November’s Final Denouement: A Tale of Master and Student – Kenjiro Hata and Koji Kumeta

hisuiconAt first Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei by Koji Kumeta might not seem like manga with a common ancestry. The sense of humor and storytelling is quite different in both manga. Hayate has a very traditional design for a comedy manga in Shonen Sunday where as Zetsubou-Sensei is very stylized. But when we realize that Kenjiro Hata used to be an assistant to Koji Kumeta we begin to see greater similarities in their styles. When we look at, Katte ni Kaizo, a manga they both worked on together we can see how Hata was influenced by Kumeta. Hata’s work on Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers is clearly influenced by his mentor. Hata would go on to develop his own style in Hayate while Kumeta would further continue to refine his own style in Zetsubou-Sensei. I have compiled some samples from each manga to help illustrate this evolution.

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Hayate the Combat Butler, There is only dirty otaku blood in our veins!

Hayate no Gotoku is an otaku comedy for the whole family.

YAY! We are really excited about the next season of Hayate (especially since we weren’t sure it was going to get one). So we thought we would try to get as many people watching it as we could before it starts up again!

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Doujinshi

This is the story of the most unlucky boy in the world. Hayate Ayasaki has only ever known a life of hard work and sorrow. One day, he comes home to find that his parents have borrowed 156,804,000 yen from the Yakuza and that they have left him the responsibility of paying off this debt. Hayate decides to ransom a girl to get the money and the girl he first stumbles upon is Nagi Sanzenin. Due to an odd miscommunication that shall set the tone for the whole series, Hayate’s declaration that he is going to kidnap Nagi comes off as a love confession. And of course Nagi falls completely in love with him in that instant but it is a love built on a misunderstanding.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Doujinshi

Poor Hayate never had a chance as his last pay check was given to his good for nothing parental units who promptly used it to gamble. But Hayate is innately good and even when he really, really tries to be bad he just ends up screwing it up. But I guess that is why he gets all the ladies.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Destiny, Doujinshi

After Hayate saves Nagi several times instead of kidnapping her, he asks Nagi to find him a job. Nagi can immediately think of only one position for Hayate. Under her; as her combat butler (yes, that innuendo was intentional). And so through some shenanigans Nagi agrees to pay off Hayate’s debt and in return he will pay off the debt to her as her butler. The main problem as Maria, who is Nagi’s maid, quite succinctly put it is: there is a humongous bomb waiting to go off between Nagi and Hayate. Nagi believes that Hayate is head over heals in love with her and does everything for her due to their love. Hayate is eternally grateful to the woman who saved his life but is unaware of any feelings she has for him. Maria is quite aware that this is a problem waiting to happen so she does everything is her power to make sure this does not blow up in everyone’s face.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Maria, Maid, Doujinshi

This is a recipe for pure comedy. The show is miscommunication after miscommunication between these two, then throw in: a beautiful maid who Hayate is crazy about; an odd old butler and a talking tiger; a jerky grandfather; Nagi’s “fiance” who is the owner of a video store; a wacky bunch of friends of Nagi; wackier students and teachers at her and Hayate’s school; gobs of girls in love with Hayate; a huge estate; unlimited amounts of money; robots; doujinishi; a crap load of otaku jokes; and a butler battling tournament. Oh but there is some randomness that resembles an actual plot thrown in also. You see, Nagi’s grandfather has promised his fortune to anyone who can do two things. One: Make Nagi cry. Two: Make Nagi apologize. So this adds money hungry ridiculous villains sometimes.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Gundam, Doujinshi

The author of Hayate, Kenjiro Hata, is a rather interesting mangaka. He once was the assistant of Koji Kumeta who currently writes Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei. Like many modern mangaka he is as big an otaku as his readers. Apparently he is also very active on the internet, posting on his own blog and conversing with fans on 2channel. Also according to Tsunami Channel he started the manga in massive debt and was dependent on sales of the manga. I also really empathized with Kenjiro Hata when he said he started to cry in a family restaurant during the first year of writing Hayate as he thought it was going to be canceled.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Conan, Doujinshi

Hayate is the story of a truth that grows out of a lie. Or that is what Narutaki and I like to believe. I think the things that will draw most people into this series is the two main characters. All too often you will have shows in which the main characters are super bland or annoying but the side characters are where it is at. I would be surprised if anyone who regularly reads this blog did not at least like one of the main characters. Hayate is handsome, strong, honest, amiable, charming, and a little bit goofy. Nagi is a spunky otaku girl with a sharp mind and a sweet side buried under a very blunt nature. Hayate and Nagi are great characters but they are even better characters together. They have an easy comedic interplay between them and they are also a cute couple even though they might not realize what is going on between them. It is all to easy to make characters who constantly misunderstand each other extremely annoying but Hayate and Nagi stay charming and make you honestly root for them.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Mecha, Robot, Otaku, Gundam, Doujinshi

