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March 3, 2014

Bento Bako Weekly: Happy Marriage?! vols 3-4

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Written by: Kristin
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happymarriage3Title: Happy Marriage?!
Author: Maki Enjoji
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volumes: Volumes 3-4 (of 10), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, December 2013 and February 2014 by Viz
Genre: Romance

[Volumes 1-2 review.]

The road to a happy marriage between two people who married for circumstance and not for love is a long and bumpy one. Especially when your new husband works himself to exhaustion and you have to take care of him…but don’t know what foods he likes. It’s Soma to the rescue, with recipes and advice, and Chiwa sees an opportunity to get to know her husband better. Which is a pleasant surprise for Hokuto, who suggests they start eating meals together so they can get to know one another. And then promptly gets too wrapped up in work to actually have the time for such a thing. He does, however, finally make some time, and takes Chiwa on a trip to visit his mother’s grave. As Hokuto finally starts opening up, he at last confesses to Chiwa that he married her in order to take control of the Mamiya Corporation. Even so, Chiwa agrees to stand by his side. Back at home, Christmas is around the corner, and both Chiwa and Hokuto fret over what to get the other for a gift, when they know next to nothing about each other. Chiwa eventually settles on a simple cake, but on her way home she’s accosted by a former client from her hostess job. Fortunately Hokuto isn’t far behind, and somehow Christmas is saved. Hokuto even opens up again, and Chiwa learns that he does see her as a woman he desires. Which she would be perfectly happy with, if she knew he loved her back even a little. New Years’ is decidedly unpleasant as Hokuto takes Chiwa to introduce her to his family as his wife for the first time. As a bastard son, most in the family don’t welcome him, and the Mamiya family is generally cold and calculating to begin with. They don’t receive a very warm welcome, with the exception of Hokuto’s grandfather. Over dinner, Chiwa has about enough of the insults spouted by Hokuto’s cousin, and tells him off. In her anger, she ends up declaring her love for Hokuto in front of everyone.

happymarriage4After his wife’s loving declaration, Hokuto decides it might finally be time to consummate things. They head straight for a hotel, but just as things are getting heated, Hokuto seems to change his mind and goes to sleep instead. Frustrated, Chiwa storms off and starts going out to drink with Yagami. Which leads to her passing out in the bathtub, followed by an argument with Hokuto where she asks him to stop kissing her and treating her like he loves her if he really doesn’t. Before they can talk it out, Hokuto gets called into work, and Chiwa suddenly finds herself the victim of a kidnapping. She’s surprised when Hokuto shows up to negotiate in person, but even more surprised when they find out Hokuto’s cousin is behind the kidnapping. He demands Hokuto kneel down and grovel, and apologize for Chiwa’s behavior at the New Years’ gathering. Hokuto doesn’t even hesitate, insisting he’ll do whatever it takes to get his wife back, but Chiwa doesn’t want him embarrassing himself on her account, so she interferes…which leads to Hokuto getting injured and being rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, the injury also causes him to miss a very important business meeting. Chiwa blames herself entirely, and decides she’s not fit to be his wife any longer. If he doesn’t love her, and she’s no longer useful to him, there’s no point in her mind in staying with him. She resigns from his company and gathers the divorce papers. She even goes to see his grandfather to explain and beg him not to remove Hokuto from his position as company president. A few days after she’s moved back in with her father, Hokuto arrives to plead his own case. Her absence has finally made him realize that he loves her. Unfortunately, right after they get their feelings out into the open, Hokuto has to leave on a business trip for a week. While he’s gone, he doesn’t contact Chiwa, who of course feels abandoned and like she’s been had. Until he comes back and whisks her right off to a fancy hotel. Right as they’re about to get started, there’s an important call from the company. Hokuto decides Chiwa is more important this time, and they finally have their first time together, doubly so for Chiwa the virgin.

The various events are all pretty standard for this type of story. Christmas misunderstandings, sweet moments of bonding followed by awkward everything else, the slow realization of feelings, family conflict, interrupted sexual encounters, and so on. Just about every story like this contains those elements. Your enjoyment of this series will depend on how much you like Chiwa and Hokuto. They’re starting to grow on me, as is the series in general, despite some of the cliché or contrived plot points. Specifically the fact that Chiwa can’t pick up on Hokuto’s obvious feelings without him flat out spelling it out for her, and when, even after all the progress they’ve made and plenty of words to the contrary, Chiwa decides to abandon her promises and Hokuto over one little incident. That chapter was perhaps the most frustrating. It’s easy enough to understand Chiwa’s feelings on the matter, except when you take into account all of Hokuto’s actions leading up to that point. The way he’s been opening up to her more often, the time he revealed she was his only family, the way he stood up for her to his cousin and protected her, and the way he kisses her. But nope. She makes one mistake, and is ready to throw everything away without even talking to him first. Which is actually annoying common in shojo female leads, though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, or make it feel less of an unnecessary plot point. Then again, it does serve to finally make Hokuto realize his feelings and spit them out, so I guess it’s not all bad. There’s also a lot of little things he does, inner thoughts, or ways he behaves when Chiwa isn’t looking, that make Hokuto grow on a reader, even a cynical one like me. Chiwa also has a lot of hidden strength, willing to help and support her husband so he can attain his goals (she even sees running away as helping him, believing her presence will destroy all his hard work). Plus, it takes guts to stand up in front of an icy and hostile family to defend your outcast husband. This series is far more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and I wouldn’t recommend shojo or josei fans sit this one out.




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