What They Say:
Ever since he first met Nagi Sanzenin, Hayate Ayasaki’s life has become increasingly more crazed and chaotic. Which is a bit of a problem, since, as the eccentric heiress’ butler/personal bodyguard, he’s theoretically supposed to be a stabilizing and protective influence. Unfortunately, Nagi and her friends attract trouble the way dropped lollipops attract dirt, and if Hayate has to take a couple of nasty licks along the way, that’s just part of the job.
The real sucker punch, though, is that Nagi’s increasing attraction to Hayate himself is getting precariously close to transforming their professional relationship into something far less professional and much more like a relationship. Is Hayate up for the emotional perils of a round of “upstairs, downstairs”? Or will the purely physical dangers of life on Her Majesty’s Domestic Service do him in first?
The audio presentation for this series gives us the original Japanese language in stereo only and it’s encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. What we do get is a pretty solid audio mix that works the forward soundstage well here as it is largely dialogue with a couple of comedy action elements along the way. There’s a couple of bigger action moments in the final episodes, but that doesn’t stretch the show all that much either. What we do get are some decent moments of placement for the characters dialogue and some good areas of depth in the action pieces. Overall it’s a pretty serviceable mix that does the job well while the opening and closing sequences are where things have the warmest feelings. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-five episode season is spread across three discs in an eleven/eleven/three format. Animated by JC Staff, the show is still very much working with a budget to be able to run as it does, but there are minor improvements over the previous studio. The series is not one that really goes big with its animation outside of a couple of scenes, so it has a solid look that isn’t stressed here and the transfer captures it quite well. Colors look good outside of some mild banding here and there in the source, detail is solid in the backgrounds and character animation has a clean look to it with no problems. The main thing is that the show is one that just doesn’t stand out in terms of its design, so it ends up looking a bit cheaper than it is. The transfer captures things well though with a clean look, good colors and no issues to be had..
The packaging for this release is done up in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the three discs inside on a hinge and the back wall. The front cover is a cute enough one with Nagi and Nishizawa together all dressed up, though the original background is covered up with some simple pink star background and a princess design framing. The back cover uses the same color design overall for the background, which works well and mirrors the previously released seasons too, as we get a cute image Hayate in his maid outfit and bunny ears. The premise is pretty simple overall but it’s clear and easy to read overall. The tagline is cute and we get a clean listing of the extras under the premise. There’s a good strip of shots from the show under that and a solid block with the production credits as well as the technical grid that lists everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty straightforward here as we get a layout that has a static image that changes from disc to disc and has fun with it as we get the gang all done up in colorful costumes, or a hot spring like the third disc, with lots of bright colors that pop well. This keeps it simpler but also more focused, which works pretty well in setting the tone. Interestingly, the series logo is nowhere to be found on the menus, a real rarity. The left side has the navigation strip that breaks down the episodes by number and title with a submenu for the minimal extras. The font for the selection is decent but with the show going with a something that feels a little more elegant but still like a restaurant menu design from something classy. There’s not a lot here overall, but everything loads quickly and easily and it works well during playback with the pop-up menu.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My journey throughout the Hayate the Combat Butler anime world continues with this set and it’s one that’s all over the map, out of order, and incomplete. With this set, my experience within the TV timeframe is now complete as it was the missing link. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly eager to jump into this set after recently finishing the fifty episode first season of the show. While I enjoyed it in a basic kind of way the show is one that you absolutely do not want to marathon over the course of four days. It’s fun, but one that you really need to take in smaller increments than that. With this season, the show shifts in a couple of important ways. First, JC Staff takes over for the animation production, which gives it a moderate improvement overall. Second, it adheres to the manga more and isn’t anywhere near as stretched out with what it wants to do.
So much so, in fact, that this felt far more like a mild romantic comedy/drama series as opposed to the massive slapstick that we had before. Things really do feel like they slow down around here. It’s something that I definitely liked about it because it felt like the characters were a bit more real and natural as opposed to wacky caricatures. The basic premise is still the same as it does largely continue from the first season and isn’t a reinvention of the wheel or an alternate take. We’ve still got Hayate, massively in debt and working as the butler for Nagi, and we have a whole host of women that are interested in him to varying degrees. It almost seems like it really drops down to just about four or so that have shades of feelings for him, though they don’t understand his old school mindset of not wanting to get involved with anyone until he can clear his debt because he wants to be able to provide for anyone that he has a relationship with. Hinagiku kind of calls him out on this along the way as not really being right in this day and age, but she also kind of admires the way he wants to put his partners happiness in a high (but not ultimate) position.