Some people mistakenly call Nagi tsundere. This is absolutely not true, Nagi expounds on why Hayate is so great. And she does think he already knows she loves him as much as he loves her. So while she does get embarrassed or yell at him, it really stems from her anti-social behavior more than anything else. I’ll never forget an episode where Nagi is trying to think of a way to get Hayate out of the house for a few hours. Nagi simply lies to him yelling “I’m tired of seeing your face!” Hayate was visibly hurt. He is quite naive but sometimes I think he is actually amazingly shrewd. To put it another way, Hayate is a playa. For a guy who doesn’t have any romantic feelings for anyone, except Maria, he sure does get around. However, I too am in love with Hayate so what can I really say? I am the first to admit that while I love this show because it is funny, I am really attached to the growing relationship between Nagi and Hayate. A lot.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Maria, Maid, Doujinshi

The hidden workhorse that keeps the series and the characters moving forward is Maria the maid. Maria is Hayate and Nagi’s greatest supporter. She troubleshoots many a disaster and often times work her hardest to keep Hayate and Nagi together and maybe even make them realize what the other one is feeling. The running gag is that everyone thinks that Maria is much older than her actually age of 17 but it’s mostly because she is the mature character in the series who has to reign things in when they get out of control. I will also admit for some reason I really like that little curly bang that hangs down from Maria’s face. It is impossibly cute.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Wataru, Doujinshi

Maria is very important, I can’t imagine anyone actually making it a week without her. Even when they try to send her on vacation it just doesn’t work. Speaking of characters that are just great, how about I talk about Wataru? Dying to hear about him I know. Wataru is Nagi’s “fiance” and no matter how much they fight, they are actually very good friends. I see him and Nagi as having similar personalities. He is spikey but very sweet deep down, he is also small and adorable. He, Nagi, Sakuya (Nagi’s cousin), and Isumi (the only person that would willingly read Nagi’s ramblings) have all known each other a long time and their friendship is very fun. He also has this funny rivalry/friendship with Hayate. His family used to be wealthy but now their only asset is a video store which Wataru works at. Nagi is constantly renting things from him. Wataru is a super otaku of special effects (tokusatsu) and thanks to his moment of self-loathing we got the title for this article.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Inu-Yasha, Wataru, Doujinshi

The one thing I really don’t understand about Hayate is why does Hinagiku has the fan following she does. I like Hinagiku. Narutaki likes Hinagiku. But neither of us is running out to buy Hinagiku love pillows for our Hinagiku decorated rooms where we write in our blogs about Hinagiku in which we state how Hinagiku should be the star of the manga. It seems like at times Narutaki and I are in the minority. I recently bought a Hayate art book and Hinagiku’s face was the largest face on the cover. Any Hayate merchandise is sure to either have Hinagiku on it or have a Hinagiku version. When the second season was announced on Anime News Network there there people cheering left and right for more Hinagiku. It still makes no sense to me. What magical appeal does this girl have that I am missing?

Hinagiku, Utena, Hayate, Butler, Doujinshi

I often want to write on messageboards: Hey, you guys know this story is about HAYATE, right? I really do think people don’t know. But we are letting that secret be known here! Hina is cool, I loved that time she dressed as Utena, but I certainly don’t need the Hina side story.

There are some differences between the anime and manga versions of Hayate. The overall story is very fast and loose so the anime changes when certain things happen and when certain characters are introduced. Of course they rush to give us Hinagiku as quickly as possible even thought she is not introduced until the manga until book four. They also tweak certain characters personalities. No one is massively different but I feel that Hayate is a little more mean-spirited in the manga and Maria manipulates events a little more openly.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Gundam, Doujinshi

Despite the cute exterior and mundane non-otaku friendly veneer of Hayate, it is an insightful and hardcore otaku comedy. There is a constant barrage of anime and manga references. Look at the Anime News Network Trivia section for Hayate to see what I am talking about. Almost all the titles are anime references. My personal favorites are “A Power That Won’t Revolutionize the World” and “Many Kids Must Be in Trouble Since Train_Man Showed Their Parents What Comiket Is All About.” Nagi’s house has statues of Detective Conan and Inu-Yasha. I think the pinnacle of the otaku love is the manga Nagi writes called Magical Girl Destroy. Nagi’s comic is a bizarre mixture of Card Captor Sakura and Fist of the North Star. It is apparently incomprehensible to anyone but Nagi and Isumi. When the main character who looks like Kenshiro in drag shouts out “Sega Saturn Black!” for no identifiable reason you know you have comedy gold. The thing is that most of the otaku references are in the background and they never rely on them. If you took out every otaku reference I fell the show would still be hysterically.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Magical Girl Destroy, Doujinshi

With Hayate there is just twice as much to love. You can love it as an otaku but also as a normal ole person. I mean, heck, even though I identify with the word otaku I only get 20% of the otaku-oriented jokes in Hayate. That isn’t the thing that makes me want to watch the show. It is the characters, the comedic timing, the randomness, and interactions. While clearly not a gripping and suspenseful show, it is hard not to get addicted to it.

Nagi, Hayate, Butler, Otaku, Conan, Gundam, Doujinshi

UPDATE: Hayate is now licensed by Bandai!