt his parents left him, he still has to work as her butler to repay the debt, and that means both being subject to her whims and dealing with her pet tiger Tama, who only Hayate knows can actually talk. As he soon learns, dealing with Nagi's eccentric friends Sakuya and Isumi, and her cantankerous grandfather, can also be a rough experience, especially when he has been entrusted with an expensive cashmere coat that he is expected to bring back intact from an errand. Even illness doesn't save him from being exposed to the dangers of his new life. Fortunately his past trials have left him quite resilient and physically capable when necessary. Fortunately both he and Nagi have the comely maid Marie looking out for them.
The first volume established the series as a quirky, silly comedy quite capable of being outrageously funny. Its second volume is not so sharp-witted, although it does have its moments; the chapter focusing on the expensive cashmere coat and Hayate's diligent efforts to keep it clean and intact despite one potential catastrophe after another pack a load of laugh-out-loud scenes. At such times the comedy still shines brightly, and the absurdity of it all never truly goes away. There are just less of such moments this time around.
Ony partly successful are the introductions of several new characters. Sakuya is apparently supposed to be funny because she sees everything as part of a comedy performance, but her nonsensical gags often fall so flat that readers may be left scratching their heads over what was supposed to be funny about them. Isumi, as the quiet, meek, and formally-dressed contrast to the dour and assertive Nagi, works a little better, as does the gag about how she's the only one who can appreciate and make sense of Nagi's bizarre storytelling. Nagi's mean-spirited, eccentric old codger of a grandfather manages to be only mildly amusing, while Saki and Wataru Tachibana, who also rate only mild amusement, don't make much of an impression in the one chapter in which they appear, although the bombshell dropped at the end of the volume assures that they will have a major role in the future. And watch for a return appearance by crazed nursing robot Eight from the previous volume. For the most part, though, the series is funniest when it sticks with its core cast.
As before, manga-ka Kenjiro Hata shows his otaku-like penchant for name-dropping by peppering his work with assorted anime and pop culture references, most of which had to be partly blanked out to work around copyright infringement issues. They cover such a broad swath of topics that if you can recognize all of them and are not Japanese, then you probably know a little too much about Japanese culture. They also can be found even in the titles of the chapters, which sometimes mimic styles used in prominent anime series. His characters continue to regularly comment on the fact that they are part of a shonen anime, which can be funny when done in moderation, but he pushes perilously close to overdoing it.
Hata's art uses fairly basic character designs with big, solid-dark eyes, ones not very distinguishable from their chibi versions. It is not high-quality work, but all of his characters do look distinctive from one another and he makes effective use of facial expressions. Backgrounds and equipment, when drawn, are drawn well, and he Hata seems to put particular effort into costuming. Some of his chapter-heading pictures of Nagi still feature her in lolicon poses and dress, but that is also the sum total of the fan service present.
In addition to a full-page lead-in strip, extras in this volume include two bonus pages, profiles on Isumi and Sakuya, a page of writing comments, and a page of four-panel strips. Also look for another crudely-done “Bad Ending” page at the end. Beyond these, Viz has done its typical competent job with the physical and translation standards, including translating all sound effects and offering nicely-colored (if a bit glossy) front cover art.
The absurdity of the set-up and situations in Hayate still brings in enough laughs to justify getting its second volume, just not quite as many as it did in its first volume. The expansion of its core cast proves to be very hit-or-miss.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Still acutely funny at times, good use of facial expressions.
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