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!
Contains episodes 1-52.
The audio presentation for this series gives us the original Japanese language in stereo only and it’s encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. What we do get is a pretty solid audio mix that works the forward soundstage well here as it is largely dialogue with a couple of comedy action elements along the way. There’re a couple of bigger action moments in the final episodes, but that doesn’t stretch the show all that much either. What we do get are some decent moments of placement for the characters dialogue and some good areas of depth in the action pieces. Overall it’s a pretty serviceable mix that does the job well while the opening and closing sequences are where things have the warmest feelings. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in from spring 2007 through winter 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fifty-two episode season is spread across six discs with nine episodes per disc and the remainder on the sixth. Animated by SynergySP, the show is certainly working with a budget to be able to run for four cour and it shows at times. The series is not one that really goes big with its animation outside of a couple of scenes, so it has a solid look that isn’t stressed here and the transfer captures it quite well. Colors look good outside of some mild banding here and there in the source, detail is solid in the backgrounds and character animation has a clean look to it with no problems. Cross coloration and line noise are non-existent and the colors have a solid look throughout, which makes this a good looking show with some nice pop and vibrancy to it.
The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than normal standard sized Blu-ray disc that holds the six discs inside of it against the interior walls and a couple of hinges. The front cover for it is a pretty good one overall as we get our two leads together in some pretty nice attire that stands out cleanly while set against the white, pink and blues of the background that features doilies and more. It’s eye-catching to be sure, but it’s also accurate in the simplicity of the character designs, particularly their faces.The back cover uses the same color design overall for the background, which works well and mirrors the previously released later seasons too, as we get a cute image of some of the supporting cast to the left in maid uniforms. The premise is pretty simple overall, but it’s clear and easy to read overall. The tagline is cute and we get a clean listing of the extras under the premise. There’s a good strip of shots from the show under that and a solid block with the production credits as well as the technical grid that lists everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty straightforward here as we get a layout that has a static image that changes from disc to disc and has fun with it, including one of Hinagiku in her Utena costume design that I just love. This keeps it simpler but also more focused, which works pretty well in setting the tone. The left side has the navigation strip that breaks down the episodes by number and title with a submenu for the minimal extras. The font for the selection is decent but with the show going with a something that feels a little more elegant but still like a restaurant menu design from something classy. There’s not a lot here overall, but everything loads quickly and easily and it works well during playback with the pop-up menu.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga by Kenjiro Hata that started in 2004, Hayate the Combat Butler is a fifty-two episode series of basic silliness with some amusing quirks that lets it stand out a little bit. Like a lot of comedy series, it can be difficult to get into sometimes if the humor doesn’t click perfectly with you or appeal to you in general either. Even more so if you’ve seen a lot of comedy series over the years and have some that you think have reached the pinnacle of good episodic comedy material. Hayate the Combat Butler has plenty of room to grow and the fact that it’s done so for the most part over four seasons is a good thing. This season actually manages to keep things somewhat contained on the size of the cast, but you can see the number of female characters in it increasingly quickly as it hits a certain level of familiarity.
The series revolves around Hayate, a fifteen year old young man who has had quite a lot going on in his life. Unlike most kids who grow up normally and go to school, Hayate found himself often working all sorts of odd jobs and dealing with his parents. Both of them, shown faceless, are idealistic dreamers who take on wild projects and plans without any real way of following through on them. They’re dreamers of the worst kind as their child pays the price for it by taking on a lot of the household duties. When they end up borrowing a sizeable chunk of money, some fifteen million dollars worth, from a group of yakuza, they split town on some wild plan and leave Hayate holding the bag. And when the yakuza come a calling for him, it turns into a nasty situation that has him moving on to the other world.
Where he meets Santa.
