Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ayasaki Deconstruction: A Character Analysis of Hayate Ayasaki



Not too fond of this guy, but I don't hate him, at least.

I’ve done quite a few character-centric essays on this blog (mostly Nagi), but I just recently realized that I’ve never talked at length about the titular main character of this manga, Hayate Ayasaki himself. I have to thank Roop Banerjee from the comments for bringing this to my attention.


Now if you know me, you probably realize that I am not that fond of Hayate as a character, but that does not preclude me from doing this character analysis anyway. So to get started on my disorganized ramblings, let’s start with my basic impression of him based on the manga.

Not As Saintly As He Seems
If you only knew Hayate from the anime, you would probably feel very sorry for him – and so do I. In fact, you might feel even more sorry for him if you read what happened to him during the End of the World Arc.

With that aside, you should also realize that Hayate is not as saintly as he appears to be in the anime. He is a good  kid at heart, but he is really not that good. In fact, if we look into his motivations and his past, you will realize that he is a very broken individual – pretty much like a less serious version of Emiya Shirou from Fate/Stay Night  -- if you are familiar with that anime/visual novel.

But I digress… to continue, Hayate may indeed be the type of person that you can rely on to bail you out of trouble if you ask him nicely enough, but his “nice” exterior is really just a manifestation of his very broken personality and his rather misshapen sense of values.


He Is Nice Because He Can’t Say NO!
Sorry, I'm not going to talk about Hayate's repressed cross-dressing tendencies
If you read the manga, then you will notice several instances wherein it is heavily implied that Hayate is not being nice to everyone simply because he’s just a nice guy, but rather, because he simply can’t find it himself to refuse to do something for anyone who asks him nicely enough. In short, he's sometimes doing it against his will -- even if he doesn't always show it.

This is rather dangerous because there are several instances when people simply abuse his apparently kind nature and when he gets fed up, he can resort to violence (albeit for comedic purposes so far) such as with the Hakuo Baka Trio (Risa, Miki and Izumi) whom he has once kicked out of a building for teasing him too much. (It’s somewhere in Ruka’s arc. It actually happened. Look it up if you want. I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to.)

Hayate also selectively feels that it’s fine to use random violence on certain side characters including  Yukiji, Eight, Gilbert and Kotetsu

In fact, in the earlier parts of the manga, even Nagi and Maria have been shown to take advantage of Hayate’s pushover personality a bit too much – and let’s not forget Yukiji (although Hayate does get back at her often).

Anyway, to get back to the point, Hayate has become a doormat of a person over the years because he is an extremely indecisive individual by default. He is the type who will go with the flow rather than put his foot down and refuse firmly. This is actually lampooned in the first episode of cuties – which was also a part of the manga when various characters, including Isumi, Fumi and Sharna take advantage of him for their own ends without considering that they may be heavily inconveniencing Hayate. Also, this is no isolated incident since the same thing happened when Nagi chased him out of the house and he used the money that Maria provided him to help out random strangers simply because he couldn’t say no.

He CAN Say “No” Now
Fortunately, while Hayate’s character development has been extremely slow, he has been gradually learning to take charge of his own life and to actually make decisions for himself – and for his own sake rather than that of anyone else. This is a positive change from him in my opinion and we can see this prominently when he actually outright rejects a confession from Makise Konoha. To add to this, he has also learned to be a lot less vague with his actions and words when he makes it clear to Ayumu , who asked him directly about meeting with Konoha , that he rejected her.

Hayate’s Past
Now that we’ve established that Hayate isn’t such a nice guy even if he apparently IS a nice guy, let’s try to figure out why? What probably goes on in the head of our cross-dressing combat butler?

Hayate’s past might be known only to a few characters within the manga, but it’s always been pretty much an open book to us.  We know that Hayate has extremely abusive parents who not only trained him in all sorts of illegal activities, but also sold him off to the mafia for his organs in order to pay off the debt that they probably ran up through gambling and poorly-planned get-rich quick schemes.




His brother was the one family member whom he seemed to look up to, but Ikusa just had too much of an archer complex and wanted to spread himself really thin and save THE WOOORLD!

