Happy Marriage?! Vol. 1 by Maki Enjoji
When the series Butterflies, Flowers ended I was a little bit concerned about the future state of translated editions of smutty romance manga for Older Ladies. There’s plenty of smutty romance manga set in high school, but josei titles are a bit hard to come by. Happy Marriage?! comes from the josei magazine Petit Comic, which is the home magazine of Butterflies, Flowers and Midnight Secretary (also coming soon!). The manga opens with a winning image as an attractive woman freaks out over having to sign her name to a marriage certificate. What will become of her!?
Chiwa Takanashi is a hard-working office lady who moonlights as a hostess in a bar to pay off her father’s business debts. She loudly proclaims to her friends that she has no interest in romance, because she would want a normal guy who can take care of himself, but all of those men are already taken. Chiwa has an odd encounter with an arrogant businessman at her night job who tells her “there’s no point to what she’s doing” and she should quit because there’s nothing about a hostess job to take pride in. Chiwa stands up for herself by throwing a drink in his face, and promptly gets fired. At her normal job, she’s called in to the office of the president of the company, meets his grandfather, and gets the proposition that if she marries the handsome CEO Hokuto, her family’s debts will all be paid off. Hokuto’s grandfather is delighted with the prospect of Chiwa as a granddaughter because he used to be in love with her grandmother. Chiwa decides to be pragmatic and go through with the marriage, only to find out that she’s getting a lot more than she bargained for.
The set-up and characters for Happy Marriage?! make it seem fairly similar to Butterflies, Flowers but there are enough differences that I think readers would enjoy both series. Chiwa is a little bit more scrappy than Choko, and while Hokuto and Masayuki both share certain romance manga alpha male tendencies, Hokuto is much less weird. Happy Marriage seems like it dials back the wackiness and insane situations of Butterflies, Flowers and explores the developing relationship between Chiwa and Hokuto with a bit more nuance and emotion.
Enjoji’s character designs remind me a little bit of Miki Aihara. The illustrations do a good job at portraying all the nuances of the character’s emotions, from Hokuto’s black moods when he’s worried their secret marriage is going to be revealed at work, to the unexpected enjoyment the new couple find in each other’s company when they hide out in a love hotel only to have a marathon video gaming and karaoke session. One of the things that I liked most about this volume was the fact that Hokuto would secretly go out of his way to surprise and support Chiwa when she has to face the anxiety-ridden situation of going to a high school reunion.
Overall, this was an enjoyable first volume. The insane arranged marriage is set up very efficiently in the first chapter, so the rest of the book is devoted to showcasing the unconventional romance. I’m always happy to read more josei manga in English, but it is even more of a treat when the series is fun, entertaining, and capably illustrated. Happy Marriage?! won’t disappoint josei fans looking for a new series to follow.