What They Say:
Could Hayate Ayasaki’s life get any unluckier? As if it wasn’t bad enough that he’s had to work constantly in order to support his good-for-nothing parents, now he’s lost his job for being underage and Mom and Pop have cashed in their cash cow by selling him to the Yakuza. For Christmas! Desperate to pay off the 156,804,000 yen debt before he’s converted into black market organ parts, Hayate strikes on the idea of kidnapping oddball heiress Nagi Sanzenin. Unbelievably, however, even that goes wrong and not only does he end up not kidnapping her, he rescues her from other kidnappers. (Apparently this happens to her all the time.) But maybe, just maybe, there might be a tiny, dim light at the end of the very dark tunnel of Hayate’s existence, and the skills that Hayate’s had to develop to stay alive will pay off. Because Nagi needs a butler/bodyguard and Hayate could just fit the bill. Assuming he can survive the on-the-job training, of course. Fate can be a harsh mistress, but Hayate may have just signed up with an even harsher one as the epic comedy series begins in HAYATE THE COMBAT BUTLER!
While this disk set is only available in Japanese with subtitles, nothing much more is necessary for this collection. The majority of the series consists of Nagi yelling at Hayate for not noticing her latest scheme and the random visits of her friends to the mansion. Although the calming breeze blowing sakura blossoms, explosions from cars and robots which try to kidnap his mistress and the accompanying music to create an appropriate atmosphere to produce a wonderful Dolby Digital 2.0 experience could have been optimised in another format, it is not necessary; in fact, at times, the soundtrack seems to be obtrusively loud as to require the volume to adjusted to make the viewing tolerable. Albeit it might have been welcomed to have the set dubbed into English, it would have been prohibitively expensive to dedicate the voice actors to such an extensive project.
Hayate the Combat Butler makes full use of the expansive backgrounds to create the ambience of which Nagi and her compatriots inhabit. The sumptuous Sanzenin mansion with its lavishly decorated rooms and its carefully manicured gardens seem a world away from what Hayate knew – the penniless life he had due to his parents’ happy-go-lucky lifestyle where they spent any money they could get their hands on … even their son’s. This theme is repeated when he is amazed how frivolously money is thrown around as to the length that Nagi pays off his family debt with no second thought. However, it is this wealth that also causes many laughs at his mistress’ expense due to her being socially isolated from the common people. This side is often shown in drabber colours as opposed to the shining gold and shimmering whites of her own home.
Sentai Filmworks has decorated the case with symbols of old Victorian luxury, lace, using those fineries as the background while a delightful portrait of Nagi and Hayate embrace in the foreground with charming smiles. This picture projects the environment of this series, while the disks enclosed within show off the influence of Nagi’s nature – one of anime, manga and pop culture with the characters cosplayed as various characters from other franchises. You just have to laugh to see them in these costumes and at the same time, are puzzled in trying to figure out where you have seen them before.
While Sentai may have used the cast as decoration for the background images of the menus, what makes these items stand out is the opening theme being played while you make your choice. This is upbeat tempo gets you ready to watch this comical series, however, it quickly gets tiresome once the ten second selection is over and starts to repeat. Too bad you can’t switch the music off, but then you probably not expected to spend much time to make your selection from the list of episodes.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the last disc.
Hayate Ayasaki is a tragic sixteen year old high schooler who has had to work all his life to make up for the laziness of his irresponsible parents. Then on Christmas Eve, some nice people, whom we as viewers all know are Yakuza, come to their ramshackled apartment to collect on the massive debt that has been signed to his name. In desperation, he flees to the park where he meets Nagi Sanzenin, the heiress who tells him she has the misfortune of being regularly kidnapped; in an act of unbelievable ignorance, our unlucky protagonist tells her that he needs her. She interprets this as a confession of love instead of the obvious statement of her being held for ransom. When Hayate goes to call the mansion to state his demands, Fate steps in and a real set of crooks shows up and takes his hostage!
