EDITOR’S NOTE: Sunday officially kicked off this month’s Manga Moveable Feast, featuring the works of the great Osamu Tezuka. This month’s MMF is being hosted by the delightful Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic and Manga Bookshelf. Please check out the growing archive throughout the week!
The red-haired Princess Nakaba of Senan has entered into a political marriage with Prince Caesar of the enemy country Belquat. For generations the two countries have been at war, broken only by momentary bouts of peace generally brought on by an arranged marriage. Nakaba is all alone in a land full of enemies, with only her devoted servant, the Ajin Loki, by her side. She has already faced scorn from the royal family and the country’s citizens, and even her husband. Somehow, though, she is beginning to fall for Caesar, and he for her. However, aside from her red hair, there is one other unique thing about Nakaba – she has the power of the Arcana, a strange power that among other things, gives her glimpses of the future. These future visions have started warning her of danger around Caesar, but without understanding what’s going on, she is unable (and perhaps unwilling) to warn him. After their heartfelt talk in the previous volume, Caesar surprises Nakaba with a gift of a fancy outfit suiting her new station. Flustered and upset, she rejects his gift, but with some prodding from Loki, she changes her mind, sending a surge of jealousy through Caesar. To try and make her happy, Caesar takes her shopping in the city market, but Nakaba refuses to let him buy her anything. On the way home, Nakaba spots an injured bird and asks to take it back with them. Realizing this is the sort of thing that makes her happy, Caesar readily agrees. Nakaba, though she is very confused, realizes that Caesar is trying to please her, but their slowly growing understanding is interrupted when Rito, an Ajin child and attendant from Senan, arrives to serve his mistress. Even though Caesar is jealous, he realizes Nakaba is happy, but their fragile relationship is shaken when someone tries to poison Caesar. Though Caesar eludes the assassination attempt, Nakaba has a terrifying dream of someone stabbing him. She also has a dream of the day her mother died. Seeing that he can’t hide the truth from her any longer, Loki explains to Nakaba that she has a power called The Arcana of Time, which allows her to see into the past and future. The power comes from her father, descended from a line of Arcana users who used to rule the world. Consumed by fear, Nakaba rushes to stop Caesar from being harmed, only to find that she has wrongly interpreted the vision. Loki, realizing that his mistress is developing strong feelings for Caesar, reminds her that he and his family are the enemy. He reveals to her his deep seeded hatred of the Belquat royal family, and his plans to remove them from power by rallying the Ajin against them. Nakaba can’t believe Loki plans to destroy Belquat, and that it could result in Caesar’s death. In frustration, Loki nearly reveals his true feelings for her, but stops before he goes too far. However, as Loki is the one who has been with her through all her pain and suffering, she is willing to go against her own heart and shut Caesar out, but such a feat won’t be easy. Especially when he stands up for her when the King and Queen accuse her of being behind the assassination attempts on him.
Torn between two men – the one who has always been by her side, and the one who is just entering her heart. This is Nakaba’s heart-wrenching dilemma, and Rei Toma presents it quite well. What’s interesting about Nakaba is that she believes she is weak for having her heart swayed by Caesar. She feels as though she’s lost a part of herself, a part of her strength, by letting him creep into her heart. She should hate him, he’s her enemy. She has a vision where she realizes that Caesar’s father, the King of Belquat, is the one who destroyed her village and killed her mother. Somehow, though, she can’t help but be swayed by his kindness, and the incredible change that seems to have come over him since the derision he greeted her with when they first met. Personally, I admire that she’s finding herself able to separate Caesar from his father; it’s Loki who impresses on her otherwise. To Loki, one Belquat is the same as any other, and he would love nothing more than to put a dagger in Caesar’s chest. He needs Caesar, however, because it’s Caesar’s good will that allows him to stay in the castle where he can protect Nakaba, and plan to tear down the kingdom from the inside. I’m interested to see how far Loki is willing to go, and if he’s willing to risk breaking Nakaba’s heart. He’s in love with her, so that fuels his hatred of Caesar, certainly, but I wonder if he’ll let them be if that’s what makes Nakaba happy. I am enjoying this series, and I think Rei Toma is handling it all quite well, but I’m worried that the romance will engulf everything else in the story. Right now there’s a decent balance, but I really want Nakaba to stay an interesting character and not become all about who she’s in love with. I don’t want the story to become all about that either. There are some hints that the King of Belquat has some plans for Nakaba, and I’m really interested to see that unfold.
