Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hayate the Combat Butler Volume 16

By Kenjiro Hata. Released in Japan as "Hayate no Gotoku!" by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.

This is another fun volume of Hayate. For those who like the series' goofy otaku humor, there's jokes galore! If only they were explained by some endnotes. Sigh... My favorite was mocking the 'Four Heavenly Kings', which takes swipes at both Pokemon and Megaman. I also love Hibino Fumi to death, even if she's barely in this volume. Her ability to speak before thinking serves her well.

If you want romantic comedy, that's in here as well, though of course don't expect anything approaching resolution. The volume begins by finishing up Hayate and Hina's date, with both of them suffering from the fact that they can't read the other's feelings well. Hayate eventually does manage to win her over, and all is well... oh wait, Hayate also has a habit of being hideously honest, even when the situation calls for subterfuge. Hina is not amused. Oh well, at least she got to see an amusement park.

Perhaps the most startling part of the volume was seeing Yukiji Katsura, everyone's favorite desperate lush teacher, as a hot young high school student. We'd heard before that Katsura-sensei used to be slightly less... bitter and over the top, but seeing her in flashback as the girl everyone admires in class is still stunning. I also agree with Kaoru-sensei, the idea of Hina turning out like that is very scary indeed.

The best reason to get this volume, though, is the second half, which has a longer story focusing on Izumi Segawa, the goofy airhead of Hinagiku's three friends. She's placed surprisingly high in the first popularity poll (even Hata said he was surprised), so this was no doubt created to give her more face time. It works pretty well. We meet her insane father, who is naturally incredibly overprotective (He apparently owns So*y... gosh, I wonder what company that cam be? The asterisk makes it impossible to tell!). And the family 'butler' shows up, with his crush on Hayate still very much intact. Throw in Miki and Risa stirring things up for fun, and the realization that Hayate has another (if less obsessed) suitor, and you have the basis for much fun.

Well... mostly much fun. We've noticed, starting about Volume 9, that it's a bad idea to let Hayate have flashbacks to his childhood. We see that again here, as Izumi tries to find a way to change the subject so that she doesn't have to admit to having a crush on him. She asks about what his ex-girlfriend he'd mentioned was like. We see him think of her, the same princess-curled blonde we'd seen in earlier flashbacks (though we still can't see her face)... and he starts to cry. He's not even sure why he's doing it. Luckily, Izumi giving him a hug to calm him down gets things back into comedy range, but... when is Hata going to show us who that girl is, and why Hayate's past is so traumatic?

We get the answer in the preview for Volume 17, which shows us it will be there. Hata also apologizes in the author's notes, noting the next volume will be 'a major turning point'. And he ain't kidding. The next volume of Hayate the Combat Butler, continuing into 18, will be far more serious than this series has ever been to date. Meanwhile, this is another light, fun read. It won't bring in new readers, but its antics are just what fans of the series want to see.

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