Yes, Santa Claus. In the next world, that’s where the discussion begins that he shouldn’t give up on life so easily and to get back there because a young girl was caught up in his situation and he has to defend her. The young girl, Nagi, was someone he was initially contemplating kidnapping so he could rustle up the money that way but it all went to heck and back and now he finds himself protecting her instead. And she’s got something of a crush on him and opts to take her back to her mansion because she is incredibly wealthy. Though the head maid Maria disagrees with Nagi’s plan, the thirteen year old girl convinces Maria that Hayate should come to work for her as a butler to help pay off his debt and also to help protect her. After seeing Hayate come back to life, she has the misguided idea that he’s fairly indestructible.
The show kicks off initially with Hayate dealing with a robot that wants to kidnap Nagi and then they launch into their origin story, which you forget is going on until episode three hits and it takes us back to the robot that’s trying to get her. The show plays with its structure a little bit in places, mostly because the narrator and Hayate talk to each other sometimes and the narrator often is trying to push Hayate into the realm of the dead by ending the episodes early. It’s a cute trick the first couple of times but hopefully it doesn’t get used often. Hayate also finds himself tested by the man in charge of the butlers and maids in the mansion by sending the household tiger, Tama, who can actually talk, to fight him. The tiger is rather amusing since he only reveals this to Hayate after their fight is over and he doesn’t talk much in general which gives him a really fun role as he observes so many things.
Hayate the Combat Butler does bring in a few more characters as time goes on and some of that sets up the quandary for some viewers. Within the household I admit to liking Maria since she’s a calming presence, but the additions of others such as Nagi’s cousin Sakuya doesn’t do much for me since she’s still pretty shallow. A little more interesting is the arrival of Nagi’s best friend Isumi who develops a bit of a crush on Hayate, something that will be sure to cause trouble along the way. This is mostly because Nagi has a crush on Hayate and Hayate is oblivious to both of them as his interest is mildly at best towards Maria. Everything takes a more complicated (and obvious) turn when Wataru shows up. He’s the same age as Nagi and is betrothed to her through an arranged marriage. Neither of them wants it and he’s actually got the hots for Isumi which just adds even more to the overall complicated nature of it all. It all comes across as if the writer was just throwing more characters into the mix with interests in each other to try and raise up the potential for silly misunderstandings. It works, but it’s admittedly not all that appealing.
One of the appealing areas to Hayate the Combat Butler is that it does play within its own realm by reference other anime series. There are little visual nods here and there and a number of references as well, such as a Gundam bit and a few others. Some of these are fun, others fly under the radar depending on how in tune you are with the scene overall. Thankfully, these are largely covered with some on-screen liner notes that are used to flesh out what’s “bleeped” out in the subtitles that conveys the dialogue being bleeped out. Some of these are painfully easy in a way while others are so obscure that it really does make you want to dig into some searches online to get more out of the gags. Considering that the previous DVD release from Bandai didn’t explain most of these references this is definitely a whole lot easier to take in, new and old fans alike.
As the series moves past the setup phase of it, it gets into a whole lot of standalone material that befits a show of its original timeslot and audience. It’s meant to be episodic and silly while nudging the overall character interaction storyline along. One episode in particular that was amusing as Nagi manages to con Hayate into wearing a school uniform and that leads to him avoiding everyone so nobody sees him. This actually ends up happening a number of times over the series here with his and other outfits that makes him uncomfortable while making others really interested in him. Naturally, others do see him like this and he freaks out about it, though the best is when Tama sees him and essentially wants to have his way with him because of how hot he looks. Even knowing that it’s really Hayate under there which only makes Tama look even more pervy than he was before. Another amusing but strange story involves a game that Nagi has actually containing a demon inside of it and it causes them to set out to defeat it so they can gain back their friends that got sucked into it. This has more of the student council types in here, which still aren’t too familiar, but it works nicely to give them a little more screen time.