And character interactions are what drives it here. A lot of time is actually spent with Hinagiku as she knows she’s really interested in Hayate and actively tries to work out how to pursue him. Some of this involves the always familiar Valentine’s Day and White Day events and all that entails, which of course has our range of people not being able to handle the whole making of chocolate. But I really like how Hinagiku comes across here because she has her shy side yet works to deal with it. At the same time, she also tries to stay back since she believes that Nishizawa is actually dating Hayate after a minor Valentine’s misunderstanding. The two have some good conversations together unrelated to Hayate, but it actually gets to the point eventually where the truth of it comes out. There’s this sense from Nishizawa that she knows she’s in love with him yet is unable to push it forward because she knows that Hayate’s not ready for it. Which is what Hinagiku again gets from Hayate himself because of his debt.
The show also spends time on the whole Nagi and Hayate relationship side, but once again I continue to find myself… well, not trivializing it but realizing that it still doesn’t make sense in a true sense. Nagi’s interest in him is honest and pure in her own way but it’s the kind of puppy love/first love with no basis in real feelings. Nagi’s simply not able to have True Love feelings towards him since she hasn’t figured out anything about herself. He’s important in her life as a way to draw her out and we know that importance regularly – and not just in the way that he saves her regularly from all sorts of situations or pushes her into new experiences. The age difference in a larger sense isn’t an issue, as it’s just three years, but that’s viewing it as if they were adults. Three years is a massive difference in the teenage years and it’s very, very easy to imagine that Hayate loves her but not in the way she dreamily wants him to, the way she won’t even admit to herself unless he’s going to be stolen from her for some reason.
This series intrigues me in a different way though because often when you get this general kind of situation you find that you have your favorite pairing – and often it’s not the intended “true” one. Here, there are two that I find I really have a hard time choosing between. I’ve got little interest in Nagi as a serious candidate and Nishizawa simply doesn’t come across as a compelling character. I’ve liked Hingaiku from the later seasons and was glad to get to see her from the start and through here. This set lets her really dominate a lot of it and it reinforces her as a strong and good match. But we also continue to get Maria matched up in some really strong ways. They’re different than Hinagiku to be sure, but Maria’s one that I keep finding myself coming back to and really wanting to see what could be done with a more realistic romantic/drama series for the two in moving away from this environment. It’s not often I find myself conflicted in this way and it definitely keeps me interested in watching.
This set has a lot of the usual silliness and I’ll admit that a lot of it is forgettable as you focus more on the characters. One subplot that I really liked is that we got some good material over the course of it with Tama. Seeing how he and Nagi first came together is cute, but it’s tied to the arrival of a new kitten named Shiranui that Tama begins to view as a threat. Tama’s fun to watch as he deals with this, and the kitten, while also ending up on the outside of the state for awhile. He’s an under utilized character – and for good reason – but when they do use him he really does shine and adds a different kind of lazy/manic personality. Particularly since it’s such a female heavy series outside of Hayate and he ends up spending more than enough of this set crossdressing or being a maid and secretly (or not so secretly) enjoying it more than he wants to admit.
Hayate the Combat Butler is a show that I really do feel kind of odd about in a way. I get its popularity, but the things that it’s popular for aren’t the pieces I enjoy the most. With about a hundred episodes spread across four seasons, the series has a lot to offer and finally getting this set is absolutely wonderful. This was one of the missing links that fans have long, long wanted since the show was first originally licensed years and years ago. Sentai Filmworks has brought it full circle with this set and it’s done up as best as it can be at this point with only a dub being the missing ingredient. But this was a show that was practically dangerous to dub ten years ago, never mind today. I’m definitely glad to have finally seen the whole thing and I think this is definitely the best of the seasons overall. Very solid and much more character driven than I expected.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 20th, 2015
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.