Happy Mania, Volume 1

Creator: Moyoco Anno
U.S. publisher: Tokyopop
ISBN: 9781591821694
Released: April 2003
Original release: 1996

Happy Mania was my introduction to the work of Moyoco Anno. The series was actually one of her earliest professional works and was the first of her manga to be released in English, preceding Flowers & Bees by about half a year. Happy Mania, Volume 1 was first published in Japan in 1996. Tokyopop released the English-language edition in 2003. I believe that Happy Mania was one of Tokyopop’s first shrink-wrapped, mature manga. It was also one of the first, if not the first josei manga—manga intended for an adult female audience—to be released in English. If I recall correctly, Happy Mania was also the first josei manga that I ever read. What I don’t remember is how I learned about Happy Mania or why I picked up the eleven-volume series to begin with. I’m glad that I did, though; it ended up being an unexpected surprise. And I’m happy to give Happy Mania another, closer look for the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast.

Twenty-four-year old Kayoko Shigeta wants only one thing in her life—a boyfriend. Luckily for her, Shigeta’s love horoscope seems to indicate that the right guy for her is just around the corner. Having been dumped almost a year earlier, she’s not about to let her chance at true love slip her by. In fact, she takes a job at a local book store in order to meet more men, hoping to find her mate for life. But for one reason or another, Shigeta just can’t seem to land a long-term boyfriend. She does have plenty of flings, though. But the men she pursues and attracts simply aren’t interested in a committed relationship. Well, there is Takahashi—Shigeta’s coworker who is genuinely in love with her. But Shigeta isn’t about to give the awkward, geeky Takahashi a second glance. She wants the perfect boyfriend, someone much cooler and better looking. Shigeta just can’t understand what she’s doing wrong. Will she be doomed to be alone forever?

Happy Mania is very aptly named. Shigeta is the most manic character I have ever encountered in a manga. She’s a terrible person—incredibly self-absorbed, judgemental, impulsive, and selfish. But her negative traits (which seem to be most of them) are so exaggerated that Happy Mania ends up being hilarious rather than annoying, assuming that the reader can put up with Shigeta to begin with. (I probably could never be her friend, but I do like her immensely as a character.) In an interview, Anno mentioned that she meant Happy Mania to be in part a cautionary tale. All of Shigeta’s romantic failures are brought upon by herself. It’s difficult to feel sorry for her when she’s flying from one obsessive love to the next or deliberately trying to ruin someone else’s happiness. Takahashi, the poor guy, is an entirely different matter and Shigeta’s complete opposite. He’ much too nice for his own good.

I think Happy Mania works because Shigeta is so outrageously over-the-top. One moment she’s in the depths of despair and in the next she’s caught up in her own delusions. A more realistic portrayal would have ended up being depressing rather than funny. And Happy Mania is very funny, even if it’s not always very kind. Truly horrible things happen to Shigeta and those around her (often as the direct result of her actions.) It’s all very melodramatic, and parts of Happy Mania may at first hardly be believable, but underneath are some very nasty grains of truth. Shigeta’s obsession with finding true love is something that many people can probably identify with, but woe be the person who actually follows her example. The first volume of Happy Mania actually provides some great dating advice—just think of what Shigeta would do in any given situation and then, whatever you do, don’t do it. In real life, Shigeta would be utterly exhausting to have as a friend. Thankfully, Happy Mania isn’t real life and provides a buffer against her mania.

My Week in Manga: January 14-January 20, 2013

My News and Reviews

The Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast has begun! This month’s Feast is being hosted right here at Experiments in Manga, so expect to see more content than usual this week (including a guest post!) beginning with some quick takes of Anno’s manga available in English below. To start things off, I posted an introduction to the Feast on Sunday. For more information about how to contribute to the Feast, please check out the Call for Participation. I’m looking forward to the Feast and hope you all are, too! I will be doing my best as host, so please enjoy.

Although I was busy preparing for the Feast last week, I was still able to post a couple of reviews. The next review in my Blade of the Immortal review project was posted—Blade of the Immortal, Volume 17: On the Perfection of Anatomy. Hiroaki Samura doesn’t progress the plot much in this volume, but it features some very important character development. I also reviewed Miyuki Miyabe’s fantasy novel The Book of Heroes. I had previously read Brave Story and so was looking forward to reading The Book of Heroes. The novel actually frustrated me as a story, but I loved the ideas and concepts that Miyabe explored in it.

Elsewhere online, the Toronto Comics Art Festival announced the list of featured guests for 2013 which includes mangaka Gengoroh Tagame and Taiyo Matsumoto among some other fantastic creators. I finally have a passport, so I’m hoping that I can actually go to TCAF this year. Over at Narrative Investigations, Helen has a nice review of Saki Hiwatari’s Please Save My Earth, Volume 1 which she won during last month’s giveaway here at Experiments in Manga. (This month’s giveaway will be posted next week, so stay tuned!)