His one refuge 10 years ago from the current date of the manga was meeting with Athena and becoming her butler/live-in boytoy  (they were six and Athena is an extremely mature six year-old, remember that!) inside of the Royal Garden. It was at the lowest point of Hayate’s young life when his father had just betrayed him that he met his first love, Athena. Being at a rather impressionable age, Hayate naturally took to whatever piece of advice Athena had to give him and this was when his rather ill-conceived notions of love began to take form – when Athena taught him “the pain of  love:” that you do not deserve to have a girlfriend unless you have enough money to take care of her for the rest of her life.

Athena’s Roadblocks of Love
In my opinion, this triggered two psychological roadblocks to romance within Hayate’s mind – and which has been a huge barrier between him and Nagi (and with every other prospect except Athena, but who cares about these other prospects? Not I, my friend. Not I.) 

1.       He believes that he is not worthy of any girl since he is (was) nothing more than a debt-ridden butler. The complete opposite of someone who has “enough money to take care of a girl for the rest of her life.”  Currently, Hayate seems to have grown out of this attitude a bit, but not quite completely, I would say.
2.       He has become extremely attached to money. This can also be attributed to him living in scarcity for practically all of his life – but I’m betting that Athena’s initial conditioning when he was a child has a lot to do with this as well. This is apparent in the way he wants to protect Nagi’s inheritance at all costs and how he sees money as the thing that had been protecting Nagi all her life. This definitely hasn’t changed as you can see right now in the current chapters how he values protecting Nagi’s inheritance when she had just inadvertently confessed her truest feelings to him through her manga. If he does not give justice to Nagi’s feelings, then Hayate would be the worst character ever in his own manga – but I do have faith in Hata and his unobtrusive style of developing his characters.

Hayate’s Relationship With Nagi
It’s no secret that I’m a big Hayate x Nagi shipper (for Nagi’s sake and nothing else), but don’t worry, I’ll keep the shipping talk to a minimum… really!
Hayate’s relationship with Nagi is rather hard to pinpoint. Many people happily want to believe that it’s purely platonic, but Hayate doesn’t treat Nagi like a little sister at all – nor does he treat her the same way that a real butler would treat his mistress for that matter.

We know for a fact that Hayate and Nagi are actually quite friendly with each other. Whenever they interact, their conversations just flow very naturally – this is of course, not unique to Nagi and Hayate as the same could be said of Hayate x Hinagiku and Hayate x Ruka… not so much for Athena x Hayate, actually (think about that for those still sailing the sunken ship).

If anything, I’d say Hayate treats Nagi like a cute junior (kouhai), someone younger than him whom he doesn’t view as a romantic prospect (yet) because of her age. I would say that he imagines himself to be something like a doting, protective senior when it comes to his relationship with Nagi. This is why he is able to have natural, friendly conversations with her and even make frequent pokes at her because of her hikkikomori otaku lifestyle.

She is “Different”
Yet, one frequently observable thing about Hayate’s relationship with Nagi is that he values her much more than anyone else in his life. He has proven this time and again – and the best example of this is still Heaven Is A Place On Earth (It’s canon. Suck it, haters!)  Let us also not forget that Hayate’s demon mode and his special move, the titular Hayate no Gotoku! is reserved only for Nagi’s sake. So at the very least, this proves that Hayate cares a whole lot for Nagi – even if we cannot definitely call this “care” love for now – dismissing it as purely platonic is delusional, but keep dreaming if that helps you sleep better at night~
 
His special move was created out of a need to rescue Nagi.
Furthermore, Hayate himself is aware that he gives Nagi special treatment. He has no qualms about admitting that she is “his life.”  He has mentioned that she is a “special case” when Ruka asked him if he would treat her the same way if she became a resident of the Violet Mansion. Again, we can dismissively say that this is just because Nagi is still his mistress, but then again, Hata has proven how he loves giving a nod to continuity in this series, so I would like to assume that there is something else that makes him treat Nagi differently.

