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Hayate The Combat Butler Vol. #20 Manga Review

5 min read

It’s time for a vacation, but rest and relaxation is going to be in short supply.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Kenjiro Hata
Translation/Adaptation: Yuki Yoshika and Cindy H. Yamauch/Mark Giambruno

What They Say
Wataru and Saki have flown to Vegas on a Golden Week vacation that they can’t afford, with the deeply questionable plan of winning the money for a ticket back home. Instead, Saki finds herself playing the Strip’s most ruthless card shark – Wataru’s reprobate mother – with Wataru as collateral. There’s plenty of fear and loathing in Las Vegas tonight, but at least things are going better for Hayate and Nagi, sunning with their friends on the Greek isles. That is, until they stumble into an honest-to-goodness labyrinth…

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The “going to need a vacation from this vacation” spell continues as Saki finds herself locked in a gambling match with Waturu’s mother with his ability to return to Japan on the line and she finds that Waturu’s mother hasn’t been making her living in Vegas for nothing as her luck combined with skill makes her a very formidable opponent for a novice to face. And the two aren’t the only ones suffering as the more Saki loses, the more naked Sakuya becomes. With familial and almost familial ties on the line (as well as one girl’s modesty), it is going to take a saving throw to win the day. If only there were someone around who could point the imperiled trio toward a sure fire way to win a bet in a game of chance.

Meanwhile half a world away things aren’t going exactly according to plan for the pair of Ayumi and Hinagiku as the student council trio of Izumi, Risa and Miki who have made the trip to Greece and the last two are as interested in causing trouble as anything else and are very sharp in picking up the pairs reaction when ever Hayate’s name is brought up. The group will soon grow bigger though as they are all looking to arrive on the island of Mykonos at around the same time as the finally free Nagi and Hayate are scheduled to arrive…that is if Nagi survives her trip to track down a limited Blu Ray release and its promotional giveaway by actually venturing outside the mansion and going to the dangerous environment of Akihabara.

But Mykonos may portend more trouble than anyone realizes as fate has a whole lot in store for this group including a trip to the past for one member and a few of the characters finding out that some of Greece’s old legends may have more basis in reality than they think as they find themselves in a labyrinth with an unknown (perhaps) entity, a good chance for embarrassment and a cryptic warning for the future. With vacations like this, maybe just loafing around the house would have been a smarter course of action.

One of the things that Hayate the Combat Butler does incredibly well is on display through much of this volume as the author has a very keen sense of pacing as well as a very astute ability to know just how far to push a joke and to focus on characters before switching to a new focus in order to keep the readers who have been along for the journey this long from getting to feel like any situation is becoming too stale. This skill pays of both in maximizing the emotions that can be wrung out of each scene as well as allowing for running gags to continue to be present as the reader is kept a bit off guard as opposed to expecting the gag because of where it would fall in a more formulaic work. This allows the characters the perfect chance to react in their own ways to events as well as to provide for some genuinely laugh out loud moments as the cast stumbles though perils both situational and emotional without raising the specter of events becoming too forced or cruel.

Where events in this volume fall a bit flat is primarily in a few transitions as the trip a character takes to the past comes in such an awkward way it almost looks as if a page was skipped as the set up is so clunky in its mechanics that it throws a monkey wrench into the smooth gears of the flow, one which kind of ripples throughout the following chapters and which throws the balance off for a fair portion of the rest of the volume (also not helped by a splash page that is meant to show off a bit of luxury but its location may cause more than a bit of confusion). To top all that off, when the book has managed to recover a major foreshadowing is revealed that seems to sap some of the remaining joy out of the following pages. Perhaps if things had run smoother in the middle part of the book the impact could have been lessened but given where it is it feels like one more straw on the camel’s back and which is kind of shocking that this all takes place in the shadow of an author who has displayed such masterful work on timing and structure as the book demonstrates elsewhere. That isn’t to say that the book is bad as it certainly isn’t, but it is a bit of a speed bump that stands out more due to the rather smooth ride the series has been enjoying for a while now and hopefully which it will return to again in the next installment.

In Summary

In theory vacations are things that people take to break away from the routine and to give them a change of pace and perhaps rest a bit. That theory doesn’t always hold up well in practice and it certainly doesn’t hold up here as gambling ventures, trips to almost alien locations close to home and one of Greece’s islands will give various members of the cast much to worry about with some curious probing of emotions going on and even the possibility of an ancient tale having far more basis in reality than is comfortable to deal with. Still the group from Hayate will face these challenges with all the bravery and bluster they can conjure up, but will it be enough or is fate set to cast the deciding vote on the outcome of events?

Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: September 11th, 2012
MSRP: $9.99