Saki NakajimaSayuri YahagiYoko HikasaAyumi Fujimura
Hayate the Combat Butler
Also known as: Hayate no Gotoku
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2007
Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi, Yoshiaki Iwasaki, Yoichi Ueda, Masashi Kudo
Writer: Junki Takegami, Shinichi Inotsume, Hideki Shirane, Yosuke Kuroda, Rie Koshika
Original creator: Kenjiro Hata
Actor: Ayako Kawasumi, Ayumi Fujimura, Eri Nakao, Haruka Yamazaki, Hitomi Nabatame, Jurota Kosugi, Kana Asumi, Kana Ueda, Kenta Miyake, Marina Inoue, Masumi Asano, Mikako Takahashi, Miyu Matsuki, Norio Wakamoto, Rie Kugimiya, Rie Tanaka, Ryoko Shiraishi, Saki Nakajima, Saori Goto, Sayuri Yahagi, Shizuka Ito, Yoko Hikasa, Yuka Iguchi
Keywords: anime, comedy, harem
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 102 episodes across four seasons, plus a movie
Website category: Anime late 00s
Review date: 29 May 2024
Hayate the Combat Butler
Imagine a cross between Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun and a romantic harem comedy. It's a laugh. It's not meant to be taken too seriously and is full of nonsense, parodic references to other anime and even fourth wall breaking (which I normally hate, but this show's so silly that it works). The premise is that Hayate (age 16) has spent his entire life being exploited by his deadbeat parents who eventually sold his internal organs to the yakuza. This has made him unnaturally good at triumphing all sorts of unlikely and/or life-threatening situations, so he's actually a bit of a superman underneath. (Iruma-kun and Hayate could compare notes.)
After comedic misunderstandings, Hayate becomes the super-competent butler of a super-rich 13-year-old otaku brat, Nagi... and embarks upon 102 episodes of daft antics. Most of the cast are nutjobs, with Hayate often being the only sensible person in the room, but they're fun and likeable. Hayate is accustomed to being a doormat (and has a self-esteem problem) and is officially the world's unluckiest person, but he can solve pretty much all problems. Nagi doesn't understand money, refuses to go to school and is loud and obnoxious. She's great. Yukiji is an irresponsible, hard-drinking schoolteacher who's perpetually making trouble and trying to sponge off a schoolgirl (her sister). Intelligence is in such short supply that three schoolgirls form an Idiot Trio.
Then there's Tama the white tiger. Literally, a tiger. Nagi rescued him from Africa as a cub. (Fans wrote in to point out that there are no tigers in Africa, whereupon the mangaka admitted his mistake and used it in the series for jokes.) Tama can talk perfect Japanese, but only does so to Hayate and doesn't want anyone else to know. That should tell you everything you need to know about the tone of this series.
Oh, and there's also Norio Wakamoto as the narrator, Wakamotoing the hell out of it. He can go further over the top than anyone else in Japan. Imagine someone who can roll his "R"s even in a sentence that doesn't contain any. Also, sometimes the cast overhear his commentary and reply to it.
When it feels like it (especially season 4), the show has a plot. Theoretically, it's a harem comedy, but the whole thing's so light and kiddie-friendly that it's impossible to take offence... and it even makes its harem premise work. Hayate's the butler. He's here to do his job. It would be unprofessional to start skirt-chasing and he's too self-effacing to think of having a go in the first place anyway. As for the fanservice, you could show it safely in primary schools.
I don't have much to say about this one. It's quite a well-known anime and I can see why it lasted so long. It's easy to watch. It made me laugh. It's full of idiots behaving badly, which is often funny. (e.g. when Nagi orders Hayate to dig up dirt on Maria, "unlike you, she doesn't perpetrate bad deeds!") There's also a 2010 Taiwanese live-action TV series based on this and an apparently unrelated anime (Seiyu's Life) which is set in the same universe, is drawn by the same artist and is written by one of the anime's voice actresses. I had fun with this one.