Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Nov 13th 2009
Hayate the Combat Butler
Sub.DVD - Part 2
Hayate finds it just a tad disturbing how well he is fitting into his new life as little rich girl Nagi Sanzenin's personal butler. Heck, he doesn't even blink at her talking, bipedal pet tiger any more. After all, the rich are different than the rest of us, so why shouldn't their pets be? Hayate's comfy new world gets a shake, however, when he is taken to meet Nagi's grandfather (and only living relative). As is to be expected, the old coot is two (or maybe three) loaves short of a breadbasket, but he has some damning things to say about Hayate's path in life. Shaken from his complacency, Hayate reminisces about high school and Nagi, attuned to her beloved's moods, takes notice. Concerned for him (and resentful of the attention he is paying former classmate Nishizawa) she gets him a shot at transferring into her own school. The catch? He has to pass a transfer exam, and if he doesn't, not only does he lose the opportunity to school with Nagi, he gets the axe as well.
Substance? Who knew Hayate had it in it? Somehow, between the Gundam references and talking tiger jokes, a few granules of character and, dare I say, even feeling have snuck their way in. Not many mind you, but enough to make this outing a rather more satisfying comic confection than the last. For the first time the series' unrelentingly comic treatment of Hayate's crappy life softens, allowing us to sympathize with rather than simply laugh at his role as fate's whipping boy. His desire to attend school (who but the world's unluckiest boy would dream of one day being able to study) is both funny and touchingly pathetic—a dichotomy that the series gleefully exploits as it plays Lucy to his Charlie Brown and pulls the football away at the last moment. Nagi also benefits from the sneaking granules, particularly as her family circumstances are uncovered and it becomes ever more obvious that hers are the romantic delusions not of an egocentric heiress (which she is) but of a desperately lonely child (which she also is).
If all this mushy talk is making you nervous, relax. Hayate hasn't suddenly become the unholy spawn of Oliver Twist and Gone With the Wind. A few emotional undertones do nothing to temper its hell-bent focus on frivolousness. Norio Wakamoto still narrates like the voice of a particularly ill-natured (and interventionist) god, anime references still proliferate like horny little otaku-bunnies, and situations still spin themselves into comic calamities. If anything, this volume is even funnier than the last, or at the very least scales heights of periodic hilarity that the previous never quite reached. Just try watching Nagi's confrontation with Nishizawa (and the ensuing avatar-battle) without falling out of your seat. This is a series that knows its strengths and weaknesses; any emoting is invariably punctured by a pointed gag before it can inflate itself enough to overextend the still-slight characters. It's still the series to hit up for a watching experience that is consistently fun and never taxing.
Well, almost never. Episode 10, a frantic spiral of self-reference that's all broad winks and irritating nudges and no genuine laughs, is one conspicuous dead spot, and Nagi's manzai-obsessed cousin still pops in on occasion to ruin whatever scene is currently in progress. Also problematic is Hinagiku, whose perfection of personality makes her a dull standout in a cast whose best characters (Nagi and Hayate) are defined by their psychic damage (affection starvation and indirect parental abuse respectively). As she is one of the pillars of the series' growing harem, she inevitably gets the occasional episode built around her, and just as inevitably smothers its fun-factor like a pillow-wielding Agatha Christie villain. Fortunately, though, such murderous encounters between character and entertainment value are far outweighed by those encounters that bear light, tasty comedy fruit.
The show's major visual weakness continues to be its character designs. Slightly sloppy and utterly nondescript, they could have come from any of a dozen underfunded anime. They're also completely interchangeable. Switch the hair off of one character onto another and you'd never know it wasn't the original. The settings are better, but not in any way memorable. In the realm of movement, rapid-fire cutting and a busy mixture of stills, looped movement, and recycled animation keep the energy level high and the Cheap-o-Meter pegged. The only improvement appears to be in the fights, which are noticeably punchier—though whether that's a function of more skillful animation or the simple fact that the fights now actually matter (a little) is an open question. Of course cheapness and plainness don't really matter when all a series really wants is to pack itself to neutron-star density with sight gags, in-jokes and pop-culture references. Which Hayate does, shamelessly and oft hilariously.
Kotaro Nakagawa continues to fill his score, via both direct emulation and canny pastiche, with cheeky rip-o…er, homages to other anime. Though without once producing something interesting, original or even particularly funny—though the latter is more the fault of director Keiichiro Kawaguchi's use of the score than its raw quality. The ending and opening themes are pop of the most disposable type, which is to say, they are of one cloth with the score overall.
Hayate's second volume manages the thorny feat of upping the emotional ante (a little) without adversely impacting its mad momentum. Considering how many comedies self-destruct under the pressure of their emotional ambitions, and considering how poorly the previous volume fared when it wasn't charging full tilt for the nearest banana peel, that's a genuine, and welcome, surprise. Yuk it up while you can; a decent comedy is a surprisingly rare thing.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C
+ Background on Nagi and Hayate puts (a little) meat on the show's bones, and without slowing it a whit.
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