by Rebecca Silverman,

Happy Marriage!?

GN 1

Happy Marriage!? GN 1
Chiwa Takanashi is in a bit of a bind – her father is in serious debt thanks to a failed business venture and she's moonlighting as a hostess in addition to her office work in order to keep them both afloat. Salvation appears to be offered by her company's chairman, however, when he turns out to be an old admirer of her late grandmother. He'd like to take on her family's debts...if she's willing to marry his grandson, the company president Hokuto Mamiya. Is financial security worth marriage to a man she doesn't know...and who kind of seems like a jerk?

Chiwa Takanashi doesn't seem to have a lot in common with her office lady (OL) friends. Everyday at lunch they gab about this guy or that guy with a definite fixation on the highly attractive young president of their company, Hokuto Mamiya. Chiwa, however, couldn't care less. She not only has never seen him (she slept through his speech), but she's also got bigger things to worry about. Her lovable yet inept father quit his job in order to start his own business, but that didn't work out and the family is now deeply in debt. Chiwa's working nights at a hostess bar under the name “Chiwawa” or “Chihuahua.” She doesn't especially enjoy it and she's not stunningly good at it, but it should help her get by...until one night a very attractive and rude man comes in and tells her to quit because there's simply no point to what she's doing. Chiwa throws a drink at him and spends the next day fuming. Naturally the guy turns out to be the company president, Hokuto Mamiya himself, and it turns out that he told her that there was no point to her job because his grandfather has a better plan: Chiwa, the granddaughter of his first love, and Hokuto should get married. Not only will that remove the debt issue, it will also fulfill an old man's romantic dreams. That might fly in shoujo manga, but this is josei and Chiwa is having none of it. At first. She rants, she raves, she realizes that it might actually be the best solution to the problem and gives in. But what about her fairy tale dreams? Hokuto's solution is simple: she should just fall in love with him.

Thus begins Maki Enjōji's English language debut, Happy Marriage!?. If any of the above plot sounds familiar, that is probably because Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara, Viz's first venture into josei romance, had a very similar plot and used a few similar devices. Whereas Yoshihara is the queen of the sex joke, however, Enjoji prefers situational humor and spends more time on the romantic aspects of the tale as well. Chiwa is very conflicted, wanting to be the strong modern woman who can say she doesn't need a man and won't marry just because someone set it up for her, but at the same time recognizing that underneath his jerk exterior, Hokuto may be a nice guy and he really could be the solution to her problems. There's a lot of damsel saving here, from awkward social situations, financial crisis, and yakuza, and it's a bit of a relief when the romance plot starts to thicken towards the end of the volume, because both Chiwa and Hokuto are starting to get a bit annoying.

That's an important point, as it turns out. Chiwa, equally as frustrating as Hokuto because of her emotional immaturity, finally comes to a major realization of her own issues in the book's last chapter. She spends weeks prepping for a friend's wedding, determined to look as good as her old nemesis from high school who stole her boyfriend, only to get to the wedding and realize that the other girl has grown up and is over it. Chiwa finally starts to see that she can be petty, and hopefully that will start to spill over into the rest of her life. As for Hokuto, he very nicely fulfills the romance requirement that the hero and the villain be the same person. Simply put, he's kind of an ass. He's imperious, makes assumptions, and can be just plain mean when he wants to, although Enjoji does show us his redeeming features as well, and in the last chapter it turns out that a lot of his behaviors have been because he assumed things about Chiwa that weren't true. There's still plenty of obnoxious left in both of them at the end of the book, and Enjoji is able to make their sparring quite funny. It is a bit of a relief to see them starting to move forward by the end, though.

Enjoji's art is very clean and pleasant to look at, showing emotions and movements easily and making good use of facial expressions. Body language comes across fairly clearly as well, and she uses tones effectively, neither using too much nor too little. The translation reads well, especially at the very end when Hokuto tries to be subtle and Chiwa misses the point.

Happy Marriage!? is a romance novel in manga form. If this were a bodice ripper, we'd be at about page 75 with the first big kiss (having already passed page 50's first kiss) and things look set to continue on in the same fashion. Chiwa and Hokuto can both be a little annoying, but overall this is a fun, enjoyable romance that fans will not want to miss. It's funny, it's sexy, and it has potential, so stick around as our reluctant couple tries to find out if two strangers can form a Happy Marriage!?.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+

+ Very funny in places, Chiwa makes a lot of character progress within the volume. Art is quite attractive.
Hokuto's a jerk and Chiwa can get a bit annoying at times. Pretty formula romance as far as genre conventions go.

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Story & Art: Maki Enjōji

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