Hayate the Combat Butler (or “Hayate No Gotoku” as it’s known in the original Japanese) has got to be one of the most bizarre mad-cap off-the-wall anime series I’ve seen in a long time. And yet, despite all its irreverent zaniness (or perhaps because of it) I was surprised to find myself belly-laughing all throughout the first episode of this series.
Our story begins at Christmas time as Santa Claus, the living embodiment of love and sharing has a warm heart-to-heart chat with our protagonist, Hayate Ayasaki, and tells Hayate straight up that Santa won’t be visiting Hayate’s house this year because Hayate is poor and poor people don’t get Christmas presents (I guess all that red Santa wears means he’s a Republican?) In response, young Hayate resolves to buckle down and work hard so that when he grows up, he can have money. Hayate is certain that through hard work and honest effort, he can get ahead in life.
But alas, time skip ahead to a future Christmas a few years later, and we see this isn’t necessarily the case. By the time Hayate is a teenager, he’s made a name for himself as one of the strongest, fastest, most efficient bicycle delivery couriers in town. But when his boss fires him (it seems Hayate lied about his age in order to get the well-paying job) and gives all the money Hayate earned on the job to Hayate’s parents (degenerate money-splurgers who fritter it all away and then skip town) Hayate finds himself over 100 Million Yen in debt! Hayate doesn’t have time to mope around like Charlie Brown over his Christmas troubles though. Because before long, Hayate discovers that his loving parents left him one final parting gift on their way out of town.
Wait, did I say Hayate’s parents left him a gift? I meant to say that they left Hayate as a gift. To the Yakuza. Who show up at Hayate’s door, saying Hayate’s parents have legally authorized the mob to take Hayate as a slave in the event Hayate can’t pay off the debt his parents owe! (What can I say? It’s just that kind of show.)
Around the time Hayate escapes the Yakuza by leaping out a second story window, crashing to the ground, and fleeing into a nearby park, our protagonist (whose lifetime of honest work has left him friendless, homeless, and freezing in the Christmas cold) begins to question whether the traditional protestant work ethic espoused by supply-side Santa Claus is really a practical means of climbing the social ladder in 21 century society.
That is to say, Hayate basically comes to feel, “Hey, all my life I’ve been doing honest work like a sucker. And everybody else has been acting like a corrupt crook. And they’re all way above me, and I’m way below them…maybe I should start acting like a corrupt crook too. Maybe that’s the way to get ahead in life.”
Having arrived at this epiphany, Hayate soon stumbles upon Nagi Sanzenin, an extremely rich girl who seems to be lost in the park, and decides to kidnap her, then sell her back to her parents for ransom money.
Before Hayate can actually start down the path of corruption however, a pair of thugs decide to kidnap Nagi for themselves, and no matter what bitter painful experiences Hayate may have had, he just can’t stop the honest, caring side of his personality from shining through, and before he quite realizes what’s happening, he finds himself rushing to Nagi’s rescue.
By the end of the episode (after getting run over by a car and suffering injuries that would’ve killed a lesser man) Hayate manages to rescue Nagi from her kidnappers. As a reward for his efforts (and because she seems to have developed a bit of a crush on him) Nagi decides to invite Hayate to come live in her family’s mansion, and work there as Nagi’s personal butler. (A job which I’m guessing may entail some form of…combat, somewhere down the line.)
Seeing as how I haven’t seen a series quite like “Hayate the Combat Butler” in a long time, it’s extremely difficult for me to guess what’s going to happen next. However, given how hard the show’s wacky and unpredictable antics made me laugh in the first episode, that might be a good thing. All I can say for now is, if the rest of the series makes me laugh as hard as the premiere episode did, I’ll definitely keep watching.
Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.
Watch "In English, 'Unmei' Means 'Destiny'" and decide for yourself.