Title: Hayate the Combat Butler
Author: Kenjiro Hata
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 18 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, September 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy, parody
Hayate Ayasaki has been working since the tender age of nine to support his degenerate parents who are constantly in debt. Eventually the family went bankrupt, and his parents sold his organs to the yakuza and made a break for it. Desperate for money, Hayate decided his only choice was to kidnap someone for ransom, and his target was Nagi Sanzenin. The plan backfired, and somehow Hayate ended up indebted to Nagi. To pay off his debts, he is now working as Nagi’s personal butler. Hayate, who is super-humanly strong and agile, is the perfect match for the ridiculously rich Nagi, who is constantly getting kidnapped or otherwise finding herself in all manner of trouble. Along with Nagi’s maid, Maria, Hayate takes care of Nagi’s every need, and also attends the prestigious Hakuou Academy with her. It’s at this school that he meets all sorts of friends and classmates of Nagi’s, including student council president Hinagiku, who eventually becomes one of the characters vying for Hayate’s affections, along with Nagi and Hayate’s classmate from his old school, Ayumu. Volume 18 starts off by wrapping up the “End of the World” story line that details Hayate’s past encounter with a girl named Athena when he was younger. Athena gives Hayate a precious ring, which he foolishly entrusts to his parents, who hock it for cash. Infuriated, Athena attacks Hayate and after a heated battle of swords and words, she chases him out of her home, and both she and the manor disappear before he can return to apologize. Back in the present, Golden Week is fast approaching, so the students of Hakuou are given a day off to plan their vacations. Nagi decides she’s going to spend the week in the Mediterranean. Yukiji is trying to convince Hinagiku to go on a trip, and Sakuya convinces Wataru to take her and his maid, Saki, to Vegas. But before that, Hayate receives a bizarre love letter. Nagi declares this supposed stalker a yandere, and comes up with a plan to handle her. She writes a scenario for Maria and Hayate, that has them going on a typical date, in the hopes that the stalker will see them being lovey dovey and give up. They do their best to follow Nagi’s strange instructions, and the fake date certainly grabs the attention of the culprit, though it’s not who anyone would expect. Meanwhile, Ayumu is trying to win an overseas trip for Golden Week, but isn’t having any luck. Hinagiku, who has nothing against going on vacation with her sister, is terrified of flying and doesn’t want to go overseas. Her sister has her own plans, and goes about trying to devise a plan to gather some donations from her students so she can go on a lavish vacation for free. Later, Nagi receives her very first paycheck, and decides to buy an old camera with part of her earnings. Her search for photo opportunities takes Hayate and her to the Gingko Festival, where Ayumu has entered a trivia contest in order to win a trip to the Aegean Sea (where Hayate and Nagi are going).
Somehow I’m not enjoying the manga anywhere near as much as I enjoyed what parts of the anime I’ve seen. The anime version of Hayate had me laughing out loud, but I find myself a little bored with the manga. It has it’s moments, like the fourth-wall breaking, the snarky narrator, and Yukiji Katsura. I can’t really pin down why I prefer the anime. Maybe it’s the style of the animation, or the way it’s peppered with geeky references and gags. It could also be the fantastic Japanese voice cast which gives a brilliant performance, though I am hearing a bit of that in my head as I read. The anime is bright, fast paced, filled with jokes and parodies, and is a real joy to watch. The manga, at least based on this one volume…not so much. Given the choice, I’d much rather watch the anime. It’s not that those things aren’t in the manga. There are jokes and parodies, though I didn’t see much of the latter in this volume, and most of the jokes didn’t pack much of a punch. It’s also a low-action volume, mostly dealing with the romantic feelings of several of the female characters. It’s not as outrageous and ridiculous as I remember the anime being, either, but it could just be this volume. There’s not a whole lot else to say about this volume, as there’s not much progress anywhere. For the fans who have been following along, it does of course wrap up the back story with Athena and Hayate, and set up the circumstances for another meeting between them. Of course, it also sets up for several members of the crew to travel to the Aegean Sea, which is sure to lead to all manner of adventures.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.