はぴまり ～Happy Marriage!?～
Josei – Romance, drama, smut
10 Volumes (complete)
Nearly broke, Chiwa agrees to marry a virtual stranger: her company’s boss. Will Chiwa get a happily ever after even though she and her husband started at the “ever after” part?
This story has been told before: virgin girl, rich/popular guy, and a marriage of convenience. But despite the familiar set up, Enjoji provides just enough spins on this classic tale to make this an enjoyable ride.
Chiwa is, in many ways, just an older version of a shoujo schoolgirl protagonist. She has a debt-ridden father, little experience with men, little interest in the latest gossip, and a naive streak. Despite her crybaby tendencies, Chiwa does stand up to Hokuto (and others) on occasion. Her stubborn attitude — while familiar in female leads — is necessary to prevent her from being too annoying or a doormat. On the other hand, Hokuto is thankfully different from many male love interests in this all-too-familiar setup: he’s rich but doesn’t have a maid. He can be charming but isn’t a womanizer. He doesn’t mind — in fact, he approves of — Chiwa’s attempts to be his wife in more than name only. The two form a realistic couple: not quite nice guy/girl and tsundere, not S & M, not birds of a feather, but two people who have both differences and similarities. This is what makes this manga both charming and realistic despite the rather cliche setup. Chiwa and Hokuto are two people trying to make their marriage work, and marriage is work no matter if you are forced into it or get married after dating for several years.
This is a series where I felt the middle of the series was the strongest, the first and last being the weak links. Volume 1 is early set up and shows them accepting the marriage without too many tantrums or complaints. Chiwa agrees to marry Hokuto to save her grandmother’s garden, but her motivation was never implemented in a way I would have liked. Even if she couldn’t physically visit or revive the garden (whether at her father’s house or Hokuto’s apartment), I wish it could have been a source of inspiration for her, like thinking back to grandma’s wise words whenever she looked at vegetables. The final volume, on the other hand, fires one twist after another in quick succession and doesn’t star the couple overcoming them together. This kind of goes against the whole point of the series. Perhaps more members of the Mamiya family should have been given a proper (or more detailed) introduction and to allow the revelation to have more of an impact. I think that would have been a better use of the last few chapters.
The middle volumes do a much better job of covering Chiwa and Hokuto fumbling through their marriage while piecing together the Mamiya family mystery. The fact that they’re married also means they can skip some (but not all) of the usual “like or dislike, should we or shouldn’t we” routine that a school life shoujo would go through. Chiwa and Hokuto fully support deepening their marriage. I also liked the concept of Chiwa having a male confidant, but the guy originally in this position is kicked out of the story and the other reoccuring males were former love interests who barely register in the story for as love triangle fodder.
Happy Marriage?! is rated M for mature mostly because of the sex scenes. Most sites label this a smut series, but it is actually pretty tame for a smut series. Some smut manga focus on the sex, but this series thankfully does not. Chiwa and Hokuto do not go at it like rabbits, and most sections are rather short and not overly graphic. Most importantly, the sex scenes involve emotions and are not just the result of random hormonal impulses. Each volume is wrapped in shrink wrap to protect the content from younger readers.
The series focuses on the characters, but the art does so even more. Backgrounds are minimal; most panels do not feature anything besides the character speaking. The art itself isn’t bad, but the lack of variety can make chapters more boring and repetitive than need be. Quick establishing shot for setting. Chiwa. Side character A. Chiwa. Quick establishing shot for setting. Side character B. Hokuto. Chiwa. Hokuto. Chiwa. Hokuto. Chiwa and Hokuto. Chiwa and Hokuto. Repeat. Hokuto’s rich, but it’s easy to forget without background detail. Also, something about the way Enjoji draws crying scenes seem a little off to me, as if tears are on top of the eyes instead of falling from them.
No honorifics are used outside of a couple isolated instances. Most of the time, characters are referred to by their last name only or by words like “chairman” and “president”. To help replace some of the affection that is lost in translation (like “danna” and “anata”), Chiwa and Hokuto use words like “darling”. No translation notes are included. Being a mature title, harsher language is used at times.
Chiwa and Hokuto make an enjoyable couple that you can’t help liking. Happy Marriage?! may not be the best josei or smut manga, but it does enough to break out from the pack. Help support the mature romance market and pick up this series.
It seems to me that a lot of people would have rather had Private Prince or Yoru Cafe licensed. Although her latest completed series (Dear Brother!) has a chance, too, I guess.