by Rebecca Silverman,

Happy Sugar Life

GN 3

Happy Sugar Life GN 3
Satou has gotten Shio back, but it's beginning to look like her angel's time on the outside may have jogged her memories a bit. What does this mean for the life Satou's trying so desperately to build? And why is Satou so invested in Shio, anyway? As secrets start to fray at the edges, each little glimpse of the past offers more possibilities as to how this situation came to be in the first place.

While psychological horror isn't anything new in manga or any other form of literature, there's something about Tomiyaki Kagisora's Happy Sugar Life that seems just a little bit off from other entries in the genre. In part that may simply be due to the fact that when we readers entered the story, the plot was already in full swing: Shio and Satou were already living together in the apartment with the locked room, playing at some twisted version of happy families. While we could make a few guesses as to how that came to be, there really wasn't much beyond the basics of the situation to go on, and that added a layer of intrigue to what is undeniably a very odd and creepy set up.

With this volume, however, it's starting to feel like there may be some more concrete answers lurking just out of our reach. The second book in the series certainly began that process as we learned more about Shio's life with her mother, continuing the work that began with Taiyou being twisted to the breaking point by his kidnapping and rape. Both elements offered not only lurid story details, but also gave us something to ponder in terms of Satou, who to this point has been not only the main character, but the one we know the least about. Previously about all we could say for certain is that she was promiscuous in an effort to find love and human comfort, she stopped being that way when she started living with Shio, and she very probably killed someone. Who that was and why she did it, along with why she was drawn to Shio when she'd clearly been sleeping with guys rather than women, has been up in the air.

Now things are starting very slowly to come together. Perhaps one of the most interesting facets of it is how we're starting to see a clearer line between Satou and Taiyou. Taiyou's fixation with Shio began when he felt soiled by his rape and began to see women as impure and unclean. Shio, as the embodiment of physical and sexual innocence, became his saving grace in proving to him that sweet, pure beings still existed in the world. That Satou may harbor similar emotions has been a real possibility for the entirety of the series thus far released in English; the sticking point is that she may actually have more complex sexual feelings for the little girl – or at least, unlike Taiyou, she may accept that they exist. This third volume feels like it solidifies the possibility that this may be due to her having been sexually abused by her suspiciously absent aunt. When a girl at work begins to emulate Satou to an obsessive degree, Satou response isn't to immediately drive her away or brush her off; instead she kisses the girl and tells her “I alone will give you love” while thinking to herself that it is “violence by indulgence.” While Satou certainly has been frightening before and used her sexuality to get what she wants, this two-page section doesn't sound like her words. Instead it has the ring of something she's heard before and is repeating, and her actions are less to drive the girl off and more like she's running on a learned form of autopilot. None of this excuses anything she's done or is doing, but it feels more like she's perpetuating a cycle she's actively trying to break with Shio.

The idea of Shio as the ultimate savior is certainly one that's getting ready to be challenged as her brother reappears on the scene in the volume's final pages and as we learn more about what may have happened to her at her mother's hands. For both Taiyou and Satou, Shio represents the inviolable purity of innocent childhood, but we readers know that there's more to her than just a Victorian angel child, and those experiences are beginning to creep back into her consciousness. She's no longer able to just play Satou's game, and as those memories continue to resurface, it's frightening to think what Satou may do in order to preserve the purity she desperately believes in. We've already seen Taiyou struggle with that, and while he's got some major problems, he also hasn't killed anyone (yet), which makes Satou much more frightening.

The 19th century fantasy author Hans Christian Andersen, creator of many dark yet beloved literary fairy tales like The Little Matchgirl and The Little Mermaid, maintained that every time he killed a young female protagonist, he was really saving her from her story. The Matchgirl is saved from being starved and beaten by her father when she freezes to death dreaming of her dead grandmother, the Little Mermaid dies so that she has a chance of receiving a human soul after three hundred years. Whatever we modern readers may think of that, it's beginning to feel like there's a real possibility of Satou doing the same thing to Shio if she finds that Shio can't, or won't, stay with her down the line. When she gives up on cleaning the blood from the locked room, even momentarily, she seems to be accepting who she is and what she's done. While the series is still far from over, the possibility of her voluntarily stepping on a loaf and being dragged to hell like Andersen's Inger (The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf) is starting to feel increasingly real.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B

+ Increasing psychological horror elements which are beginning to connect to each other. Some good use of small details to show derangement.
Some of the between-the-action scenes drag a bit, not quite enough done with friend's discovery of Taiyou's obsession.

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Story & Art: Tomiyaki Kagisora

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