There was some apprehension on my part when I first started out on this 52 episode series. 52 episodes is a big commitment of time, and slapstick comedy series such as this are usually hit or miss.... Mostly miss. But after flying through every episode within a two week timeframe the only thing that I'm pissed about is that there isn't any more, and now I have to wait a while for season 2. Not that Hayate the Combat Butler is the greatest thing since Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu? or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but it was fun. Fun... That word unfortunately seems to be absent from the definitions of most shows nowadays.
Hayate the Combat Butler goes a little something like this: Hayate Ayasaki is the most upbeat, beat-down, sorry sonovabitch you've ever met. He handles going to high school and working about a half dozen jobs just to keep his family going. The main problem though is that he's the only one in his family working, and his parents blow all his hard-earned cash on gambling and living a lifestyle well beyond their (well, Hayate's) means. But due to his good nature and determination Hayate's jobs (mostly physical labor) have conditioned his body to be that of a world-class athlete, and even though he's always looking for the good in everything and everybody, he's not a complete dolt or an idiot.
Anyway, after being fired from a delivery job on Christmas Eve for being underage (16 years-old), Hayate came home only to find that his parents skipped town with all of their son's paycheck money and left their boy a debt of several hundred million Yen to the yakuza (several of whom immediately show up and plan to sell Hayate's internal organs to get their money back). Hayate escapes, but soon becomes desperate for cash and decides that the rich girl that he runs into in the park (one 13 year-old Nagi Sanzenin) is just the type of person he needs to kidnap in order to get a huge ransom for her return. Of course, through a series of Three's Company-styled misunderstandings, Nagi thinks that Hayate is announcing his love for her instead of asking for her permission to kidnap her, but all this is cut short when somebody else kidnaps the girl right in front of our plucky protagonist. Of fucking COURSE Hayate saves Nagi, and in doing so he gets offered a job as her butler/bodyguard (seeing as she has a tendency to get kidnapped [seeing as she's the heir to the biggest fortune in Japan]). Nagi pays off her new butler's debt to the yakuza, but then tells him that he has to work it off in service to the Sanzenin family.
Now, I have to stop right there and emphasize that this is NOT another shitty maid (or in this case butler) show in the same vein as He Is My Master... All that set-up that I just explained to you is simply that: Set-up. Once we get past the opening episode the comedy kicks in like a racist bounty hunter kicking in a black fugitive's door without a search warrant. Not to say that the first episode wasn't funny (it had me laughing harder than any other opening episode in a long time), just that it gets even more silly-goosey as it progresses. And as a pleasant bonus surprise there are pretty much NO romantic tensions between Hayate, Nagi (who loves her manly bodyguard/butler, but who is only thought of as a little sister by him), and Maria (Nagi's pretty much perfect maid for whom Hayate has a thing or two or three for). No, the writers don't forget that these background feelings are there, but they don't base EVERY joke and EVERY situation on them. Most of the humor of Hayate is from character interaction and satire (of other anime and manga). And (another good point for this show) the anime parodies that they fit into Hayate are actually told in JOKE FORMAT, and not REFERNCE FORMAT. See, that was my biggest problem with Lucky Star: All of its jokes were basically "Remember that one anime with that one robot in it who could blow things up with its big gun?... Yeah, I remember it too......" Hayate would take the general concept of that anime that it's referencing, and then base three or four running gags on it that (get this!) were actually FUNNY!
I digress. Like I was saying before, it's the giant cast of characters that really made this show so great for me. If anything, I'd say that Hayate the Combat Butler is this generation's Urusei Yatsura. Both have an enormous matrix of personalities from all walks of life, both have unlimited combinations of their characters which leads to an infinite amount of character humor, and both are as fun as a dozen drunk monkeys on ice skates (because monkeys are all irrational and the ice is slippery). Only I'd actually rank Hayate a bit higher on my list thanks to its moving storyline (meaning a lot of episodes are multi-parted, carrying on long storylines, and time actually advances). And you know how much I worship Lum and UY... And if you don't know, well... I worship Lum and UY.
Since I'm talking about them, let's dive into the side characters shall we? I told you about Hayate, Nagi, and Maria already, but there's also Tama (Nagi's giant, white, Siberian, talking tiger [who talks like a sarcastic, mid-life, burned-out businessman, but only to Hayate]), Klaus (the old fart senior butler in Nagi's mansion who doesn't think Hayate [who "looks poor"] is good enough to work there), Sakuya (Nagi's wannabe comedian cousin), Isumi (Nagi's quiet and demure best friend who tends to get lost crossing the street and finds herself in places like Paris instead of Nagi's house), Santa Claus (who makes many an appearance, sometimes helping, sometimes mocking Hayate), Wataru (Nagi's fiance who dislikes Nagi, but loves Isumi), Saki (Wataru's maid who's really the granddaughter of the "greatest legendary maid who ever lived"), the Voice From the Heavens (the Narrator who sometimes has conversations with the cast), Hinagiku (the student council president at Nagi's school who does her best to keep things sane), Yukiji (Hinagiku's good-for-nothing older sister who teaches [I use that word loosely] at the school), Ayumu (the girl at Hayate's old school who confessed to him before he had to leave [to run away from the organ-harvesting mob]), The Chairperson of Nagi's school, that one young kid whose butler makes his master serve him, that other butler who constantly calls his master a pussy and beats him up in order to train him to be more of a manly man, and... Oh fuck... About another dozen or so characters that come into play many times throughout the course of this show. And guess what? ALL of the characters are fun. Just like UY, there is no "bad guy" in this show, just characters with some clashing traits, and all of them get along with each other in some respect. And ALL of their interactions are of the hilarious kind.