Quick Takes

Flowers & Bees, Volumes 1-7 by Moyoco Anno. Masao Komatsu desperately wants a girlfriend but is hopelessly unpopular. Believing his problems stem from his unattractiveness, he becomes a slave to beauty and improving himself. Flowers & Bees is frequently crass, rude, and raunchy, its humor often bordering on inappropriate. It’s not a series for the easily offended, but it is hilarious. I prefer Flowers & Bees when it is being manic and outrageous. The second half of the series calms down a little once Komatsu begins to settle into an real relationship. Granted, that relationship isn’t without its problems. There’s also actually some legitimate fashion and dating advice to be found in Flowers & Bees.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-11 by Moyoco Anno. Happy Mania was the first manga by Anno to be released in English. It was also one of the first josei manga to be published in North America. The series follows Kayoko Shigeta and her crazed pursuit of true love, or at least the perfect boyfriend. Happy Mania is often ridiculous and absurd; I don’t think there’s a single healthy relationship in the entire series. Shigeta is an incredibly self-absorbed and selfish character, but I still ended up liking her. Unfortunately, every time she looks like she might get her life together, something gets in the way (usually herself.) In some ways, the ending might be a little disappointing, but it is very much in keeping with Shigeta’s character. And in that way, it’s perfect.

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild by Moyoco Anno. Taking place in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, Sakuran is one of the few period pieces that Anno has created. The manga is about Kiyoha, a girl who is sold to a brothel as a maid, eventually becoming one of the district’s highest ranking courtesans. The portrayal of sex work in Sakuran isn’t idealized or romanticized. Overall, I think the manga is one of Anno’s strongest works in English; it’s certainly her most serious, although it’s not without humor. Plus, Sakuran is the only manga of Anno’s available in English that features her gorgeous color artwork. Anno is currently working on a sequel to Sakuran; hopefully Vertical will be able to license it, too.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. In 2005, Anno won the Kodansha Manga Award for best children’s manga for her series Sugar Sugar Rune. Arguably, it is her most widely popular and well known series, appealing to both younger and older readers. One of the things that I like best about Sugar Sugar Rune is its huge cast. The wide range of characters all exhibit distinct personalities and stylish designs and each play their own role in the increasingly complex story. Chocolat and Vanilla are two young witches and best friends competing to become the next queen of the Magical World by collecting hearts in the Human World. Meanwhile, war is threatening to break out between two rival factions in the Magical World, putting everyone in danger.

My Week in Manga: December 20-December 26, 2010

My News and Reviews

You would think that I would get a substantial amount of manga reading done since my winter break started last week, but I didn’t read quite as much as I expected I would (although, I have become obsessed with Berserk). Part of this is because my new glasses still haven’t come in. It’s also due to the fact that it’s the holidays and I had quite a bit of traveling to do. That, and I also received poi as a gift and have been spending many, many hours giving myself bruises and hitting myself in the head instead of reading. Anyway.

I’m currently running a manga and light novel giveaway for a Strawberry Panic Starter Pack. The winner will be picked on Wednesday, so you still have a couple of days to tell me about a yuri/girls’ love manga that you’ve read for a chance to win. I also posted the sixth part in my Library Love series which takes a quick look at manga that I’ve borrowed and read from my local library.

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volumes 1-17 by Kentaro Miura. It’s obvious from the very start that something terrible has happened to Guts, a brutal, one armed swordsman to make him the way he is. He isn’t really a very sympathetic character at the beginning. Most of the first half of the series explores his backstory and explains exactly how he got to be the way he is—savage, inhuman, and frequently more frightening than the demons he hunts. Berserk is incredibly violent and graphic, but I wouldn’t say it is gratuitous. It is however very intense, dark, and emotionally taxing to read. Occasionally the more comedic elements feel out of place, but I can confidently say that this has become one of my favorite series.

Gorgeous Carat, Volume 1 by You Higuri. I’ve read Higuri’s Cantarella before and so I already knew I enjoy her art style which features men with beautiful character designs and attention to details (especially with clothing and backgrounds). Gorgeous Carat is a historical fantasy adventure story that takes place in Paris during the turn of the century. I still like Higuri’s artwork, but the story of Gorgeous Carat really didn’t capture my attention except for the frequent use of whips. There’s a bit of jumping around in the plot that can be difficult to follow at times and some developments are hardly believable. So far, Gorgeous Carat mostly seems like an excuse to have pretty men in period clothing.

