It is March 3, the birthday of Katsura Hinagiku, a very popular character in the Hayate no Gotoku! world. Yes, it is a fact that Hinagiku is a popular character, but there is no definite answer to the following question: Why is she popular?
One of the most common answers is that Hinagiku is a Mary/Parody Sue, who is such an exceptional character that people just have to admire her. However, counter-arguments suggest that this answer is heavily flawed.
“Who is she, anyway? She is merely a supporting character, and she is not important at all! Take her out of the story and everything will still be fine!” You must have heard/said something like this before. Critics nicknamed Hinagiku as “Mobgiku” (モブギク) – “mob” means insignificant and unimportant here – suggesting that Hinagiku is not an important character. Readers also compare Hinagiku to other characters – female characters, they are – and point out that Hinagiku is not that perfect at all, since there are always some characters better than her in some ways.
This criticism is hard for Hinagiku fans to take, naturally – next time we can attack another character in similar ways, and if there is a fan of that character who can take it easily, I shall shut down my blog
for one hour. If a response is to be made, I would however begin by giving the criticism a nod: Yes, Hinagiku is normal.
Normal but Exceptional
You might find it surprising that I am saying Hinagiku is a “normal” character, but the fact is that, by definition, Hinagiku is a not an “exceptional” character.
She is not the main heroine – Hata has reminded us over and over
and over and over and over and over again that the only two main heroines in this series are Nagi and Maria. She is not the prototype of the main heroine Nagi – that role belongs to Athena. She is not even a projection of Hata’s first crush – you are looking for Ayumu for this. She has no way to be, and indeed she is not, Hata’s favourite – Nagi, once again, is the one.
The role of Hinagiku is a supporting character. She might have taken up a (very, very) strong supportive role, but by definition she is not meant to be important. Her role should have been similar to Isumi, another powerful supporting character. I might have to apologize for saying this, but I think Isumi is more “normal” than “exceptional”, and the same should go to Hinagiku as well.
But Hinagiku has done an exceptional job for her role as a “normal” supporting character. She has won three times out of three Official Character Polls, and in the latest poll she has more votes than the sum of Hayate, Nagi and Maria. Anime and movie promotions frequently have Hinagiku appearing with the Sanzen’in trio, giving the readers the (perhaps false) impression that Hinagiku is one of the main characters. She has two full CD albums to her own name, while nobody else has even one. Her performance in the real world is exceptional, and while it owes much to her popularity, the said popularity in itself is equally exceptional.
This is the Hinagiku you have in the real world: normal, but exceptional.
Exceptional but Normal
In the manga world, Hinagiku is yet again an exceptional but normal person.
It is argued that Hinagiku is “designed” to be an exceptional person. It is said, over and over again, that she was a talented and beautiful “Miss Perfect”. She was one of the only two people who had become Student Council President of Hakuou Academy in Year 1 – an achievement only for the real true greats, according to Miki. She had exceptional physical and battle abilities, and the only two known named swords – Wooden Masamune and Shirosakura – were (not entirely legitimately) hers.
Not only Hinagiku had exceptional skills and abilities, she also put them into exceptionally good use. She helped people when she saw they were in need, and people like Nagi, Maria, Ayumu, Ruka and of course Hayate all benefitted from her helping hand. The Athena saga and Comisun saga have in particular confirmed her status as one of, if not the best, problem-solvers.
But then, there are some hard facts which suggest that she is not the “Miss Almighty” we could have expected her to be.
As mentioned above, if we compare her to other characters, trait for trait, there was always someone better than her. Hayate would definitely be the more skilled fighter. Maria was better than her in cooking. Nagi and Maria both probably had better brains than Hinagiku. Ruka was the better dancer and singer. Ayumu showed more resilience and maturity in love life. Almost every girl who was in puberty beat her in chest size, and above all, there was Athena, who seemed to be better than Hinagiku in everything except physical height…
The story of Hinagiku is not “exceptional”. She didn’t have an exceptional hidden story (Well, at least, not yet…), she didn’t have astronomical sums of money
to throw away, and she didn’t have supernatural powers. In such a series with numerous ghosts, spirits, supernatural powers and stuff, Hinagiku’s life remains highly – I hate this word, actually – secular. She was once able to see Fr. Ghost, but there was nothing suggesting that she still could. Most importantly, there had been no ghosts or spirits forcing pushing Hayate and her together – that privilege once again belongs to Nagi.
