Technology… technology can be a real pain sometimes. I swear using my android phone feels like operating a forklift sometimes because the touch pad isn't the most accurate. It can also be pretty interesting when a technological screw up leads to something interesting. Specifically, a while back, before I started book marking the web pages to manga series I follow, I had to use the search function on the scanlation sites to find a specific manga. Unfortunately, the scanlation site I was using couldn't find Hayate the Combat Butler by its English name and so I had to search for with the keyword "Hayate." Being careless at the time, I clicked on the first manga listed from the search and thus is how I encountered Hayate X Blade, a manga that has absolutely no relation to Hayate the Combat Butler.
Hayate X Blade follows Kurogane Hayate, a rambunctious middle schooler who has a pretty good sword arm. Hayate's story begins with her attending a prestigious swordswoman school in place of her twin sister who can't attend due to an injury. Unfortunately, Hayate is rather stupid and her cover is blown rather quickly and so she begins attending the school as herself and soon begins to make many friends. Soon after blowing her cover, Hayate discovers that the orphanage that she lived at is at risk of being shut down and so Hayate decides to rise through the ranks of the school so that she may get enough money to save the orphanage.
The Side Characters
The cast of side characters is pretty large, with a few standout characters that make this manga worth reading. Most of the side characters serve as obstacles for Hayate to over come with her partner, Mudou Ayana, with each of them employing some kind of tactic that Hayate must over come. It gets pretty stale after the 3rd or 4th time Hayate has a battle with these side characters, but when these side characters reappear, they're great because they get to be goofy instead of being the villain for the week. Also, there are a few side characters that make the manga ten times better when they're in the manga
One of these characters is Jun, the resident ninja/Ayana's roommate who is incredibly entertaining because she adds a good amount of levity to the manga. Jun is simply a pervert; she constantly directs sexual innuendos towards the main characters and man she gets creative with them. It's just so fun to see her speak and talk. Though Jun's silly most of the time, she has her own serious side as well. Jun will do basically anything to make sure that her partner at school is happy and safe since her partner has a weak constitution. So if her partner might get hurt in some way, Jun will go out of her way to make sure she's safe. Jun is a fun character because she's so goofy, but what makes her so good is that it's easy to get invested in her character since her goals are so clear.
Special mention must also go to the student council president, Amachi Hitsugi, because she is ridiculously funny. Hitsugi is like Satsuki from Kill La Kill except for the fact that she's a humongous troll. Almost everything Hitsugi does is funny because she's so glib about how much she doesn't give a crap about how other people feel. She enjoys watching people struggle through obstacles and will often go out of her way to make other people's lives hard. It's just so refreshing to see a character be unabashed about being a jerk.
The First Two Volumes
It was a chore for me to get through the first two volumes of this manga because it was very poorly written and it wasn't representative of where the series was going. Basically, when I read these volumes, I got the impression that this series was going to be a battle manga with some comedy to boot, but this was not the case as the series focused a lot more on comedy later on. I usually wouldn't be too bothered with this as it can lead to interesting developments like how in Negima the harem stuff got you invested in each character before the battle/shounen elements took hold of the series, but this manga does this transition extremely poorly because the battle elements had nothing to add to the comedy. So it felt like the manga was wasting my time by explain the battle system at the sword school when it didn't matter in the long run.
The Main Characters
I can usually get invested any type of manga as long as they have good characters. Sure I like most of the side character, but I do not like the main characters. Hayate is simply dumb. I swear she has the IQ of a toddler. Yes she can be funny at times, but dammit I need to know more about her to get invested in her. Idiotic main characters can work, but knowing their backstory can help mitigate some of the dumb stuff they do because the reader will understand some of the main character's actions.
Ayana fares a bit better because she's smart, but she also suffers from a lack of character development. From the get go the reader gets to know Ayana as a short-tempered straight man who often gets annoyed at the silly antics of the rest of the cast and has is carrying some emotional baggage from her past. Ayana can be quite funny when she loses her temper and has some depth to her, but the main problem is that she doesn't experience any character development till about the 9th volume. It's really disappointing because she has so many opportunities to actually develop and never does.
Most of the problems in this manga are due to the fact that this manga doesn't know what it wants to be. The way the first few chapters set up the premise and the partnership between the man characters feel shoe horned because these developments happened without much build up like how Hayate's motivation for going to the school switches within the first few chapters. The combat sections also feel out of place because much of the time building up the fights feels weird because it clashes with the comedy of the manga itself. It tries to add stakes to each battle, but it fails miserably because it feels like the stakes themselves don't matter much. It doesn't really matter if Hayate gets the money or not because the orphanage doesn't feel like it's part of Hayate's back story. This manga is all over the place with what it wants to be, which makes it really hard to take any of the problems the main characters face seriously.
Hayate X Blade is a series that I had a really hard time reviewing. On one hand, I really liked the comedy and the side characters, but I had to spend wade through two volumes of this series before I got to that high point. Ultimately, I had to ask myself, "would I recommend this to someone?" and I would have to say no. The first two volumes are just that bad because it fails to set up what the series is really about. That combined with the lousy main characters made me wish that the manga focused on one of the side character because it would have been more focused with roughly the same comedy. What I read was a good comedy manga with some great and creative humor, but its shallow main characters and its lack of focus mired it down.
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