It must be because of the debt, right? Well, Hayate paid off his own debt near the end of the Level 5 arc and yet, he also freely choose to continue on being Nagi’s butler again.  Still, this cannot be considered a confession of love from Hayate and we can clearly ascertain this based on the look of shock on his face when he read Nagi’s latest manga plot detailing her feelings for him.

Yet again, Hayate still hasn’t responded to her confession and has instead dedicated his life to ensuring that Nagi becomes the sole heiress to the Sanzenin inheritance. We have no clue what he thought of her confession and again, we can dismissively claim that he is only trying his best for Nagi because of his promise to Yukariko – but again, that would be a denial of the continuity and connectedness of the events of the manga; and we all know that Hata loves to connect seemingly unrelated events together and will somehow make even the most insignificant event/action relevant at a later stage. It’s convoluted and not as straightforward as you might be used to from reading young adult novels from western authors, but that’s the way the manga rolls – deal with it.

So what we can be sure of is that Nagi is “special” to Hayate, but why this is so, is something that no one can really say for sure with 100% certainty. In my opinion, Hayate himself is ill-equipped to answer this question because he has never really given his relationship with Nagi the kind of reflection that we all want to see from him (whether you are hoping for this ship to sink or sail).

Complementary Opposites
With that said, it would not be very bold of me to say that Nagi completes Hayate and vice versa. We all know the basics that they are both the main characters of this manga and the usual  opposing character traits that they possess, but here are two more points you might not be aware of.
 
You do know I had this subject matter in mind when I drew this fanart, right?
1.       Hayate might be the king of misfortune, but his life has been generally peaceful and happy together with Nagi. Why is this so? Could it be because his mistress is “blessed by luck?” Again, you have the choice of being dismissive and underestimating Hata here, or you could (finally) admit that he does have a good plot outline for this manga and we are still on track even though he had to change a few events around because of the third anime season adaptation.
2.       Hayate is extremely passive and noncommittal. Instead of coming to a point and making a definite choice when the chips are down, he’d rather get depressed and become evasive.  In fact, the women in his life have been the ones who have bailed him out of making some of the most crucial choices that he should have made himself. Just take a look at the Golden Week arc when Nagi saved him from having to make a decision himself by sacrificing her inheritance just so he wouldn’t feel depressed (also, how can you not love her character after that?)
So why was Nagi able to make that decision so quickly? Because she is Hayate’s complementary opposite, that’s why. Hayate is indecisive and Nagi is extremely decisive – to the point of being needlessly impulsive at times. When she says she will do something, she will do it by hook or by crook even if she is often ill-equipped to follow through on her bold statements. After having grown out of her tsundere nature, we can also observe just how straightforward she can be – especially in expressing her feelings for Hayate, which she no longer feels the need to hide – even if Hayate had been too dense to notice them until he saw her manga (he might still not know the full extent of her feelings at this point as well.)


Lopsided Co-Development
A long time ago, people would have been justified in hating Nagi and singing praises for Hayate. In the light of the more recent developments of the manga however, the opposite is quite true – unless you’re reading a different manga and/or you just hate Nagi, in that case, screw you, hater! Die in a fire!
This fanart accurately sums up my impression of how much their respective characters have been developed so far.

Anway, we have all seen Nagi’s amazing growth throughout this manga. We can complain about how abrupt this growth has been and how unrealistic it is, but it is what it is. The author has favored her development and she has matured into quite an admirable young girl – even though she still has her flaws and is definitely still a work-in-progress.

At this point however, let’s go back to Hayate. Throughout the 500+ chapters and 47 (soon to be 48 and I’ve preordered it because there’s a special naughty card of Nagi) volumes of this manga, his character development has been very subdued. Yes, there are some slight signs of development here and there, but there have been no major breakthroughs like what we’ve seen from Nagi:

  • ·     She is able to sleep on her own now when she used to need Maria by her side.
  • ·     She has learned to use her incredible luck to beat even someone who is supposedly unbeatable at games like Maria.
  • ·         She has now become the most insightful member of the “brainy” group. She is the one who always comes up with the best ideas.
  • ·       She has grown out of her initially tsundere nature when it comes to Hayate, although she still retains a somewhat subdued tsundere persona.