Yes, Hayate the Combat Butler is basically "fluff" anime... No real story to tell and no heavy drama of any kind (which I praise it for — I detest when comedy series get burdened by unnecessary tension and tragedy as they progress. Hayate just gets funnier as the episodes truck on). It can be taken in small spoonfuls, or large, heaping helpings, and enjoyed just the same. You can sit back and laugh with this show if you're a casual anime viewer, or you can guffaw your ass off if you're a hard core anime fan and you get all of the parodies and in-jokes. Honestly, the ONLY thing that I find fault with this show is that that no-talent HACK known as Shinichi Watanabe directed two episodes (and of course had to insert his gay as FUCK alter-ego, Nabeshin, into the action because he doesn't understand that he's NOT FUNNY).
Seriously, how does Watanabe get any fucking work anymore?! He's the Uwe Boll of anime directors. Not only did he make the hilarious Excel Saga manga a helluva lot less funny with his anime version, but his take on Tenchi Muyo completely BUTCHERED that entire franchise (yes, GXP is even worse than Tenchi in Tokyo). And let's not even get into The Wallflower (whose Japanese name, Yamato Nadesico Shichi Henge, is just a complete rip off of the greatest anime ever made, Yamacsico [Yamato, Macross, Nadesico for the truly stupid]), of which I couldn't make it past two episodes due to it RUBBING IT'S JOKES in the viewers' faces like a shit pie until they submit and say "Okay! Fine! I'll pretend to chuckle at your incompetent storytelling! LAY OFF! I've got runny shit in my nose!"
Ugh... And don't you even DARE try to explain to me that he's a chuckle a minute because he has an afro and dresses like Lupin III... That's called UNORIGINALITY, not HUMOR. Anyway, his two episodes of Hayate were by far the worst of the series, especially the one where he threw himself in for an extended cameo (HALF the goddamn episode!). Who the fuck sees his crap and says "Oh man! I totally want this dick to fuck up my manga when it gets turned into an anime!"? WHO KEEPS HIRING HIM?!
Anyway, from Nagi and Hayate's bizarre relationship, to all the bad luck that lands on the hapless combat butler's head all the time, I loved everything else about this show. I even loved the tournament fighting episodes (mostly because the tournament fighting itself was relegated to the last 90 seconds of those episodes and openly mocked Dragon Ballzzzz and every monster or card-fighting anime ever made). Now to wait patiently for season 2.
Mothafuckin' shit! Ooooooh shit does this shit bring back some horrible honky memories, my bitches. Back when I was young and a bit more unwise than I am today, mothafucka, I thought, "Shit, mothafucka! You gotta gets you a job as some rich honky's butler! You'd be sittin' pretty with a bitchin' pad, hot wheels, and some loose change lyin' 'round the house like a ho on da flo'!" Little did my stupid younger self realize dat workin' for da man meant actually WORKIN' for da MAN.
Ho-lee sheeyat! Me and workin' fo' da man is a worse combination than steel-toed boots and a pair of testes. My first day there, those rich-ass vanilla-faces said, "Get in this fuckin' monkey-suit, bitch! Then serve us some lunch!" ......Actually, that's the end of the story as well as the start. Well, I guess the REAL end would be when the cops cornered me in that back alley, and just as they was about to shoot my ass deader than Tupac I turned to the black cop of the pair starin' me down and said, "Yo, brotha, did that white bread mothafucka order you to shoot me? Is that so he don't have to fill out no goddamn paperwork hisself?! I wouldn't take that shit, I was you..." Apparently breakdowns in race relations on the force was just as bad as between me an' my ex-honky employers... And just like my breakdown with my ex-employers, the cops seemed to settle things with guns, nightsticks, and concealed knives too.
For a show called "The COMBAT Butler" there was too little "combatting" and way too much "butlering."
I found that I really didn't give two shits about this pathetic waste of human flesh on his quest to become the greatest butler in the world. All this show was really about was "isn't it nice to be rich?" Well, like about 99.9999589% of the audience, I'd have to say "I DON'T KNOW." I'll probably never know, and THANK YOU, shitty show, for RUBBING THIS IN MY FACE LIKE CRAZY for this entire series.