Hayate the Combat Butler Part 2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, October 23, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The silliness continues as Hayate pines for Maria and Nagi figures out her feelings for Hayate.

What They Say
Hayate Ayasaki is in debt for over 150 million yen and it will take the rest of the life working as Nagi Sanzenin's butler to repay it. But it's not easy being Nagi's butler as Hayate will be forced to cosplay, go into a haunted school in the middle of the night and confront a possessed RPG video game.

Even through it all, Hayate still wishes for a normal high school life and he may get it, if he can pass the entrance exam for the prestigious Hakuou Academy. Given the situation Hayate is in, some may say that his life is meaningless but Hayate vows he will devote his life to serving Nagi.

The Review!
Audio:
Hayate the Combat Butler is an unusual release not because it’s only got one language track on it, but that there are two Japanese language tracks on it. Both of them are stereo presentations done at 224kbps and they sound pretty alike. The TV version is what was originally broadcast, which was a presentation that had some censorship to it, while the DVD version is uncensored and more what was originally intended. It’s unfortunate that Bandai gives NO explanation at all about the differences between the tracks with this release which can only lead to confusion. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the DVD presentation which is what we listened to.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set has seven episodes spread across a single DVD which is just shy of three hours. It all looks decent but lacks any real sharpness and vibrancy as the colors feel a bit muted. The action scenes hold up well but there’s an edge of softness to some of the backgrounds and the gradients are pretty strong in a few scenes, notably in the opening of each episode with the gray storm clouds out in the background. In general it looks good, but it’s not something that stands out as a very strong piece of work and it’s hard to tell if it’s coming from the encoding – which is in the mid range of five most of the time – or the actual source material itself.

Packaging:
This release is a single disc so it comes in a standard single sized keepcase, though some may expect more since it’s been marketed as a “Part 2” release. The front cover artwork is bright and appealing with a shot of Nagi in a pretty summer dress traipsing through the waters edge of the beach with lots of blue sky and beautiful clouds behind her. The background wraps around to the back cover where Isumu is standing off to the side of the other. She’s awful cute with a kimono on and a sandcastle next to her. The cover has a good amount of open space with which it conveys the series premise and a breakdown of all the episodes by number and title. The discs features and extras are clearly listed as well. Add in the production information and a good clear to read technical grid and this is an appealing looking release. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design uses the artwork from the cover for the left half which looks good but not quite as vibrant and detailed. The right half has a slightly elegant look to it to fit into the theme of the show but it keeps it simple with good looking text for the navigation selection and the logo spread across both halves. The layout is very quick and easy to navigate and submenus load very quickly. The show defaults to the DVD version of the audio and subtitles are automatically selected for playback which negates any issues with reading player presets.

Extras:
The only extra included in the release is a clean version of the ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the main setup segment of the series out of the way, Hayate the Combat Butler moves into adding a few more characters and changing the dynamic just a little bit in order to provide some actual progress, mostly for Nagi. Mostly though, the series is intent on setting up the weird situations and throwing wacky comedy at the wall. In some ways, the frantic nature of it and its pacing reminds me heavily of Urusei Yatsura, just without the really weird material with the aliens and so forth. But it also seems that without that extra edge into unreality, Hayate loses some much needed edge.

The silly side does have its good moments in this set of seven episodes. The opening one in particular was amusing as Nagi manages to con Hayate into wearing a school uniform and that leads to him avoiding everyone so nobody sees him. Naturally, others do and he freaks out about it, though the best is when Tama sees him and essentially wants to have his way with him cause 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 these 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, though obviously expected, 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.

In Summary:
Fourteen episodes into the series and I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly what it is that’s bothering me about it. It’s light and fluffy but it feels like it’s missing something for it to truly click properly for me. The animation is decent, the writing works well and the setups are fun enough, but I’m not laughing a lot, just smiling here and there and going through the motions. It may be a case of having seen similar before in so many other shows and not seeing something that’s original enough in here, or a hook to make it just right. Hayate the Combat Butler isn’t a bad show, but it’s striking me as a fairly average comedy show at the moment.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitle, Clean Ending

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 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.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 39.98
Running time: 175
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hayate the Combat Butler