And if you want to see just how much she has changed as a character, just imagine the Nagi from season 2 of the anime and how she would react if she ever saw Hayate confessing to say someone like HInagiku? She’d probably try to beat him up or scream at him in a comedic fashion, right?
Now imagine the Nagi from the current manga chapters in the same situation. Boom! Explosion of negative emotions! Why? Because her love for Hayate is real – it is something that she has nurtured (despite the misunderstanding) throughout the manga and even if you dismiss it as idealistic or “incomplete,” the manga heavily implies that this love isn’t fake nor is it some form of compensation with Nagi lying to herself as in Ruka’s case. I personally do not look any further than that.

So how about Hayate? Let’s imagine the Hayate from 400 chapters ago if he ever saw Nagi in trouble:
Hayate: OMG! Ojou-sama is in trouble. I must rescue her! Here I come, ojou-sama!
Now let’s imagine how the current Hayate would react:
Hayate: OMG! Ojou-sama is in trouble. I must rescue her! Here I come, ojou-sama!
Ok, let’s say Ayumu confessed to him (which she already did)
Several hundred chapters ago Hayate: I prefer 2D women!
Current Hayate: Ehehe… (patiently waits for something to happen to bail him out of this situation)

My point being: yes, he has changed a bit, but not by much and his character development feels extremely lopsided next to the co-main character (mai waifu). Hayate’s development needs to catch up with Nagi’s or he just keeps making himself look bad next to her, in my opinion. I’d go as far as to say that Hayate doesn’t deserve her (or anyone for that matter) at this point even if I still want them to end up together for Nagi’s sake.

Major breakthroughs for Hayate so far:

  • He has finally learned how to say no at times.
  • He has started considering his own future and happiness
  • He finally acknowledges that girls do find him attractive

He's still got a long way to go in my opinion... but that can be rectified with...

Hayate Needs Some Introspection

We need a window into Hayate’s thoughts at this point. It’s been far too long. We need to finally see how he thinks and what he thinks about the rapid developments going on around him. Hayate is already an intentionally vague character and it doesn’t help us in understanding him any better when Hata purposely hides his deepest thoughts from us.
Just look inside yourself and embrace your inner lolicon, Hayate... actually, you don't have to. She's only three years younger than you and you're both teenagers.

There is some excitement building up as we go into the final arc and prepare for this much awaited introspection but at the back of my mind, there is this nagging fear that we will never have it and Hata will just show us Hayate making his final decision out of nowhere and then explaining things away with a one-liner. That could make for a cute ending, but the frustration level of some readers might have hit the saturation point at that stage and Hayate’s character might seem irredeemable (he already is to some readers) if Hata waits too long to spring the butler’s inner thoughts on us.

Anyway, this concludes my very disorganized ramblings on Mr. Ayasaki. I hope you found it entertaining, at the very least and I eagerly await your comments for further discussion.





3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. I was looking forward to hayate's character analysis a lot and you have done an amazing job.
    Hayate has always been pretty vague even though he's one of the main characters of the manga. I liked that you pointed out that hayate seldom refuses, mainly because he cannot say no. And I do believe that he doesn't treat nagi as his little sister. He's a bit more formal than that but less formal than a butler would be. It's hard to understand what be feels for her, but this much is true that he really wants to protect her. Maybe he considers her just as a person who saved him once and needs to be saved in return, or he considers her as an important friend or both of these. But it has been confirmed that she's really precious to him and he's ready to sacrifice himself to save her. Maybe he does feel towards her what can be called romantic love but he's in denial and therefore the readers aren't able to understand what he really feels.
    Anyway, I loved your in-depth analysis of hayate and how he and nagi complete each other.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you liked it. I've always felt that Hayate and Nagi were opposites of each other. Even their basic stats. Rich girl, poor boy, lucky girl, unlucky boy, calm wind (Nagi), gust of wind (Hayate)... aside from the ones I've enumerated in this write-up.

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