Nagi, still infatuated by Hayate’s revelation, tells the gunmen that her new boyfriend will rescue her, no matter what the cost; while Hayate, now overcome by guilt, decides that he will rescue his former captive by any means necessary. After he borrows a bike to chase after the now out of control car, the careless abductor amazingly catches up and assaults the hapless hijackers without reservations, horrifying them into thinking that his simple boy is an unstoppable juggernaut of destruction. Before he faints from his injuries, Nagi asks if there is anything she can do to repay his kind act and is startled by the simple request for a job. However, by the next morning, our misplaced hero awakens to find he is now in a luxurious room, with Maria the head maid telling him that his offer has been accepted and he is now a butler for the Sanzenin household.
Shocked by the news, so now starts the new life of Hayate Ayasaki the Combat Butler, responsible for guarding his new mistress from any and all threats to the life he once tried to spirit away; he may think of himself as a loyal servant but his new employer thinks of him as her new love. While they constantly misinterpret each other’s intentions, the constant craziness of her life revolving around anime, manga, video games and movies intrudes into the young couple’s life, making their understanding even more hilarious. Hayate along with Maria try to understand their mistress’ delusional ranting of what she thinks is normal for ordinary people, though her conclusions have no hold and are all based on her reading of shoujo manga, and thus, this is how she approaches her romance with her butler. Thus, the viewer and Maria are the only ones who understand the relationship between the two and so, who know how this partnership will end?
Hayate Ayasaki the Combat Butler is a strange concept for a show since the entire premise is based on a misunderstanding. What is even more unusual is that Maria fully understands the mistake, but she never attempts to explain the situation to either Nagi or Hayate. And since she practically raised her mistress and thus should also be the one who truly understands her, it would be assumed that Maria would not want to see her harmed physically or emotionally; so why hold back the truth when delaying the inevitable would only cause more pain? It is also true that she runs the household and most of the staff fear her, but why would she need to kindle that kind of control over Nagi? Is she trying to gain control of the Sanzenin fortune? Perhaps we will never know, but for the time being, all of these antics make for a ridiculous anime.
While the main theme of this series is trying to expand Nagi’s relationships outside of her immediate circle of friends, the other is exploring her interests and of course, that includes persuading Hayate into a more romantic partnership. However, while they to explore that within the first few episodes, that concept is soon lost once the new semester starts and both Maria and Hayate attempt to get the mistress to attend school. Once that plot line begins, all efforts to grow their rapport is lost in favour of going to class and expanding the cast so as to open more venues to grow Hayate’s harem, thus in turn, expanding the adventures. Although they do touch on it several times, there is no real push toward that end, in lieu of being able to extend the franchise into the third season where they finally admit their love. Sad that the publishers would try this cheap trick just to make more shows/manga. They could have chosen to at least have Hayate acknowledge his mistress, but that was passed over just for laughs.
Lastly, the secondary basis of this otaku relatable series are the overt name slips, since the creators try to sneak in at least ten or more copyrighted titles into each episode; but to prevent any lawsuits, they are censored by beeps and essential letters removed in the subtitles. However, those same names are explained within a few seconds by subtext, therefore this sanitising is contradictory – so why do they bother? Is it done for comedic effect or so that we can see Nagi as the uber super fan? What ever their reasoning may be, it does get tiresome after a while, and after fifty-two episodes, the too joke wears old.
Hayate Ayasaki the Combat Butler is a good series, but the trite expressions of otakuness and expansion of the cast in favour of being able to explore more of the anime’s universe overshadow the main thrust of what it should have been: expansion of the mistress/butler relationship. While they could have gradually ventured down that path with suggestions of interest on Hayate’s part, the character is so clueless that all of Nagi’s suggestions still would have not made a dent in his invulnerable armour. It is that silliness that makes their rapport seem more like a Big Brother/Little Sister instead of anything else. Plus the length of the season, which should could have been easily been broken down into an additional four, made the show drag on – finally concluding with recycled skits and tired solutions. Sorry, but it was too much of a good thing at once, or in Western terms: too much Thanksgiving dinner and then you fall asleep on the couch while all of those football games.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Running Time: 1300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player