"Combat Butler" Brings Laughs By The Bucketload
When a series features the biggest asshole of a Santa Claus in the first episode, viewers will know that they are in for a big treat. Such is the case of Hayate the Combat Butler, a real comedy pearl if there ever was one.
Based on the manga by Kenjiro Hata the series stars Hayate Ayasaki (Ryoko Shiraishi), a boy whose parents decided to borrow money from the yakuza, and leave the 157 million yen debt on Hayate. Panicking he runs away, and in the cold, snowy weather Hayate runs into a rich girl named Nagi Sanzen’in (Rie Kugimiya). After hearing from both sides of his conscience, Hayate decides to listen to his good side and kidnap the girl. (There’s no misprint there: the angel tells Hayate to do the evil deed while the demon tries to talk him out of it.) However when he tells the girl what he wants to do to her, Nagi mistakens his kidnapping ploy for a love confession. As Hayate is about to call Nagi’s parents, two men come around and abduct Nagi. Panicking Hayate borrows a passing girl’s bicycle and pedals to Nagi’s rescue. The passing girl is revealed to be Maria (Rie Tanaka), the Sanzen’in family maid.
After he saves her Nagi hires Hayate as her new butler, and the real adventures begin. Viewers are introduced to Tama (Jurota Kosugi), the white tiger that only talks to Hayate and has a license in real estate and building management (though he doesn’t really use these talents at all); Hinagiku (Shizuka Ito), the student council president who is a mean fighter but afraid of heights; Sakuya (Kana Ueda) the failed comedienne; and Isumi (Miyu Matsuki) the stubborn young girl who always loses her way, no matter how many times she’s been on the same path. There are also various other characters, as well, but no one shines as bright as the Narrator (sometimes referred to as “The Voice in the Heavens”), played by Norio Wakamoto. In Hayate he gets himself into various verbal fights with the on-screen characters, and mocks them heavily throughout the series. (It’s very similar to the narrator from the 1997 George of the Jungle movie; that is if anyone else remembers that film.) Throughout the show Hayate must battle with robots, strange creatures, schoolwork and friends who want to dress him in women’s clothing (don’t ask!); and at the same time make sure the house is tidy for Nagi to live and be happy in.
The humor in this show is perhaps some of the best-written work in anime history. The one-liners and punchlines -- along with the physical humor -- will have audience members rolling on the floor laughing their heads off. It also takes the fourth wall and drops an atom bomb on top of it. (i.e.: In Episode 8, Hayate beats Maria in a game of pool, and now must do whatever he asks. “Okay, I’ll ask for something on the borderline, considering the kids in the audience,” Hayate replies.) Hayate and the rest of the gang know they’re on a TV show, and that’s what makes the series fun. On top of that it has enough sweetness to leave viewers with a relaxed smile, instead of one that hurts from all the hilarity. Its non-sequitur style and off-the-wall zaniness puts it high above any other anime comedy of recent memory, and can easily sit beside some of the best British sitcoms of all-time. That’s right: Hayate the Combat Butler is Japan’s most successful attempt at making a British comedy.
Unfortunately Bandai Entertainment is not releasing it in the way a comedy like this deserves. Each one of the volumes only features seven episodes and both Japanese censored and uncensored tracks, all for the “low” price of $40 each. It’s a release like this that greatly dishonors a fantastic series such as Hayate the Combat Butler. (Granted, there is the argument that in Japan DVDs with only two episodes each cost a whopping $70, but even still this and that are both forms of highway robbery.) There isn’t even the Animax English dub included, and from press and reviews it is said to be very decent.
If one were the wisest they should wait for a lower-priced DVD box set of the series, but if one can’t wait to own such a great anime then buying it won’t bring any sort of disappointment episode-wise. Still more should’ve been added to give Hayate the Combat Butler its proper dues.
***** (out of five) [actual series], * ½ (out of five) [DVD extras]