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September 30, 2013

Bento Bako Weekly: Happy Marriage?! volumes 1-2

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Written by: Kristin
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happymarriage1Title: Happy Marriage?!
Author: Maki Enjoji
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volumes 1-2, $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan, August 2013 and October 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy, office romance

Chiwa Takanashi is just your average office worker in your average company. Except she also works a night job as a hostess in a bar, and her company is run by the most eligible bachelor around. She’s also in dept thanks to her father’s unfortunate business schemes. Fortunately, her family was once rich, and even employed servants. One of those former servants is the owner of the company Chiwa works for, and is eager to repay the kindness her grandmother once showed him by repaying her family’s debt. There’s just one condition – he wants Chiwa to marry his grandson, the President of the company, Hokuto Mamiya. Hokuto is all for it, because his grandfather will give him full reign of Mamiya Commerce for marrying Chiwa. Chiwa is less enthused, but agrees for her family’s sake. She’s in for more than she bargained for when she moves into Hokuto’s absolute pigsty of an apartment. Chiwa is also not allowed to tell anyone she’s married to Hokuto to protect the company’s image. Later Hokuto is assigned the beautiful and capable Taeko Soma as a personal assistant, and the only person who is aware of their marriage. Despite having to keep the marriage a secret, even from her best friends, living with a messy guy who works constantly, and dealing with an apparent spy, there are some bright moments. Hokuto can be a bit of an ass from time to time, but he’s genuinely committed to the marriage, not only pledging absolute fidelity whether or not Chiwa ever sleeps with him, but actively working to improve their relationship and get to know his wife. For Chiwa’s part, her inexperience with men leaves her frequently confused, but what isn’t confusing is how she feels with Hokuto kisses her. Or maybe that’s the most confusing part of all. Could she possibly be falling in love with Hokuto?

happymarriage2The answer is yes, yes she could, but volume two brings some new obstacles to the table. Like the traditional love rivals. First up is employee in training Yu Yagami. Chiwa quickly forms a friendship with Yagami while training him, and ends up asking him for advice (in that roundabout “so I have this friend…” way) about her relationship with Hokuto. Chiwa is concerned because Hokuto doesn’t share anything with her, hasn’t kissed or touched her since they mini-made out in his car, and she’s annoyed that Hokuto knows everything about her thanks to Soma, while she knows next to nothing. Yagami puts the moves on her, but once he realizes she isn’t interested and is in love with her guy, he backs off, but sticks around to be her friend and give her advice. Things start looking up when Hokuto asks Chiwa out to celebrate her birthday before he leaves on a business trip. Thinking that will be the big night, Chiwa does her best to prepare herself. Unfortunately both their plans come to naught as Chiwa collapses from a fever. Even more unfortunately, Chiwa wakes up in a hospital bed to hear Hokuto talking with her doctor, who is a close friend of his. She overhears information straight from Hokuto’s lips that completely crushes her. He doesn’t care if their relationship progresses as long as the marriage remains intact so he can remain President and CEO of Mamiya Commerce. Chiwa comes to the conclusion that all of Hokuto’s efforts have been intentional to keep her happy and remain in the marriage. A new opportunity presents itself in Chiwa’s former college friend Sakuraba. Sakuraba is building a new company and offers Chiwa an immediate spot. Seeing an opportunity to take one aspect of her life out of Hokuto’s hands and into her own, Chiwa decides to accept the offer, hoping it will open up new career opportunities and let her grow as a person. Hokuto isn’t about to let his wife walk away, however.

To be honest, my hopes weren’t high for this one. I was worried it would turn out like Butterflies. Flowers or other similar series that I found utterly unenjoyable. Happily my worries were unfounded. Happy Marriage?!, despite its overused plot devices, is a fun read. Chiwa just manages not to fall into a cookie cutter role, and stands out with her desire to not be forced along at Hokuto’s pace. Now, she usually is anyway, but she puts up a good effort, which makes for some amusing arguments. Best of all, she feels genuine. Even though her family’s finances are in Hokuto’s hands, Chiwa would rather do things on her own whenever possible. She’s a bit dense about some things, and a little unbelievably naive (which isn’t anything new for female leads in this genre), but she’s a hard worker who really does want to take control of her own life and succeed. Hokuto is, expectedly, a bit of an asshole. Again, that’s not new to the genre. But while he’s a handsome, eligible bachelor, he doesn’t come across as a playboy, which is nice. And he really is serious about being faithful to Chiwa, and honestly I’m wondering if there’s more going on there than has been revealed so far. He’s also adorable in his way, finding Chiwa confusing, infuriating, and often undecipherable. He’s an immensely successful businessman, but give him a challenging woman and he doesn’t know what to do. Soma not only looks after Chiwa for him, but frequently (tries to) gives him advice. Still, even Soma has her limits, and at one point insists Hokuto solve his own problems instead of asking her to do it for him. He’s a bit of a child when it comes to relationships, apparently, which is kind of charming, and matches well with Chiwa’s inexperience. The art isn’t anything unique, but it is solid, with good expressions, and Hokuto’s impeccable hair style. If you enjoy romance manga, take a look. It’s nothing really new, but it does have some charm.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.




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