I feel strange, because from a certain point of view, this is a rather strange chapter…
On the one hand, we have an entire stage set up for a “glorious” performance from Maria. After all, this is “Maria week”, and the plot is set up for a one-on-one confrontation between Hayate and Maria. It should be a very good opportunity for them to resolve a few things, especially Maria’s true intentions behind her sudden departure. It would be even better if she could explain a few things about herself.
On the other hand, well… I don’t really think Maria achieved enough in this chapter. She ended up having to share the spotlight with Nagi, and I didn’t know her any better than before in the limited pages she appeared in. Her letter to Nagi was revealed, but the message was delivered to Nagi by Hayate. The greatest achievement of Maria in this chapter seems to be that she came out of it with her ship intact – that is, if you care about it at all.
What I want to say is that, if we take this as a “Maria chapter”, then I am a bit disappointed. Maria is a character who has been under-developed for a few years now, and she still isn’t getting enough attention in her final “solo” chapter. Maybe it is my problem: maybe this is not meant to be a “Maria chapter” at all, and that I should not have assumed that we would be seeing a “sending off” for Maria. But then, with only two chapters left after this one, what are the odds that we would finally get to know Maria better as a character?
You see, ultimately the biggest problem with Maria is that we don’t know very much about Maria other than that she was a girl with great look, great body, great intelligence, great capabilities, great crush from Hayate… and that’s all. Most of the times we don’t even know what she really thought about anything, and we cannot even be sure if she really had romantic feelings for Hayate. It takes two to tango after all, and a one-sided crush from Hayate simply isn’t going to set sail their ship.
I know that people do not really care about who Maria really was, as long as her won the ship war. Yet other than proving that the shippers were right all along, I don’t really see how a confirmed relationship with Hayate would benefit Maria as a character. On the contrary, the ship might make Maria’s character worse: she is just Hayate’s lover after all, isn’t she?
I don’t really mind a Maria ship: I have long since pulled out of fierce ship wars, so losing the ship wars is not going to have my ego (if it even exists anymore) dented. Yet between well-developed “losers” like Hinagiku and Ayumu, and a poorly developed “winner” like Maria, I guess I know exactly which characters I prefer.
Alright, that’s enough ranting for this chapter, but I need to put forward six bricks of paragraphs to justify uploading the chapter cover photo, the “countdown-playback” photo, and Hata’s BS photo of the week. Now that this is done, let’s get into a bit more details on the chapter itself!
So Hayate reunited with Maria in Nagi’s dream world. This automatically raises the question of just how “real” Maria’s conversation with Hayate could be. Even if we assume that the projection of Maria was an accurate one because of the Royal Power, this was still a Maria who stayed with Nagi. So here comes a bit of a mind screw: is it legitimate for Hayate to ask Maria why she chose to leave, when the one he was talking to hadn’t left in the first place?
By the surprised look on Maria’s face, my guess is that this version of Maria really did not have an answer to Hayate’s questions. Still, Hayate poured out his emotions and tears at Maria, whining about how her departure had made life very difficult for both Nagi and him. While Hayate clearly missed her on a personal level, he was equally clearly frustrated with her… irresponsibility.
Even though there was no way this version of Maria could answer for the actions of her true self, she could still speak of her feelings for Nagi and the birthday present she wanted, because these things would not be changed whether she had left Nagi and Hayate or not. The former gave Hayate a means to persuade Nagi to “wake up”, and the latter gave Hayate a purpose to return to the real world – he was a person who valued promises, after all.
Again, I feel that this chapter wasted a golden opportunity to explore Maria as a character. It doesn’t help anybody to have a dream world Maria to face Hayate, especially when the dream version cannot speak for the true version on a crucial issue. Also, what do we say about the fact that the dream version seems to have fulfilled the necessary tasks just fine?
So Hayate rushed to see Nagi, who was… totally enjoying herself in the dream world. To a certain extent, you cannot actually blame her for preferring the dream world to the real world. Not only that she had all the things she wanted (which she either lost or did not get in reality), her real world was not entirely “real” either: the past year of her life was based on a huge lie / misunderstanding.
It can be argued that Hayate had just been there, although for him it was not voluntary. He had a dream in which he could escape the guilt of deceiving Nagi, and there would be no one to save Nagi if he was also in the mood of staying in his dream world. Ugly it might be, Hayate still chose the real world over the dream world. Now he was trying to do the same thing with Nagi.
We might want to accuse him of forcing his preference of the real world on Nagi, his choice seems to be a bit justifiable here. When we come to think of it, the philosophical debate about the dream world and the real world doesn’t matter for Nagi because she wouldn’t get to enjoy the dream world for long. The entire Royal Garden was collapsing around her, so she had to get out of the dream world very quickly unless she was ready to die after a very sweet last dream. By the sound her it, she was not even aware about it.
Hayate was pretty quick with his action, because after apologising for his pathetic communication skills, the first thing he did was to make his wish to cancel out Nagi’s wish. While I appreciate his good intentions, I am once again left wondering whether he was being a bit too insensitive with his approach. You know, if he was going to make his nice speech to Nagi anyway, could he not make his wish after convincing Nagi to return to the real world?
You see, the guy came into Nagi’s dream and ruined it immediately by saying it out loud that it was just a dream. Nagi told him to make his own wish, and he made the wish to cancel out Nagi’s wish without explaining himself first. I am pretty sure that a more tactful person would have handled these exchanges more smoothly, saving Nagi a lot of emotions and Hayate a lot of apologies. Then again, Hayate would not be Hayate if he did not have the sensitivity of a blunt axe.
But let’s give him credits for his final speech to Nagi, which might be the conversation with the least miscommunication between them in the entire year. It is true that their relationship started off with a misunderstanding, and that was because Hayate was not being honest with her. However, Nagi rescued him by recruiting him as her butler, and Hayate was truly grateful; he honestly wanted to serve as her butler, and all the experiences they had together were real. Hayate was about 99% honest with Nagi, and it just happened that the 1% came at the very beginning of their journey. It is up to debate whether this is still acceptable, but Nagi seemed to have accepted it.
Bonus point went to Maria’s letter, which contained not words of farewell but the most precious memory of the trio. Maria was right in a way: things might not go back to what they once were, but the love between them could remain forever if they treasure it. Maria did not abandon Nagi; she just moved on with her life, but it seemed clear that he treasured her relationship with Nagi enough.
Now Nagi could return to the real world: she was ready to let go of her fear and to restart her relationship with Hayate (and perhaps Maria) in real life. The problem is that Hayate has taken her place as the wish-maker; as he made a wish with the Royal Power inside the Royal Garden, he was not allowed to leave the collapsing Royal Garden. He sacrificed his life so that Nagi’s life could be saved; he was willing to die for Nagi.
On Hata’s BS this week, he mentioned that the essence of a butler manga is a question: who are you willing to die for? It appears to be an exaggerated way to say that a butler requires full devotion to his master: to take care of every part of the master’s life on peaceful days, and to be ready to risk his own life for the master when danger arrives. Hayate may not be the best butler or even the best person around, but he seemed to have understood the essence of a butler just fine.
So Hayate met his demise with the Royal Garden… or so it seems. There are still two chapters for Hayate to escape – and we are told by Hata himself that the last chapter would come with a whooping 29 pages, so a lot of things could happen. We do not know the whereabouts of Hisui, for one thing; we do not know where the real Maria was, for another.
Some people might have forgotten that there is another way to enter the Royal Garden, for a third thing…