The big theme of the early episodes revolves around the school world as we learn that Nagi really doesn’t like to go to the academy she’s enrolled in. She’s now using, truthfully, Hayate for her reason why as she doesn’t want to be apart from him. It’s cute how childish she is about her feelings in regards to him, but it also points out their differences pretty strongly as well. While Nagi does go reluctantly once in awhile, a plan is set into motion to get Hayate into the exclusive school himself so they can be together there. This is a big positive for Hayate since he’s missed school terribly after his parents screwed him over so the chance to go back is really important to him. The trials he has to go through aren’t the norm though, not even for an exclusive school like this, but they do have some very amusing moments. It’s unlikely that Hayate will ever be able to eat a banana again without a really bad flashback.
One nice addition to the cast early on in this set is that of Ayumu Nishizawa. Ayumu goes to the school that Hayate went to before his problems and she’s always had a crush on him. When he stumbles across his school he comes across her as well and that sets her to finding out what the deal is with him all the more. They don’t get all that far this early on, but there are a number of cute coincidences that put the two in similar places over time that will surely cause fun in the future. When you see her checking out videos at a particular video store, you know it’s going to come back to haunt Hayate when he least suspects it. And just like with both Nagi and Maria, he’s completely oblivious to the reality of what the relationship is viewed like from the other side.
With Hayate now attending school with Nagi, there’s a whole new world opening up and they certainly populate it in an interesting way. We do learn that Nagi is strangely gifted as she’s skipped a few grades so she’s actually in high school while being middle school aged. This is a real shock to Hayate considering how little she goes to school, but the social issues of it among the wealthy is amusing and makes a strange kind of sense. What we also learn is that Hayate isn’t the only butler attending school there, or at least on campus grounds during the course of the day, as a few others are there as well. And there are certain rivalries that crop up when you have Hayate being so chummy with Hinagiku as it totally ticks off a lot of the boys that roam the kendo halls among other places.
Unsurprisingly, the school segment of the series doesn’t last all that long before you have the cast heading off to a beach resort where we get a whole lot of swimsuit action with the varied cast of girls that come along. Unfortunately, because of the size of the cast overall and the way some characters aren’t seen for quite a bit of time, none of them are particularly noteworthy and watching Nagi getting frustrated and jealous and prancing around in the swimsuit she does own isn’t all that engaging. This resort episode is an unusual one as they’re all put through special memory making events by someone who hasn’t a clue how to make things fun and it feels forced in a bad and unamusing way.
This mix of what works and doesn’t work really does just fall to your sense of comedy or how many particular tropes and cliches you like or don’t like. One episode focuses on Nagi trying to do good at normal chores and activities since she’s having trouble getting her manga submissions accepted for true consideration. So she proceeds to do chores around the house, much to the chagrin of Maria, as well as doing shopping with Hayate in which it simply goes horribly wrong. When Nagi decides that she’ll really wow all her friends by cooking a meal, it’s the perfect opportunity for her to essentially poison them all. Naturally, Hayate has to step in and try to save the day for his master and there are plenty of cute moments along the way, but it has an almost nice heart to heart moment in it here and there as well.
Another cute episode involves Hayate trying to learn a big ultimate special move for his combat side since he’s starting to see how difficult things are for some of the other butlers and what they have to deal with. Nagi of course wants to help so they head to the family library which is immense and has a book that will help them figure it all out. It’s a useless book in the end but there are some cute parodies in here when it comes to the fighting side. The best nod for me on this volume in total though is when we see Saki’s grandmother helping out Conan solve a cold case mystery. The parodies, the fighting aspects and the nods towards gaming do help the series with a certain kind of humor, but unfortunately a lot of it falls flat and almost forced.
One of the worst episodes of this set involves a whole Case Closed like storyline in which one of the girls is “killed” and Nagi and the others try to figure out who it is at the hot spring they’re at. Everyone is under suspicion, though the body does keep moving and changing at times as she doesn’t want to spend the whole episode playing dead, but they have some consistent things to it. What it does is draw in practically the whole cast at one time or another and makes them all suspect as Nagi continually rewrites the rules. Since she’s essentially putting on a living play here that’s changing constantly, nothing really makes sense and it sort of washes all over you. If not for the amusement of the “dead body” itself laying there like a drunk found the next day, it’d be even more pointless than it was. The only redeeming thing is that it was not the first episode on the disc as it would have sent everything downhill quickly.