The story of Hinagiku has been a “normal” one. She faced a typical – and normal – schoolgirl problem: she fell in love with a boy whom (she thought) did not love her, and she had no way to tell him her feelings. People laugh at her inability to confess, but those who had fallen in love would know that it more or less is a “normal” problem for teenage boys and girls.
Hinagiku belonged to the “normal” world, in which she lived as a normal teenage schoolgirl. Yes, she might be an elite, but elites don’t live in another world. You wouldn’t say Bill Gates is living in a different world, would you?
Well, maybe you would, but that’s not my point.
The Normal World and Exceptional World
Before I come to my point, it is necessary to define the meaning of the “normal” world and the “exceptional” world mentioned in the above sub-title.
Hayate no Gotoku! based its story on a world which is no different from ours. People lived, attended school and worked like many of us. People like Ayumu were perfectly normal (Ayumu: “Hey!”), and their story could have easily happened on you and me – just make sure you do not crash your bike.
But then, there is also an “exceptional” world in the series, and the lives of those who lived in that world – namely Nagi, Maria and Athena – do not simply happen to you or me. Very, very few people live the luxurious life Nagi and Maria once had, and even fewer would have lived in the Royal Garden, or been possessed by King Midas.
The two worlds both existed, but the connection between them was horribly weak. Normal people did not understand how crazy the exceptional world was, while the exceptional people easily lacked common sense – the sense to live normally. Of course, the people of the two worlds did come together on occasions, but the communication was not effective, especially when they were in their own troubles. Nagi was not helpful to Ayumu when she had academic or romantic problems (Not that she wanted to help her, anyway…), and Ayumu was not helpful as Nagi struggled at Comisun. The normal world and the exceptional world were, very much, separated.
The Curious Cases of Hayate and Hinagiku
Yes, the case of Hayate is a curious one, as we can see that he, unlike other characters, fit into both the normal world and the exceptional world well.
Hayate once belonged to the normal world. He lived in a normal house, and went to a normal school. He had a normal dream – in fact, his dream of owning a 3LDK house was so normal that he got teased by his classmates. He had common sense, the very proof of you settling well in the “normal world”.
But then, Hayate is also “exceptional”. Being the main character of the series, he had an exceptional role. He was born to exceptional (but horrible) parents. He was made exceptional in abilities by Athena, and in misfortune by his parents and Mikado. He served the exceptional lady that is Nagi, and after Nagi
bought his service once again with gave up her right to inheritance for his sake, it seemed impossible that Hayate could live a normal life anymore.
The thing is, as Hayate showed both “normal” and “exceptional” elements in his life, a completely “normal” or “exceptional” person could not fully understand him. Ayumu knew little about Hayate’s ”exceptional” love life with Athena, and Nagi did not know why Hayate enjoyed “normal” school life. To understand both elements of Hayate, another person with both elements is needed.
Of course, this person is Hinagiku – and yes, that is my point.
Although Hinagiku – by definition – belonged to the “normal” world, she was very often dragged into the “exceptional” world where Hayate, Nagi, Maria and Athena were. The reason why she was picked, and why she found a place in the “exceptional” world, is that she has both “normal” and “exceptional” elements in her characterization. When she used her elements wisely, she could offer Hayate whatever he needed, whenever he needed.
The “exceptional” Hinagiku used her exceptional intelligence to understand what exceptional troubles Hayate was in, and she used her exceptional abilities to make contributions, saving Hayate from time to time, from nurturing Ruka into a fairly good mangaka to fighting King Midas with Shirosakura – or fighting robots with volleyballs, if you prefer the incident.
