Hayate no Gotoku Review

14 04 2008


Studio: Synergy SP
Genre: Comedy, Butlers
Episodes: 52

Hayate no Gotoku has just finished airing one 52 episode season, that’s one episode a week for an entire year. I have no idea what sort of horrible experience it is to be on the production team for this sort of thing. Anyway, given the incredibly tight turn-around for these episodes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the quality would probably slip at some point. Normally the super long ‘every week’ type shows are shounen shows like Naruto that can get away with doing filler, flashback episodes, or those episodes where everyone stands perfectly still grimacing at each other, to make things easier. This show is mainly a comedy though, so it requires a bit more effort, and I’m amazed to say that there is no perceivable drop in quality for the whole 52 episode run.

Time for some Plot! Hayate is a combat butler… Japan sure does like it’s butlers doesn’t it? I’m not really sure why, they seem to me to be mostly a British sort of thing. Anyway, Hayate’s parents are gamblers, and leave him to pay off a 156,804,000 yen debt to the friendly people at the local Yakuza. To raise money he tries kidnapping someone for ransom, but it goes a bit wrong. The girl he tries to kidnap is Nagi Sanzen who is their heir to a vast fortune, and owner of a massive mansion in the middle of Tokyo. After falling for Hayate she pays off the Yakuza, and employs Hayate as her butler to pay off the debt.


Main characters: Nagi and Hayate

Nagi is a shut-in Hikikomori-ish girl who spends most of her time playing video games and reading manga. There’s also a maid called Maria whom Hayate fancies, head butler Klaus, and white tiger called Tama who only Hayate can hear talking. There is also a narration done by Norio Wakamoto (Mechazawa, Chiyo’s Father, etc.) which is sublime. With that out of the way, it’s all just set-up for amusing butler and maid related antics. Fortunately, Hayate himself is an awesomely likable character. Nagi isn’t so much, but that’s mostly due to the fact that there have to be lots of irritating misunderstandings to generate comic situations, but while I understand that it still bugs me when she’s being stupid.

There is what I call a ‘retarded love triangle’ relationship between Hayate, Nagi and Maria. I really hate love triangles, as they seem to crop up in every single show with any romantic elements. To be fair, this isn’t the worst example of one though, so it didn’t bother me all that much. Actually, there are many other girls who like Hayate, in real life too, I remember reading someone that Hayate was voted most popular character by some magazine in Japan though I can’t find any reference now that I come to try and link to it, so you’ll just have to believe me. It’s the likable nature of Hayate that binds the whole show together.


Robots!

Being a combat butler, Hayate is required to engage in fights with robots, criminals and other butlers reasonably often. Hayate, like all butlers, can leap a hundred feet in the air, and is capable of surviving almost anything. These sequences are always well animated, as is the rest of the show. One episode (episode 39) is even animated by Gainax, and has lots of Tengen references which is always awesome. Gainax animation is instantly recognisable to anyone who’s seen one of their recent shows, you are just like “Oh…it’s gainax I guess.”.

While this is supposed to be a comedy show, it’s sometimes not really very funny. It varies a surprising amount between episodes. Sometimes I will be laughing my arse off for the whole time, and others all the jokes fall flat. I assume this is a result of the aforementioned rushed production schedule. Although as the jokes are largely reference based, sometimes I won’t have the first clue what they are referring to. It’s not all reference stuff though, and a lot of the jokes are just amusing in their own right. Or sometimes they aren’t.

Being such a lengthy show they certainly run the gamut of anime clichés, you’ve got your Beach episodes, your New Year episode, your Onsen episodes, you Culture Day episode. It’s all there, sometimes more than once. But there are some greatly amusing original episodes though. There’s one episode where the characters are trying to make an anime and we get a hilarious self-parody of an anime production studio. Also in the first episode, Hayate punches Santa which you really have to respect.The most astonishing thing that happened in the show was that Nabeshin the director and character from the Excel Saga anime made a guest appearance. Nabeshin is one of my favourite characters ever, so that was super excellent.

It’s odd to see a show that I have watched for an entire year come to an end. It’s not like it was my favourite or anything, it’s just that I’ve grown to expect there to be more of it coming. Fortunately there is more of it coming in the form of a second season, but they’ll probably take a couple of seasons break before starting up back up. I am sure there are a lot of people on the staff in desperate need of their own onsen episode.

Arbitrary Rating: 7 – Combat Butlers!

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