One episode that wasn’t too bad but still left me rather cold involves Nagi acquiring a couple of kids through Hayate after she’s dared to grow up a bit by raising other kids. The little kids get treated to a nice tour of the house and Nagi is basically another kid so it doesn’t exactly go over all that way. There are some fun moments to be had here as she starts to figure it all out and finds ways to have fun with them, which includes lots of violence as the tiger is brought back into play. Where it goes really badly for the kids is when Nagi decides she’s going to cook for him! There’s a little bit of background that gets brought into it with the two kids and what they’re really up to, but the whole thing just feels very awkward. There’s some time given over to where the kids came from early on but even that felt like it was tacked on.
Another episode that focuses on Nagi’s manga side of the overall storyline is a fun one as it deals with a teenage romance story. The problem is that pen is not going to paper in a way that’s actually producing a good story because she doesn’t have anything that works when it comes to settings where teenagers would go and do things. In order to get it right, she sends Hayate off to investigate all the places so she has reference material. Unfortunately for he, Maria goes along as well and the two play at a date a little bit and that eventually sets Nagi off since she’s still getting jealous easily. It’s cute to see Hayate being so puppy-like at times with Maria and the way she’s playing at being oblivious to his interest in order to keep him at bay a little bit.
Nagi’s interest when it comes to Hayate does have its moments, especially since she is young and not sure how to actually interact with others – made even worse by her wealth. In trying to be subtle again by asking Hayate what he wants out of a woman, she just makes things worse – for him and her. When he says he wants something ordinary, it obviously sets her off in a quest to figure out what that is. Tagging along with Ayumu, she spends the day among the common folks trying to get a handle on it but invariably getting it wrong time after time. It’s cute seeing her do all these things, from not understanding that the whole seat on a train isn’t just for her to the strangeness in actually waiting in line for something. Hayate is kept out of most of the episode but there’s a cute thing that showcases how he’s always around the edges watching over Nagi, reinforcing his position as a really great butler.
As the show goes on it doesn’t really do too much as it gets towards the end to turn things super serious or come up with some big plot that will make you think the series is going to have any sort of ending. The shows charms definitely come from the fact that it’s not trying to be this utterly amazing thing but rather a straightforward gag comedy with tons of references that will help fans feel good when they catch them and maybe even a bit superior to those that don’t. While there’s some seemingly seeded material in here with Nagi’s grandfather that gives him a necklace with a crystal that seems to cause trouble, there’s nothing significant here as the season closes out. What we’re treated to is what most of the season is made up of, though they do whittle down the cast a bit so that the focus is on fewer characters, which helps in a number of ways to make it more engaging.
Hayate the Combat Butler is a series that I had struggled with years ago to some degree because it went for a side of comedy that often doesn’t work for me because it’s all about expanding the cast but making no real progress with the characters. Once you adjust to the mindset of not expecting much from the big picture it becomes a lot easier to enjoy. It’s also important, with a set of this length, to not marathon the whole thing as it all kind of washes over you for the most part. There’s a lot of very fun moments throughout the show but also some areas that just drag or feel more repetitive than usual because you can see the similarities clearer. At its core though is a fun story of a boy trying to do the best job he can while being oblivious to the number of young women around him that are interested in him. Some of it’s awkward, some of it is endearing and most of it has me rooting for Maria over everyone else. Having only seen a bit of this before, I was glad to be able to take it in fully and enjoy the larger narrative here – and to wipe away some of the later seasons that has a much larger cast and more frustrating stories going on. This release captures the look of the show well, reminding you that the series was one that had to be careful with its budget at times, but giving it a clean and clear look that puts it in the best light it can be, especially for the price. It’s definitely great to have all of this in one tight and well priced package with a whole lot of content to dig through. Just watching an episode a night will keep you in this world for a year and that’s something that’s definitely easy to do and enjoy.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean 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: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.