Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hayate The Combat Butler Chapter 436: A Dream About Santa Claus - Review and Synopsis

I see no "evil intent" behind Mikado's words here. Do you?

Synopsis: Continuing the flashback story from 10 years ago, which was started in the previous chapter, Mikado Sanzen’in (Nagi’s grandfather, just in case you didn’t already know… which would be quite a stretch if you were following this manga :P), disguised as Santa Claus, has just stumbled upon Hayate who appeared to be the perfect candidate to open the Royal Garden with all the bad luck he’d suffered in the few seconds since Mikado saw him. Mikado tests Hayate out a little bit more by innocuously slipping a banana peel onto his path, which sets off a chain of misfortune on poor Hayate that is so ridiculous that Mikado declares that “This boy has the misfortune of a god!”

Before he can give him the stone however, Mikado witnesses Hayate collecting some empty soda bottles and is quite intrigued, so he decides to observe him a bit more. Despite the biting cold of the winter night, Hayate manages to collect 592 bottles for 3 yen each – which should give him a total of 1776 yen, or closer to 2000 yen, but the collector casually flips him 1000 yen instead and tells him to feel free to come back later. Even Mikado is visibly moved by Hayate’s plight and he begins to wonder where his parents might be (this is still Christmas eve after all). Right on cue, Hayate’s father, who is still faceless, but notably doesn’t have the “father/chichi” sign on his face for this chapter, approaches Hayate and asks him about the job and then quickly snatches away Hayate’s 1000 yen and tells him to keep at it and gather more bottles.
Anyone would feel bad for this kid. Aren't we glad that he met such a kind-hearted and loving little blonde, otaku, hikkikomori, sorta tsundere mistress?
Hayate forces a cheerful smile and enthusiastically tells his father that he’ll go get some more bottles right now. Even Mikado, the supposedly evil mastermind in this manga, is enraged by the treatment that Hayate’s father gives him – and yet, he believes that Hayate will never open the path to the Royal Garden because even that sort of treatment wasn’t enough to trigger an explosion of negative emotions.

Then, in what appears to be a spontaneous act of kindness, Mikado throws the King’s Jewel at Hayate and tells him that he dropped “a piece of happiness.” He decides to give Hayate the King’s Jewel after all, but before accepting the jewel, Hayate, believing that he’s Santa Claus, asks him why he never brings presents to their house for Christmas. Mikado then says the line that we’ve all known him for since the beginning of this manga as well as the start of the season 1 anime, “That’s because your family is poor.” He then proceeds to give Hayate the words that the boy had been living by ever since, “If you want something, don’t rely on Santa. Go get it with your own power…” and so on.
It's pretty rare to see a genuinely happy smile from Hayate as he has this habit of "smiling bitterly" most of the time
Afterwards, Athena calls Mikado to nag him about finding a candidate to open the Royal Garden, but he replies by saying that he couldn’t find anyone and that he’d lost the jewel while using the excuse that “Santa is supposed to give dreams to children.”

Review: Wow! Just wow! A really powerful chapter here (and it doesn’t even have Nagi in it). I didn’t care much for this flashback ever since it was introduced in the previous chapter, but reading it now has completely changed my mind. I had initially thought that it was going to be given the comedy treatment – and we had every indication of that at the beginning of this chapter, but then POW! From out of nowhere, Hata-sensei presents us with this touching scene between Santa Mikado and young Hayate. This chapter really highlights just how much misfortune Hayate has had to suffer all through his life and that this misfortune is not just something that is funny, but that is also very pitiful. As light-hearted as this manga is, when it touches upon dark themes as it did in this chapter, the author really knows how to get it just right.

One thing I’ve noted before is that very little is known about the King’s Jewel backstory and thus, this gives Hata-sensei a whole lot of leeway as to filling in the details. I don’t  blame him for using this method of having a definite overarching plot, but lacking the fine details, as his preferred technique for writing a story as long and drawn-out as Hayate The Combat Butler has turned out to be, since I use it myself in writing original fiction.  I was prepared to dismissively point out that, as good as this chapter was, Hata must have been making things up for this entire flashback chapter, but a perusal of the recent discussions in the Animesuki forums has convinced me otherwise.
Here's your kind, loving and totally "unselfish" Athena over the phone, people. I don't blame her though, Mikado's response was clearly trolling.
If there is one insight that I can share from this chapter, it would be that Mikado Sanzen’in does not appear to be as evil as the readers have made him out to be. Yes, Hata does portray him with some villainous undertones every now and then, but if you think about it, he hasn’t really actively done anything that could be labeled as truly “evil.” He has some selfish motives perhaps, as does everyone else in this manga from time to time, but he certainly hasn’t done anything that would put him on the same level as Hayate’s parents, for example. While I’m on this topic, the same could be said of Hisui and Housen. It’s been shown that they want to find a candidate and have been manipulating things in the background in order to open the Royal Garden, but these things alone are not enough to convince me that they are truly “evil.” Except for Hayate’s parents (which may still be retconned in the future), no one is really purely “good” or purely “evil” in this manga – and that’s just how it should be.

More on Mikado, I’m also not convinced with the rather cockamamie (sorry, but that’s just how I see it) theory that he hatched some sort of master plan in the spur of the moment and decided to give Hayate the King’s Jewel in a long-term plan to get Hayate to fall in love with Athena and then set them both up for the events of the Golden Week arc – really, I’m not buying that. It’s just plain ridiculous and terribad writing, which would be pretty uncharacteristic of Kenjiro Hata. It just seems like a desperate attempt to leverage the Athena x Hayate pairing, which, in my opinion, was already over and done with by the end of Athena’s arc. What I believe really happened is that Mikado was genuinely moved by Hayate’s plight and his earnest efforts despite his misfortune and that giving Hayate the King’s Jewel, which ironically brings even more misfortune to its owner, was really a genuine act of kindness – even though I’m not sure exactly what he hoped to accomplish with that… I suppose we’ll find out in future chapters – or not. (If you have any theories other than that Mikado was secretly playing the matchmaker for Athena and Hayate, feel free to share them with me in the comments)
These lines really take on a whole new meaning in the context of this chapter.
Also, I can’t help but notice that Mikado refers to the Royal Garden as “his Royal Garden,” and I’m still wondering as to what the implications of this possessive statement might be.

All-in-all, I was pleasantly surprised by this chapter and I can’t wait to see the implications of this flashback on the future events of this manga. It’s amazing how context is used in this manga. Taken out of context at the very beginning of this manga, Santa Mikado’s lines were funny, if a bit cruel. Taken in the context of this flashback chapter, those very same lines now seem kind and meaningful. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenny had a tragic, touching flashback story sometime in the future chapters.

No comments:

Post a Comment

lordcloudx loves discussions, so comment away. No direct or indirect personal attacks, please.

Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me (Dreamcast): A VIsual Novel Review by Mid-Tier Guard

To Derek Pascarella, Marshal Wong, Duralumin, Lewis Cox, Piggy, Nico, Danthrax4, Lacquerware, EsperKnight, SnowyAria, VincentNL, cyo, and Ha...