On April 12, 2017, the final chapter of Hayate the Combat Butler was released in the pages of Weekly Shonen Sunday. By this point is should be amazingly clear to anyone who reads the blog that it has been one of my favorite manga.Since the manga has concluded I feel I need a bit of ceremony to see it off.
There are practical and spiritual reasons for a funeral but they are also important as a mechanism to help those who are still alive deal with their loss. I feel this post is mostly just to help me process the end of the series and will also just happen to serve as a tribute to the manga and anime as well. In the last Speakeasy, I mentioned that the fact that Hayate had ended but the finality had still not fully dawned on me. But as I write this post the reality of the situation is starting to sink in. This is how I enter the vital stage of acceptance.
Despite how I began I don’t want this to be a depressing farewell to Hayate and Nagi. Kenjiro Hata provided over 568 chapters worth of hilarious and touching comics. I can’t be depressed about receiving 12 and a half years of content that often brightened my week like nothing else. I want to say goodbye to one of the series that has kept my fandom and passion for blogging so strong. To most people, this was the ending of a random series in Weekly Shonen Sunday but to me, it is the end of an era.
I have been a little saddened that some of the people I have followed have had such a negative opinion of the ending of the series. Doughnut Gunso went on a long rant about the ending and AstroNerdBoy seems extremely disappointed. I’m not going to pretend the ending of Hayate was perfect. Parts of the Royal Garden story were obviously rushed for time, Maria is oddly glossed over, and some of the side characters were swept under the rug. I don’t think everyone wanted a volume of falling action but the series could have seriously used at least an extra chapter in between 567 and 568 as well as much 4 or 5 more chapters fleshing out the Royal Garden, Yukariko, and Orumuzuto Nadja. While all of those things are touched on they feel like someone trying to summarize a movie plot on a subway platform as the train you need to take arrives.
In the end, I knew this was coming. Hata knew it too. Reread chapter 522. He knew that whatever he planned the ending was going to come too quickly when it finally came and never please everyone. Ostensibly Nagi and Chiharu are talking about the ending of Squid Girl but they are clearly taking about the Hayate manga. The ending hit almost all the points I needed to be happy. I wanted a resolution to the inheritance, a resolution of bomb between Hayate and Nagi, and a reckoning with Hayate’s parents. Since those points were all solved I was generally satisfied. If other people had problems I think many of them are valid but they were not personal deal breakers to me. I could easily do a whole post about what disappointed me about the ending but in the end, I was happy with the ending so I really can’t complain too much.
When I was mulling over the finale I realized one important fact about the ending which explains why I would be satisfied. Nagi Sanzenin pretty much becomes Kyōko Otonashi from Maison Ikkoku. If you asked Kate, “If Alain were to write the ending of Hayate what would happen?” I’m fairly certain her answer would be, “Hayate and Nagi get together. Nagi becomes Kyōko Otonashi. Saber is their first tenant in the apartment complex they run.” That is not exactly what happened. Kayura Tsurugino has merely copslayed in Saber the past so it is only like 90% of how I would have written the ending. Hata and I have always been on an extremely similar wavelength and this time we have an almost eerie synchronicity.
On top of all of that Hata spelled it out all the way back in Chapter 387. It was titled “This is the Kind of Manga You are Reading.” The chapter is all about Mikado trying to give an exposition dump about the mega serious business plot to Hayate but they keep getting interrupted by Saki trying to suck him into a silly side story about the doujinshi shop. Hata made it VERY clear that he always prioritized silly gags, goofy situations, and obscure otaku references more than the oh so monumental points of the plot. Apparently, I was one of the few people who remembered this.
I would also mention that I was genuinely touched by Wataru’s depression in that chapter. Even in the middle of the hijinks and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water references there was still a rich emotional core if you wanted it.
Random Site Note: Until this very moment I never realized that the Nagi’s grandfather and the skating champ of the Golden Pair from Ranma 1/2 have the exact same name down to using the same kanji. Given Hata’s preferences in manga and the fact that he writes for the same magazine as Rumiko Takahashi, I don’t think this is a coincidence.
I still think Nagi’s growth has been the heart of the series even if it has not always been extremely obvious. The body of the series is Hayate’s debt, love triangle drama, and the Royal Garden story line. Hakuou Three Amiga YouTube star antics, deep cut chapter titles, anime commentary, and various other otaku antics are the soul of the manga. I think way too many people missed that trinity so when the last chapter focused on the heart of the manga I think people thought it was a hasty endcap to top off all the more important dangling plot threads. The thing is if you see Nagi’s story of actually becoming a responsible young lady as the key to the narrative everything makes sense. With that revelation in place, the focus on Nagi’s character arc as the vital element of the ending at the cost of everything else makes much more sense. It is what Hata cared the most about concluding.
I think that is important because Nagi’s growth is one of the best parts of the conclusion. When she lets Hayate go it shows that she is finally mature enough to make such a decision she never could have made at the start of the series. Nagi was far too greedy and cowardly to let anyone that important to her go. But her year with Hayate and the loss of Maria are the spring time the seeds of growth that have been planted within her over the course of the manga. It is a painful growth but it has been slowly happening since chapter one. By the end her loss and loneliness, and the will to overcome those pains, actually transform her into a Kyōko Otonashi styled beauty. The only difference is that she plays lacrosse. I’m guessing tennis would have been too on the nose. I got a little choked up when she chased away those aggressive dudes in front of the vending machine. It was the perfect place to showcase Nagi’s growth and have an emotional reunion with Hayate. It let the story come full circle and show the growth of both of the main characters.
When push comes to shove Hayate is hardly the best manga I have ever read. There are smarter, tighter, and more thought provoking manga. I have read many of them. I can critically point to something like Monster, Akira, or In Clothes Called Fat which are just BETTER manga. But none of them will have the same impact on me. It is as if Hayate was written just for me. Not for someone sort of like me. Specifically for Alain Mendez of Brooklyn, New York. Hata plays Type-Moon games and brings it up in the series. Hata likes Kunihiko Ikuhara to the point where major parts of the story are Utena tributes. Even when he makes dumb jokes and weird asides it feels like the sort of way I would deliver those lines. The series has my favorite type of protagonist, my preferred style of heroine, and a tailor fit cast of supporting characters. Even the somewhat rushed procrastinated ending feels like something I would make. It feels like when your parent customizes a bedtime story just for you and you alone.
In that regard, it does not matter the actual quality of the manga. I’m practically hard-wired to love Hayate. Make no mistake, I think Hayate has many admirable praiseworthy strengths that make it a wonderful manga. It is always just always have a special place in my heart, unlike any other manga.
If nothing else this will hardly be the last time I ever bring up Hayate. I will surely reference things like the RC car story, the Lord British of Akihabara, and Nagi and Hayate for years to come. It is a series that has changed the way I look at anime and manga and will influence how I do so far after the series has concluded.
Until the next time I will let Rie Tanaka end the post better than I ever could: