Normal to the Extreme: How Nishizawa Ayumu Lived the Normal Life in a Crazy World

The Least Hated Major Character

Have you ever heard of “anti-character threads” on 2ch? These threads are created for people to express their hatred towards a named character. If you want to find negative opinions on a character, these threads would be your best source.

Although these threads do not work anymore for a reason I do not know, they still reflect the “undesirability” of the characters. The more hated a character is, the more people would write on their “anti-character threads”, so in turn the more threads would be created when the old ones are full.

Maria’s “2.1” is actually her third thread.

In Hayate no Gotoku! the Undesirable No. 1 is Katsura Hinagiku, with 12 threads under her name. Maria comes second with 3 threads. Hayate, Nagi, Athena, Chiharu, Izumi, Ruka all have their threads. “How many threads does Ayumu have?” you might ask. The answer is shockingly clear: zero.

It means that either Ayumu is a nobody that doesn’t attract any attention, or that as a major character Ayumu isn’t really hated (enough) for anyone to create a thread to accuse her. I think that nobody would say Ayumu is a nobody, so it means that she isn’t hated. The next question is: Why is it so?

Not a Threat

A… threat…?

We usually hate someone because we consider him or her as a threat to us – to our safety or to our happiness. Fans of character A hate character B usually because they consider B as a threat to A, or to themselves. If Ayumu is not hated, it is because she is not considered a threat to other characters.

What makes Ayumu not a threat to other characters? Most people would say it is because Ayumu is perfectly “normal”, so she is inferior to the extraordinary characters. We need only one example to elaborate this. The rivalry between Nagi and Ayumu has been pictured as dragon vs hamster. How on earth would anyone consider a hamster a threat to a dragon? How on earth would Nagi’s fans hate Ayumu, when Nagi is most likely the winner in this fight? Yes, they might tease Ayumu, but they are not going to hate her. Winners do not waste time and energy hating losers.

The match has ended before it had begun…

The same thing applies to almost every girl when comparing to Ayumu. You might recall what I have said in this essay, and you would know I consider Nagi, Maria and Athena (Ruka is on her way to join them) the exceptional girls, and of course they are superior to Ayumu. The normal but exceptional Hinagiku is also better than Ayumu in a lot of ways. Miki, Risa and Izumi might be normal schoolgirls, but at least they were exceptionally rich. In every matchup, Ayumu is likely to be the loser, and as such she is not a threat to any of the above characters.

Perfectly “Normal”

It is not that Ayumu is a bad girl. She is not particularly bad in any way, but she is too perfectly “normal” that nothing about her character really stands up against other flamboyant girls. Ayumu is surrounded by so many crazily outstanding girls, that she is possibly the only “normal” girl in this series (Saki might also count, but it is not the point of this article to argue that). You might as well call her the “only sane man” – or girl, to be precise – in the crazy world.

They were talking about this in the heat of a battle…

How does the normal Ayumu live in the crazy Hayate no Gotoku! world? If the “rule of the jungle” applies in this series, then Ayumu would certainly be eliminated, for it is unlikely that she would be the fittest to survive. To a certain extent it is true. Ayumu was not present when most of the crazy things in the series happened. She did not go into the Tiger’s Den. She was “flirting” with Hinagiku in Shimoda while Hayate went into space to save Nagi. She was not the one who met Isumi the monster in the underground labyrinth in Mykonos. She was discussing the myth of King Midas with Nagi while Hayate, Athena, Hinagiku and Isumi were at mortal peril…

Granted, she had two or three “exceptional” adventures as well, but it was because she was with Hayate or Nagi – the most exceptional people in this series. The thing is, these cases are extremely rare that they really are exceptional cases. On the whole, when Ayumu had her screentime, it is fairly unlikely that anything abnormal would happen.

So what would happen, then?

Even she was surprised by her own normal story.

Ayumu loved Hayate, and a fair proportion of her screentime is devoted to her romance story with Hayate. She began her crush on Hayate following a bicycle accident. She went to the same school with him, spent much time taking care of him, and showing her affection for him. She attempted to confess to Hayate twice: the first time was turned down bluntly, while the second time she was not given an answer. She had at least two friendly love rivals, and she talked like a 13-year-old to Nagi and a 16-year-old to Hinagiku. Following the trip to Shimoda, she realized that she did not have to rush her confession to Hayate, and that she would just enjoy every moment when she was with him. She fought hard for her air tickets to Turkey, so that she could spend her Golden Week with Hayate. She had her dream of watching sunset with Hayate come true, and she kissed Hayate on the cheek. Later, she heard from Hinagiku that Hayate had someone in his heart, but she (once again) recovered.

We could see from the above (boring) summary that the love life of Ayumu was pretty normal. Many of us have been rejected by the one we crushed on. Many of us have love rivals. Many of us have taken some bold actions which would turn our faces red in embarrassment. Many of us have heard that our crush loved another boy or girl. Just like Hinagiku’s love story, it is the story of you and me.

Resilience: Her Greatest Strength

According to Hata, there were tears in her eyes.

While Hinagiku’s love story give the readers hope that normal people like us could succeed in getting the love we are looking for, it is Ayumu’s performance which tell us what it is really needed to fight a battle which we are – on the facts – losing: mental strength.

As we can see from her story, Ayumu was an extremely resilient person. Shock, surprise and defeat all came into her way, but even when she looked like defeated in one chapter, she would bounce back and fight again in her next appearance. The blunt rejection she received was quite enough for other people to give up on Hayate, but Ayumu returned. The existence of a (seemingly) invincible love rival like Nagi would be a despair for normal people, but Ayumu had been looking for ways to win. The news that Hayate loved Athena sent Hinagiku into her deepest sadness, but Ayumu recovered so quickly that we almost couldn’t see her tears, and then she encouraged Hinagiku to get into her fight again!

Ayumu showed extreme mental strength and resilience for a normal person, but if we ask where such mental strength had come from, the answer would be her everyday normal life.

Building Up Mental Strength

Another problem of you and me.

Resilience is not something really that special: you don’t have to be an extremely talented person to be resilient. Wikipedia defines resilience as “a dynamic process whereby individuals exhibit positive behavioral adaptation when they encounter significant adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress”. In other words, it is the ability to accept defeat and to “bounce back”. If you are a football fan, “bouncebackability” – invented by Iain Dowie – would probably be a more familiar word.

Resilience is not necessarily a gift from God. While some people are born with a resilient character, other people can build up resilience through experience. In theory, the more you have successfully overcome adversity, the more resilient you would become.

As a normal person, Ayumu was not a stranger to adversity. Her family wasn’t wealthy, so her life was a bit more difficult when compared to the other rich girls. She did not have an exceptional brain, and her test results were not really good either. She did not have mysterious body structure (and as a matter of fact, she did not exercise enough), so she would gain weight if she was not careful. These adversities might not trouble other girls, but they troubled Ayumu constantly. She had a lot of experience to build up her resilience, and she showed it to us for the very first time as she picked herself up after she received a blunt rejection from Hayate.

She was not happy with herself.

Chasing Hayate again was a hurdle too high for Ayumu, however. It took her an enormous amount of consideration, a (not entirely reliable) chocolate-taster, and a last-minute change of mind to give Hayate “friendship chocolate” on Valentine’s Day. It was not entirely a successful mission, and she aditted it to herself in tears. She had the mental strength to face her hurdle, but she still lacked the ability to jump over it.

Hinagiku, who witnessed her feeble attempt in giving Hayate chocolate, understood and stepped in. A series of events saw Hinagiku giving help to Ayumu with her love problems, before and after she promised to cheer her on. Basically, Hinagiku helped in lowering the hurdles for Ayumu, so that she could leap across them. These include giving her a second chance to give Hayate the “love chocolate”, ordering Hayate to give Ayumu a bicycle ride to Shimoda, helping Hayate to give Ayumu her White Day present, and winning the air tickets to Turkey for her. By overcoming one adversity after another, Ayumu grew in mental strength as she became more matured and resilient.

Think positive!

We could see her growth when she explained her thoughts to Hinagiku on the Ferris Wheel. She showed extremely positive thinking, and a determination of not giving up. She was confident to challenge Hinagiku on winning Hayate’s heart – a significant contrast to the desperate and poor hamster image she gave when she found Nagi her love rival. Ayumu had become much more confident and relaxed, and she was ready for challenges. This is a sign of great resilience.

A “Heart of Gold”

This might help explaining her lost hostility towards Nagi. As suggested above, we hate others because we consider them a threat to us. Ayumu had a grudge on Nagi because she knew (too well) that Nagi was (too great) a threat to her. With her new-found confidence and resilience, Ayumu began to see the challenge in a slightly different way: Everyone has the right to love Hayate, and I can’t care less – I love him in my own right, and I treasure every moment I am with him, that’s all. With such mentality, nobody was her threat, and therefore she had no grudge on anybody anymore.

Without the grudge, they fell in love.

With the hostility gone, Ayumu was able to relax herself and be friends with her love rivals. What she saw in Nagi and Hinagiku was no longer a threat to herself, but two girls whom she thought were cute. She could see that they had their dreams and weaknesses, and as their friend she was willing to support them in her own ways. We often praise Ayumu for her “heart of gold”, but if we put things into perspective, her heart was pretty normal – after all, we all expect our friends to support us, and we should support them as well!

Supporting the others is something everyone can do – what we need are some time, some brains and some empathy, that’s all. As a perfectly “normal” person, Ayumu was extremely supportive to her friends, and she fulfilled her role as a supporting character almost perfectly.

Ayumu’s Support

The first step to fight back.

What kind of support did she give to Nagi and Hinagiku? The answer is: a lesson on resilience.

Nagi suffered a huge blow in her dream of becoming the best-selling mangaka at Ashibashi-sensei’s studio. Although Ashibashi did not give any verbal comments, Nagi read from his expressions that her manuscript was not any good. Koutarou, Ashibashi’s assistant, was the one who insulted Nagi’s works. Nagi ran away, but Ayumu was the one to stand up against Koutarou, to apologize to Ashibashi, and to invite him to read Nagi’s manga again when she was ready. Later, when she gave back the manuscript to Nagi, she suggested Nagi to revise her work, so that it would become a better manga. Here, Ayumu demonstrated key elements of resilience: accepting the defeat, inviting the next challenge, and actively thinking how to improve on the situation. Her “crappy advises” are irrelevant here: the key is the mental strength.

Definitely.

Hinagiku was thoroughly shocked after the infamous “Silky Heart” incident. She might be tough, but she was a girl, so she was understandably devastated when she knew that Hayate already had someone he loved. Ayumu got her to talk about the matter, and then she offered her own views. According to her, it is actually good that Hayate could love a girl for 10 years, as it indicated that he was serious about love. She also pointed out that Hayate could be dumped by Athena, as she was too pretty for him. Ayumu then concluded: “So, isn’t it too early for [Hinagiku] to give up?” This is exactly the resilient approach. Hinagiku acknowledged that she had not thought it this way before. The effects of Ayumu’s words were significant: Hinagiku was able to pick herself up to go and help Hayate with saving Athena, to watch Hayate reuniting with Athena, and to keep her love on Hayate despite his frequent acts of no delicacy (which happened to have annoyed Hinagiku more and more often after the Golden Week trip). In a sense, we could say that Ayumu had given Hinagiku the mental strength to overcome her ordeal, and had in turn made her a more resilient girl.

Do note that Nagi was an exceptional girl, and Hinagiku was an exceptional but normal girl. When a normal character could give such wonderful support to exceptional characters, there could be only one conclusion: the normal character did her job extremely well.

To Conclude…

So we have the answer to the question in the title: the normal Ayumu avoided elimination in the crazy Hayate no Gotoku! world by providing excellent support to other characters, thus fulfilling her role perfectly. The best support she could offer to the others is her extremely strong mental strength, which did not only help her friends overcome their sorrow, but to let them grow in mental strengths themselves.

What can we learn from Ayumu?

Hear, hear.

We all know that life is unfair. Some people are born into extremely wealthy families (e.g. the SC Rangers), some people are born with extraordinary abilities (e.g. Maria) and some people are born with both (e.g. Nagi and Athena). The thing is that the vast majority of the world’s population have nothing extraordinary. We are all normal – just like Ayumu.

However, it doesn’t mean that our lives are less valuable. We can nurture our lives so that we become better people. While we might not be able to grow much in wealth and abilities – to be honest, you really need some natural gifts for these – we can work to develop our mental strengths.

It is (not) your destiny.

Granted, with different gifts in nature, our lives are almost destined to be different from the extraordinary people. However, by constantly nurturing our own lives, we can at least have a life good enough for us. Just look at Ayumu: who would say that her life wasn’t good enough?

Indeed, life can hardly be any better if everything is good enough.