Happy Mania, Volumes 6-11 by Moyoco Anno. I wasn’t laughing as hysterically during the second half of Happy Mania as I did at the first half, but there were still plenty of moments that I found myself laughing out loud. Some of the story elements are frankly ridiculous, but they’re meant to be. It is this self aware humor, in addition to Shigeta’s general and constant insanity, that I like best about the series. This is probably also why I enjoyed the first half of the series more, since the second half is a bit more heavy and serious. But still, Happy Mania is a great series and I enjoyed it immensely. Anno frequently includes entertaining tributes to other mangaka and series (and I know I didn’t catch them all).

GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka, Episodes 1-9 directed by Noriyuki Abe and Naoyasu Hanyu. I’ve previously watched the GTO anime adaptation and more recently read the manga. One of my biggest complaints about the anime is that the consistency in character design is virtually nonexistent. You can always tell who someone is supposed to be, but they can look significantly different even in the same episode (and I’m not talking about the intentional art style changes used for dramatic effect). However, I do enjoy the anime and think it’s hilarious even though some of the situations can be a bit uncomfortable to watch, but this was also the case for the manga.

My Week in Manga: December 6-December 12, 2010

My News and Reviews

I don’t have much manga news for this past week, but there was some One Piece Manga Moveable Feast carryover, including an episode of the Manga Out Loud podcast devoted to the series. The Manga Curmudgeon, as the host, is keeping track of everything still trickling in. As for me, I posted Part 5 of my Library Love series. I do apologize for it being a bit more spoilery than usual, but that can be difficult to avoid when writing about middle volumes. I also posted a review of Ryu Murakami’s Popular Hits of the Showa Era (also known as Karaoke Terror) due to be released by W. W. Norton in January. The novel is a dark satire, absurd, and potentially offensive, but I quite enjoyed it.

Quick Takes

Cain, Volume 1 by Le Peruggine. I’m sorry to say, but the first volume of Cain, which was originally an Italian publication, did almost nothing for me. I didn’t get a good feeling for what was going on and I didn’t get attached to any of the characters or care about their relationships. Perhaps if I had read all three volumes of the series together, I might have a better opinion. I like the cover art, but the illustration work inside doesn’t reach the same quality and is sometimes difficult to follow. There are hints that Cain may be something other than human, which could be interesting, but I probably won’t follow up with the rest of the series.

Chi’s Sweet Home, Volume 3 by Konami Kanata. This series is simply wonderful and gets my vote for one of the best new series released in 2010. For cat lovers at least, Chi’s Sweet Home is a must. Much of Volume 3 explores Chi’s relationship with Blackie, or the Bear-Cat as the humans call him. Chi learns a lot about what it means to be a cat from Blackie and as much as Chi can annoy him, he’s grown quite fond of the kitten. As for Chi, she’s become quite attached to Blackie and her human family. Unfortunately, cats aren’t allowed at their apartment complex and the super is on a mission to track down the offending tenants.

D. N. Angel, Volumes 1-13 by Yukiru Sugisaki. D. N. Angel was one of the first and favorite manga series that my youngest sister read. Daisuke Niwa has a rather unusual condition—whenever he experiences intense romantic feelings, he transforms into the legendary Phantom Thief Dark, just like his ancestors before him. Sugisaki can’t seem to decide whether D. N. Angel is a romantic comedy or a darker, more serious fantasy and it sometimes feels like she’s just making things up as she goes along. However, I still found the series to be fun and enjoyable to read if I didn’t think too hard about it. The artwork is very appealing, although occasionally inconsistent.

Happy Mania, Volumes 1-5 by Moyoco Anno. Shigeta wants nothing more in life than a boyfriend. Unfortunately, she’s obsessive, self-absorbed, and goes a little bit crazy once she sets her sights on a guy. It’s hard to see why Shigeta has any friends at all. Even Takahashi, who desperately loves her and who she can’t seem to admit is perfect for her, questions his devotion. She ends up sleeping with plenty of men, but has yet to find a satisfying relationship. Even when she knows better, poor Shigeta makes one bad decision after another. It might be terrible, but Shigeta’s self-destructive tendencies make for one hilarious manga. Happy Mania is a great josei series and I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the volumes.

Spirit Marked, written by Colter Hillman and illustrated by Yishan Li. While I liked the art (for the most part), Spirit Marked doesn’t have a particularly original story. This English language manga had a lot of potential but it unfortunately doesn’t deliver. Instead of a single volume, it probably would have worked better as a longer series which would allow more exploration of the characters and a chance to differentiate its plot. As it is, Spirit Marked seems more like an outline or a proposal rather than a finished work—the plot feels rushed and incomplete. In addition to the title story, the book also includes an unrelated bonus story called Clockwork Heart.