The normal Hinagiku gave very practical and down-to-earth advice to Hayate in more normal situations, reminding him to live more like a normal boy. The way she handled Valentine’s Day and White Day were really very normal, as I have no problem seeing other capable girls doing the same to the boys they loved. What’s more, Hinagiku cooked for Hayate – one of the most normal ways for a girl to show her support and care towards a boy.
With both “normal” and “exceptional” characteristics, Hinagiku moved between the “normal” world and the “exceptional” world, so that wherever Hayate was, Hinagiku would also be there. She would be there in the “exceptional” world when he needed help, and she would be there in the “normal” world when Hayate wanted a break from that crazy “exceptional” world – and what is so wrong about taking a break, anyway?
Her ever-presence to Hayate made her very close to him no matter where he was, so close that Hayate was comfortable to confide in her all sorts of problems, normal or exceptional. Normal problems include a run-away call, White Day gift to Ayumu, borrowing her clothes (!), tutoring Izumi, etc. Exceptional problems include the Butler’s Quest, his love problems with Athena, taking care of Alice, supporting Ruka on her doujinshi, etc. Yes, he might not have shown enough appreciation for her efforts, but at least he realized that he could trust her.
A relationship that is built on trust can never be a bad one. By being both exceptional and normal, Hinagiku made herself a very suitable partner for Hayate.
Character Balance and Popularity
As she is both “exceptional” and “normal”, Hinagiku doesn’t only appear pleasing for Hayate, but for readers – or Hinagiku lovers, to be exact – as well.
As she lived a relatively normal life, Hinagiku is not a character really out of our reach. She is not those kind of “other-worldly” girls, but she is one of us and is very close to us. Like many other people, she suffered her own love problems, and admittedly her handling of these problems was worse than some of us – or even many of us. Those who have grown out of their troubles would smile as yet another young “normal” girl suffered the problems of their adolescence. Those who are suffering from such troubles would find Hinagiku a wonderful ally, and they would want to fight their battles with her. Those who are not yet with a love problem… you want to be careful.
Yet, the “exceptional” side of her gives us the hope that, while we all suffer from our own love problem, Hinagiku could be the one who would succeed. Even though she suffered a huge setback halfway through the Athena saga, her performance since moving into the Violet Mansion has been very good – so good that we can begin to believe that her Ch. 239 nightmare has finally gone. If she has a happy ending in her love story, then it would surely be a very inspiring story. We all have heroes, we all love inspiring stories. The story of Katsura Hinagiku thus is loved by so many readers.
Hinagiku faced the same normal problems as ours, but we see hope that she could have an exceptional and wonderful end to her love story. She isn’t a perfect Wonder Woman which make us think that she is far from our reach, but she is a bit different from us: she is the best among us normal people.
If there is a reason to Hinagiku’s popularity, perhaps this is it. It is not “brilliant and exceptional all the way” that makes Hinagiku a lovable character. It is the perfect balance of her characterization with equal amounts of “exceptional” and “normal” elements.
Katsura Hinagiku is a “normal” but “exceptional” character. It doesn’t mean that she has contradictory personality. On the contrary, she shows us that she is a very level-headed person who had adapted to the “normal” and “exceptional” worlds very well. There is no point comparing her to Nagi, Maria or Athena as they were all definitely “exceptional” people. However, whether a girl is a suitable partner for the boy doesn’t depend on who is the best, but who is the most compatible with him.
Perhaps there is no point to argue for a bigger role for Hinagiku either – it doesn’t seem like Hata cares about our “pleas” anyway. Even though she is not all the way “exceptional”, she is still very lovable as a normal but yet exceptional girl. I don’t know what you think about her, but she is perfectly fine for me, and I look forward to see how many more wonders she could make out of her role – as the “normal” but “exceptional” supporting character.
Why look for anything else then, if what is with you is perfectly fine?